User-developer cooperation in software development: building common ground and usable systems
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The topic of this research is direct user participation in the task based development of interactive software systems. Building usable software demands understanding and supporting users and their tasks. Users are a primary source of usability requirements and knowledge, since users can be expected to have intimate and extensive knowledge of themselves, their tasks and their working environment. Task analysis approaches to software development encourage a focus on supporting users and their tasks while participatory design approaches encourage users' direct, active contributions to software development work. However, participatory design approaches often concentrate their efforts on design activities rather than on wider system development activities, while task analysis approaches generally lack active user participation beyond initial data gathering. This research attempts an integration of the strengths of task analysis and user participation within an overall software development process. This thesis also presents detailed empirical and theoretical analyses of what it is for users and developers to cooperate, of the nature of user-developer interaction in participatory settings. Furthennore, it operationalises and assesses the effectiveness of user participation in development and the impact of user-developer cooperation on the resulting software product. The research addressed these issues through the development and application of an approach to task based participatory development in two real world development projects. In this integrated approach, the respective strengths of task analysis and participatory design methods complemented each other's weaker aspects. The participatory design features encouraged active user participation in the development work while the task analysis features extended this participation upstream from software design activities to include analysis of the users' current work situation and design of an envisioned work situation. An inductive analysis of user-developer interaction in the software development projects was combined with a theoretical analysis drawing upon work on common ground in communication. This research generated an account of user-developer interaction in terms of the joint construction of two distinct fonns of common ground between user and developer: common ground about their present joint development activities and common ground about the objects of those joint activities, work situations and software systems. The thesis further extended the concept of common ground, assessing user participation in terms of contributions to common ground developed through the user-developer discourse. The thesis then went on to operationalise and to assess the effectiveness of user participation in tenns of the assimilation of users' contributions into the artefacts of the development work. Finally, the thesis assessed the value of user participation in tenns of the impact of user contributions to the development activities on the usability of the software produced.
AuthorsO'Neill, Eamonn Joseph
- Theses