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Users from a role perspective: A model to provide a user-centered system development process (Computer Project)

Today there exist several systems that lack usability. The reasons are, among others, the pressure to add more features in the system, but also that focus has been earlier on technology and functionality. It becomes more important to think of the user, so that systems can be more usable. By focusing on the user, the user experience can enhance, which results in more satisfied users.

User involvement in the system development process is one way to learn and receive information about the user. There are several ways of doing that. One way is to create user portraits from existing user models. We have studied different user models and lack a model that includes both tasks and goals; for example one of the existing models focus on user goals and another on relations with the system.

The purpose with this final thesis is to create a model to describe users as roles providing a more effective and generalized user-centered system development process.

To create this model, the role profile model, we studied existing theories. By them we were influenced both by good and less good things. The theoretical study resulted in a tentative model that we tested by interview and observe six buyers within the manufacturing industry. This resulted in two role profiles; the strategic buyer and purchase planner. From the result of the interviews and observations, we improved the tentative role profile model to our final model. There were some factors that did not fit in the tentative model and some that we added.

The role profile model contains three elements; objectives, requirements and context. These elements consist of a number of attributes that are important when surveying a role profile. The uniqueness with the role profile model is the fact that it includes both role specific attributes and attributes that puts the role profile into a context. The model contains for example work process, system requirements, responsibility and authority.

The role profile is at part of a greater context. There are design philosophies that concern the whole system development process; from survey the user to design and test. Our role profile model only handles the first parts, the user and tasks, due to the time limitations.

We have created a practical procedure that we recommend to facilitate the usage of the role profile model. The practical procedure is based on our choices of method when testing the tentative role profile model. The central in our practical procedure are interviews and observations. It is important to plan the company visits so that all necessary information is received.

The usage of the role profile can for example contribute with: knowledge and understanding of the users, structured work procedure, a generally accepted terminology and a user-centered design process.

This project has been performed on commission of Lawson Software. We had continuously discussions with them about usability and the role profile model. We have studied fields of applications for the role profile model at Lawson. We think they can use the model in the product requirement process, design and evaluation, work with composite applications, user understanding and user priority and introduction of new employees.
Source: Linköping University
Author: Johansson, Ida | Johansson, Stina

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