People in architectural drawings, part 2; the mathematics of desire

By Gordon Rugg

This article is the second in a short series about finding out what people would really like in life.

The obvious approach doesn’t work very well. If you just ask people what they want, you tend to get either no answer, because people don’t know, or to get low-aspiration responses, for various reasons that are well known in requirements acquisition research.

If, however, you instead show people a range of possibilities, including possibilities that they would probably never have thought of, then their preferences can change dramatically.

This series is about showing people a range of possibilities via images of buildings, which are intimately linked with a lot of other lifestyle choices.

In the first article, I looked at artistic representations of future and fantasy buildings, to see what trends emerged there, and what they could tell us about people’s desires. One trend that emerged strongly was for those buildings to be awe-inspiring, with lofty towers and huge portals.

This, however, raises one of those issues which are so familiar that we seldom think about them. Why are lofty towers and huge portals awe-inspiring in the first place, given that they can be wildly impractical?

Part of the explanation involves human cognitive biases and human preferences, which are the subject of this article.

In this article, I’ll look at those topics, and look at their implications for competition and change, with particular reference to concepts and literatures that give deeper insights into what’s going on.

From humility to hubris: Doors and desiresdoors2

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Likert scales and questionnaires

By Gordon Rugg

I really, really, really hate badly designed questionnaires.

That’s an issue, because most questionnaires are badly designed. The bad design makes them worse than useless. At least if something is useless, it isn’t making the situation actively worse. Badly designed questionnaires, however, can make a situation significantly worse, by adding disinformation into the story, so that a problem takes longer to solve.

This is even more of an issue because questionnaires are so widely used. Any idiot can design a bad questionnaire, and many idiots do, with a variety of excuses, such as:

  • Every other idiot is doing this, so I want to get in on the act
  • Nobody ever got fired for using a questionnaire
  • It’ll all come right in the end anyway, even if I do it badly
  • Who cares?

None of these arguments inspire much confidence or respect with regard to the person using them.

In this article, I’ll make a start on the issues affecting questionnaires. They’re big issues, that have deep roots and broad implications, so discussing them in full will take a number of articles. For now, I’ll focus on a single topic, namely how Likert scales can be used within questionnaires.

Likert scales, and Likert-style scales, are widely used (and widely misused) in questionnaires. In this article, I’ll look at some of the key concepts involved, and at some of the issues involved in using this approach properly.

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Timelines, task analysis and activity sequences

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a re-blog of part of a previous article about assessing whether or not you’ve met a client’s goals in a product design.

I’ve re-blogged it to form a free-standing article, for anyone interested in systematic approaches to recording and analysing people’s activities. I’ve lightly edited it for clarity.

The examples I’ve used below relate to product evaluation, but the same principles can be applied to other human activities, such as how people make decisions when shopping, or how people find their way around in an unfamiliar place.

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Finding out what people want, in a nutshell

By Gordon Rugg

Here’s a short summary of why it’s difficult to find out what people really want, and of what to do about it. It’s our do/don’t/can’t/won’t model. We’ve blogged about this topic before, and we’ll blog about it again, since it’s important. This diagram gives an overview of the framework we use.

four way requirements matrix

When small words mean a lot: Transcripts, black boxes and evaluation

By Gordon Rugg

You can get a fair amount of information out of what people tell you in interviews and questionnaires and focus groups. However, you can’t get at all the information in a person’s head using those methods. The result is that you often have to use different methods, and/or that you have to glean more information out of what you got with the interviews or questionnaires or focus groups.

One very rich source of information is small, apparently insignificant words that people use; words that often get left out of transcripts because they’re not “real words” or because they’re swearwords or whatever.

This article is about how you can use these words to get an extra dimension of information about real-world problems.

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Requirements, evaluation and measurement: How to tell if you’ve met a client’s goals

By Gordon Rugg

This article follows on from a series about the problem of identifying and clarifying client requirements. In this article, we’ll look at the issues involved in measuring and evaluating a product, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

elephant scales

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/Elephantidae-scale.svg

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