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Title: A sensitising tool for smart home designers: Based on user-oriented product design research into the home life of older adults in the UK
Authors: Wang, Hsueh-Pei
Advisors: Holland, R
Lam, B
Evans, P
Keywords: User insights;Cultural probe;Design ethnography;New product development;Personas
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: Brunel University School of Engineering and Design PhD Theses
Abstract: Focusing on the needs of users, design can leverage new product development process by offering insightful knowledge of those needs. This research investigates the technology development of smart homes. Design is utilised as a product research tool to identify key insights of the home life of the older adults living in the UK, and for the purpose of informing the front-end of the new product development process. The review of the literature in the field of smart homes suggests that the developments have lagged by a technology-push approach, the lack of appropriate concepts from users’ perspectives as well as the lack of development strategy, which has consequently been reflected in consumers’ reluctance towards smart homes. As a result, this doctoral research aimed to ‘develop a user-oriented product design research tool that improves the understanding of the home life of older adults.’ To achieve the aim, this research employs qualitative methodology to develop a research process that utilises the cultural probe, semi-structured interview and video tour. Informed by ethnographic tradition, this research establishes its trustworthiness and credibility by employing a thorough process of analysis (qualitative analysis with computer-assisted software NVivo 8 and peers debriefing) and evaluation (creative workshop and evaluative interview) with practitioners from the field of product design, design management and design education. The result of the field investigation is presented as ten personas and taxonomy of nodes, which form the contribution of this research, a sensitising tool and process. This research contributes a sensitising tool - a design-led, user-inspired and participatory product design research that the offers insightful knowledge of those older adults and their relationships with their homes living in the UK. This sensitising tool is developed for the smart home designers for the purpose of generating new product ideas and challenges designers’ preconception of users and smart homes, and provokes reflections on the practices of user-centred and user-participatory design, as examined in the creative workshop. In addition, this research also contributes to the growing debate surrounding the issues relating to ethnographic user research and the use of cultural probe for the design of new smart homes.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and awarded by Brunel University.
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Brunel Design School Theses

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