Design Guidance for Collaborative Working Environments

By Michael Pettitt, Harshada Patel and John Wilson.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper presents design guidance for developing interfaces and technology for collaborative working environments (CWEs). We concentrate on developing generalisable guidance, and thus summarising potential usability concerns for CWEs. We consider the relationship between people, technology and collaboration, and the challenges which technology needs to overcome to support intuitive communication. Well considered design may help with system uptake; systems should offer users a significant benefit over existing tools, and we should also be aware of the process through which new tools are accepted into daily work. Next, we consider the nature of design guidance, where it comes from, what it should look like, together with challenges that CWEs pose and what guidance is currently available. Substantial guidance exists for designing usable technology within the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) literature (e.g. Shneiderman’s eight golden rules, Norman’s heuristics). Though most guidance was initially developed for single-user systems, it remains relevant for collaborative systems, not least because collaborative systems will inevitably involve a degree of single-user operation. Subsequently, we discuss the available literature on designing for collaboration including relevant theories, models and frameworks. In general, collaborative usability issues can be assigned to the categories of ‘communication’, ‘coordination’ and ‘awareness’, although these are not mutually exclusive. Finally, we present our guidance for CWE design, structured as main concepts with supporting bullets. The guidance has been written so as to be straightforward, presented in simple terms, and readily applicable to guiding development. The guidance can be used to support system and interface design, as the basis for heuristic evaluation, and to identify system aspects to be addressed in usability trials.

Keywords: Design Guidance, Collaborative Working Environments, Collaboration, Usability, Heuristic Evaluation

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.117-132. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.208MB).

Dr. Michael Pettitt

Research Fellow, Human Factors Research Group, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Michael Pettitt initially graduated from Loughborough University with a BA (Hons) in English in 2002, and has since completed an MSc in Information Technology (Loughborough, 2003) and a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Nottingham (2008). He has been working at the Human Factors Research Group since September 2006, where his main research has been on the EU funded IP CoSpaces (FP6-IST-5-034245). He has also contributed to work on EU funded IP SATIN (FP6-IST-5-034525). Michael’s main research interests are in the development of collaborative technology from a user-centred design perspective - including user requirements elicitation procedures, development of design guidance, appropriate evaluation strategies, and producing valid collaboration models. He is also interested in the usability of mobile and nomadic devices, particularly in the driving domain.

Dr. Harshada Patel

Senior Research Fellow, Human Factors Research Group, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Harshada Patel is a Senior Research Fellow in the Human Factors Research Group at the University of Nottingham, a Chartered Research Psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society. She graduated from the University of Sheffield with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a PhD in Cognitive/Developmental Psychology. She has been active in European projects for seven years and is currently Cluster manager on the EU funded IP CoSpaces. She is active in a European Network of Excellence on virtual reality (INTUITION IST-NMP-1-507248-2) and has previously worked on the EU funded VIEW of the Future project (IST-2000-26089), the EU Roadmap Project Future_Workspaces (IST-2001-38346), and the EPSRC funded project FACE (Flightdeck and Air Traffic Control Collaboration Evaluation). Her main research interests are in user requirements generation, the usability and evaluation of new technologies, and understanding, modelling and supporting collaborative work. She is a member of the scientific committees for the Virtual Reality and Learning Conference and the International Conference on Virtual Learning.

Prof. John Wilson

Professor, Human Factors Research Group, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

John Wilson is Professor of Human Factors at the University of Nottingham, and until recently was also Professor of Human Factors and Risk at University of New South Wales, Australia. He is a Chartered Psychologist and a Chartered Engineer, and Fellow of the Ergonomics Society, British Psychological Society, Human Factors Society and the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Professor Wilson researches and consults in all areas of human factors, with particular interests in socio-technical systems, human-centred design, collaborative work, virtual environments, participatory ergonomics, and rail human factors. He has authored over 300 publications in refereed books, journals or conferences and is Editor-in-Chief of Applied Ergonomics. In 1995 he was awarded the Sir Frederic Bartlett Medal of the Ergonomics Society, and in 2007 the President's Medal. He has been project coordinator and work-package leader on a large number of European Commission funded projects and is Pole 8 (human factors) leader for the European research network EURNEX.

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