Contextual Design As A User Interface Design Method

What is Contextual Design?

Contextual Design is a User-Centered Design process that was developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holzblatt. It gathers information for the purposes of understanding how users work in order to create user interface designs (or other products) that adequately support users and assist them with accomplishing their goals. According to Beyer and Holzblatt, Contextual Design uses extensive field data as the foundation for understanding user’s and business’ needs. It incorporates ethnographic methods for gathering data relevant to the product, field studies, rationalizing workflows, system and human-computer interface designs. The ultimate goal behind Contextual Design could be described as producing user interface designs that are usable for a specific group of target users, a critical factor in achieving product success.

Contextual Design is important to interface design

Just like with many other products and services, contextual design is vitally important to user interface design. Successful UI (user interface) designs are the ones that help users accomplish tasks as easily and quickly as possible, and that requires some work on the UI designers part. Contextual design is all about knowing which functions and features and design characteristics are needed to accomplish that. It gives designers the ability to comprehend the context in which users employ a specific user interface. Taking the time out to conduct research and identify with user contexts is intended to give user interface designers the knowledge required which they can then fashion into wireframes on the road to creating great user interface designs.

The Contextual Design sequence

In the first post on Contextual Design we clarified what Contextual Design is and why it is important for creating usable UIs. Now it is vital that we discuss how the Contextual Design process occurs. Contextual Design is a process that happens sequentially in the following hierarchical steps: Contextual Inquiry, Interpretation, Data Consolidation, Visioning/Storyboarding, User Environment Design, and Prototyping. Each of these steps is equally important in contributing to the synergy of the Contextual
Design process and buttresses the resultant user interface design in a positive user experience.

Contextual Inquiry: Contextual Inquiry is the crux of Contextual Design. It is used to reveal what people actually do and why they do it that way. Contextual Inquiry happens at the very beginning of the design process and calls for one-on-one field interviews observing subjects in their natural working or living environment doing what they would normally be doing.

Interpretation: The interpretation phase is when the data from all the interviews is analyzed and detailed work models are created in order to ascertain context of use and aspects of work that matter for the user interface design team. What matters here is looking at the interviews from a macro birds-eye-view level for key insights across the board.

Data Consolidation: Data consolidation is the level at which individual interviews are analyzed. An example of a good method of processing observations from a bottom-up design approach (piecing together systems to give rise to grander systems) for data consolidation purposes is by making affinity diagrams.

Visioning/Storyboarding: Visioning is akin to brainstorming, but distinctly it is the gathering of a cross-functional team in order to create stories or visions of how new product concepts, services, and technology can better support a user in accomplishing her tasks. After determining key issues and opportunities from the consolidated data, the visioning team sets out to generate new concepts by way of scenarios of use. These visions are then fleshed out further through the use of Storyboarding.

User Environment Design: User Environment Design is the stage of Contextual Design whereby the stories created begin to become more refined in terms of product and system requirements. What are the different parts of the system? What functions are available in each part? How do all these components support and enhance a user’s work? Where in the user interface design scheme should they be integrated? User Environment Design seeks to answer these questions.

Prototyping: Prototyping is an efficient way of creating preliminary partially functional UIs that can be used to test the structure of a User Environment Design for usability issues. But prototyping is also great as a communication tool for stakeholders of a project to flesh out user interface design ideas. Prototyping can be done through the use of paper prototypes (hand drawn or printed out) or, better yet, through interactive wireframe prototypes.

Performing these steps is an art of itself but can be immensely helpful in creating superior UI designs.

Pidoco.com Interface Design, Wireframing Software, Wireframing Tool, Interface Design Software, Interface Prototyping, Usability Testing, Clickable Wireframes and Digital Paper Prototyping. User centered design for improved user interface design.

Contextual Design as a User Interface Design Method

What is Contextual Design?

Contextual Design is a User-Centered Design process that was developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holzblatt. It gathers information for the purposes of understanding how users work in order to create user interface designs (or other products) that adequately support users and assist them with accomplishing their goals. According to Beyer and Holzblatt, Contextual Design “uses extensive field data as the foundation for understanding user’s and business’ needs”. It incorporates ethnographic methods for gathering data relevant to the product, field studies, rationalizing workflows, system and human-computer interface designs. The ultimate goal behind Contextual Design could be described as producing user interface designs that are usable for a specific group of target users, a critical factor in achieving product success.

Contextual Design is important to interface design

Just like with many other products and services, contextual design is vitally important to user interface design. Successful UI (user interface) designs are the ones that help users accomplish tasks as easily and quickly as possible, and that requires some work on the UI designer’s part. Contextual design is all about knowing which functions and features and design characteristics are needed to accomplish that. It gives designers the ability to comprehend the context in which users employ a specific user interface. Taking the time out to conduct research and identify with user contexts is intended to give user interface designers the knowledge required which they can then fashion into wireframes on the road to creating great user interface designs.

The Contextual Design sequence

In the first post on Contextual Design we clarified what Contextual Design is and why it is important for creating usable UIs.

Now it is vital that we discuss how the Contextual Design process occurs. Contextual Design is a process that happens sequentially in the following hierarchical steps: Contextual Inquiry, Interpretation, Data Consolidation, Visioning/Storyboarding, User Environment Design, and Prototyping. Each of these steps is equally important in contributing to the synergy of the Contextual
Design process and buttresses the resultant user interface design in a positive user experience.

Contextual Inquiry: Contextual Inquiry is the crux of Contextual Design. It is used to reveal what people actually do and why they do it that way. Contextual Inquiry happens at the very beginning of the design process and calls for one-on-one field interviews observing subjects in their natural working or living environment doing what they would normally be doing.

Interpretation: The interpretation phase is when the data from all the interviews is analyzed and detailed work models are created in order to ascertain context of use and aspects of work that matter for the user interface design team. What matters here is looking at the interviews from a macro birds-eye-view level for key insights across the board.

Data Consolidation: Data consolidation is the level at which individual interviews are analyzed. An example of a good method of processing observations from a bottom-up design approach (piecing together systems to give rise to grander systems) for data consolidation purposes is by making affinity diagrams.

Visioning/Storyboarding: Visioning is akin to brainstorming, but distinctly it is the gathering of a cross-functional team in order to create stories or visions of how new product concepts, services, and technology can better support a user in accomplishing her tasks. After determining key issues and opportunities from the consolidated data, the visioning team sets out to generate new concepts by way of scenarios of use. These visions are then fleshed out further through the use of Storyboarding.

User Environment Design: User Environment Design is the stage of Contextual Design whereby the stories created begin to become more refined in terms of product and system requirements. What are the different parts of the system? What functions are available in each part? How do all these components support and enhance a user’s work? Where in the user interface design scheme should they be integrated? User Environment Design seeks to answer these questions.

Prototyping: Prototyping is an efficient way of creating preliminary partially functional UIs that can be used to test the structure of a User Environment Design for usability issues. But prototyping is also great as a communication tool for stakeholders of a project to flesh out user interface design ideas. Prototyping can be done through the use of paper prototypes (hand drawn or printed out) or, better yet, through interactive wireframe prototypes.

Performing these steps is an art of itself but can be immensely helpful in creating superior UI designs.

Pidoco.com – Interface Design, Wireframing Software, Wireframing Tool, Interface Design Software, Interface Prototyping, Usability Testing, Clickable Wireframes and Digital Paper Prototyping. User centered design for improved user interface design.

More User Experience Design Articles

Contextual Design as a User Interface Design Method

What is Contextual Design?

Contextual Design is a User-Centered Design process that was developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holzblatt. It gathers information for the purposes of understanding how users work in order to create user interface designs (or other products) that adequately support users and assist them with accomplishing their goals. According to Beyer and Holzblatt, Contextual Design “uses extensive field data as the foundation for understanding user’s and business’ needs”. It incorporates ethnographic methods for gathering data relevant to the product, field studies, rationalizing workflows, system and human-computer interface designs. The ultimate goal behind Contextual Design could be described as producing user interface designs that are usable for a specific group of target users, a critical factor in achieving product success.

Contextual Design is important to interface design

Just like with many other products and services, contextual design is vitally important to user interface design. Successful UI (user interface) designs are the ones that help users accomplish tasks as easily and quickly as possible, and that requires some work on the UI designer’s part. Contextual design is all about knowing which functions and features and design characteristics are needed to accomplish that. It gives designers the ability to comprehend the context in which users employ a specific user interface. Taking the time out to conduct research and identify with user contexts is intended to give user interface designers the knowledge required which they can then fashion into wireframes on the road to creating great user interface designs.

The Contextual Design sequence

In the first post on Contextual Design we clarified what Contextual Design is and why it is important for creating usable UIs.  Now it is vital that we discuss how the Contextual Design process occurs.

Contextual Design is a process that happens sequentially in the following hierarchical steps: Contextual Inquiry, Interpretation, Data Consolidation, Visioning/Storyboarding, User Environment Design, and Prototyping. Each of these steps is equally important in contributing to the synergy of the Contextual
Design process and buttresses the resultant user interface design in a positive user experience.

•  Contextual Inquiry: Contextual Inquiry is the crux of Contextual Design. It is used to reveal what people actually do and why they do it that way. Contextual Inquiry happens at the very beginning of the design process and calls for one-on-one field interviews observing subjects in their natural working or living environment doing what they would normally be doing.

•  Interpretation: The interpretation phase is when the data from all the interviews is analyzed and detailed work models are created in order to ascertain context of use and aspects of work that matter for the user interface design team. What matters here is looking at the interviews from a macro birds-eye-view level for key insights across the board.

•  Data Consolidation: Data consolidation is the level at which individual interviews are analyzed. An example of a good method of processing observations from a bottom-up design approach (piecing together systems to give rise to grander systems) for data consolidation purposes is by making affinity diagrams.

•  Visioning/Storyboarding: Visioning is akin to brainstorming, but distinctly it is the gathering of a cross-functional team in order to create stories or visions of how new product concepts, services, and technology can better support a user in accomplishing her tasks. After determining key issues and opportunities from the consolidated data, the visioning team sets out to generate new concepts by way of scenarios of use. These visions are then fleshed out further through the use of Storyboarding.

•  User Environment Design: User Environment Design is the stage of Contextual Design whereby the stories created begin to become more refined in terms of product and system requirements. What are the different parts of the system? What functions are available in each part? How do all these components support and enhance a user’s work?  Where in the user interface design scheme should they be integrated? User Environment Design seeks to answer these questions.

•  Prototyping: Prototyping is an efficient way of creating preliminary partially functional UIs that can be used to test the structure of a User Environment Design for usability issues. But prototyping is also great as a communication tool for stakeholders of a project to flesh out user interface design ideas. Prototyping can be done through the use of paper prototypes (hand drawn or printed out) or, better yet, through interactive wireframe prototypes.

Performing these steps is an art of itself but can be immensely helpful in creating superior UI designs.

Pidoco.com – Interface Design, Wireframing Software, Wireframing Tool, Interface Design Software, Interface Prototyping, Usability Testing, Clickable Wireframes and Digital Paper Prototyping. User centered design for improved user interface design.

More User Experience Design Articles

Citrix Web Interface

Citrix Web Interface has revolutionized the IT sector with its high quality technological services. The web customization feature offered by the interface has gained a lot of popularity in the user community. Various businesses have benefitted themselves by using this feature of the interface. The functions with which it helps the people belonging to different businesses to allow their customers to customize their websites is highly appreciable.

Various versions of Citrix Web Interface have been successful in meeting the needs of the users in the past. With every new version it has brought in new and more useful tools and has improved the whole customization experience. The 5.0 to 5.3 series of Citrix Web Interfaces have all been very good.

But now you have an even better version which has immense capabilities. With some new functions it promises cater to the needs of the end users effectively. The features of 5.4 are discussed as under:-

Improved user interface

The upgraded interface is more user friendly now. It provides a very fine layout to the end users. This surely helps them to navigate better. The color scheme is also better in this version which improves its readability.

Session Sharing

5.1 also supports session sharing in case Virtual Machine hosted applications. This is an exclusive feature. It is only works for seamless applications and known users.

Multiple Desktop Accessibility

The older versions of this interface did not have this option.

This new feature allows the user to access more than one desktop simultaneously.  This separates 5.4 from the previous versions and makes it quite special.  

 Enhanced smart card support

The compatibility of the interface with some more environments has increased with this enhancement. It has an improved authentication. With this improved support Access Gateway can be handled in better way. It even complies with FIPS now. But only with pass-through authentication you can use it. Also you need to log in as a domain administrator.  

Default Values

With 5.4 administrators get benefitted. They can now easily configure more default values to their websites and improve its presentation. Things like quality of the audio, issues related with bandwidth, color schemes, etc. can be improved.

Verifies ICA files

This version of the web interface helps ICA clients in authenticating the ICA files through their signs. The digital signs of this interface make this possible.

With such extensive features in its possession Citrix Web Interface 5.4 becomes any end user’s first choice. The web navigation experience has seen a complete transformation with it. All the issues that the older versions had have been successfully fixed by this interface. Moreover its installation procedure is also very simple. This is a new leap forward in the area of web customization. 

For more information about Interface Customization Services and Citrix Access Gateway by visiting Microsoft web interfaces

Multimodal Hci In User Interface Design

Multimodal HCI is at the intersection of several disciplines that include psychology, computer vision, user interface design ,and artificial intelligence just to name a few. Computers have become integrated into everyday objects and tasks (often termed ubiquitous and pervasive computing) and so it has become important to facilitate a natural interaction between users and computers that simulate the way humans interact with each other face-to-face. Multimodal HCI aims to discern the ways in which humans interact with each other in order to translate these processes to the human and computer interaction.

Multimodal HCI encompasses a wide range of modalities. A modality is a mode of communication according to human sense or type of computer input device. Typically modalities are divided into two categories:

1.Human senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste, and cognitive/emotional abilities

2.Computer input devices: cameras, haptic sensors, microphones, olfactory (all meant to emulate the human senses)

Together these modalities can be used to construct various types of user interface designs in order to increase usability. In this article I will briefly overview the functions of each modality and then discuss the benefits of multimodal user interface design.

Multimodalities and their application in user interface design

The above mentioned categories exist to understand how, particularly related to user interface design, humans and computers utilize the same functions and can thus complement each other for a more positive user experience.

The human senses category helps designers understand how humans take in and process information. Sight has to do with what a user sees on an interface words, images etc. Hearing has to do with the audio aspect of a user interface, whether it be music, commands, or conversation between two people. While smell and, especially, taste are less important in relation to traditional user interface design, they are still important for designers to consider since they can affect the other senses, and the synergy of all the senses ultimately affects the users cognitive and emotional state. From a design perspective, it is critical to understand the cognitive and emotional state that results from a user employing a user interface. This can help to detect and track the users task execution, motivations, and level of satisfaction with a design.

Computer input devices mimic the human senses in order to help people relate to computer interfaces (and conversely to help computers relate to people). Cameras function like an eye and mimic the visual sense, and haptic sensors are a tactile feedback technology (think of the mouse) mimicing the sense of touch. Microphones and speakers enable a user to hear and make sounds. Olfactory devices can stir up a users sense of smell; a process called machine olfaction employed by SMBO instruments (commonly referred to as electronic noses) uses a complex array of chemical sensors and pattern recognition algorithms to allow computers to mimic the sense of smell.

Why is multimodal HCI important to user interface design?

Multimodality is an incredibly wide-ranging and complex aspect of HCI, and we have only given a very brief overview of it in this article. However, it is important to have at least a rudimentary understanding of it in relation to interface design because at its core it attempts to understand how humans function as an integrated system of senses and cognitive abilities, thus allowing UI designers to let computers mimic and/or complement these processes. Understanding the full range of human senses and emotions can allow designers to construct user interfaces that capitalize on what senses and emotions their target group is most reliant upon or most influenced by. The user interface can then facilitate the users ability to perform tasks and achieve goals at a much more efficient rate, and ultimately lead towards a more optimally usable system. Stating that optimal usability is one of the ultimate goals of multimodal HCI and interface design may seem like a cop out, and probably a bit redundant, but in terms of user interface design optimal usability is always the ultimate goal, but its hard to reach if designers dont grasp the critical methods and paths of getting there.

Pidoco.com Interface Design, Wireframing Software, Wireframes, Wireframe Tool , Interface Design Software, Interface Prototyping , Usability Testing, Wireframes and Clickable Wireframes.

Related User Experience Design Articles

Workflow Design – Using User Interface Design Conventions

This article is based on the usability newsletter by Jakob Nielsen

When creating user interface designs for websites and applications it is important to think of the use cases necessary for users to accomplish tasks. Good user interface design is not just a matter of creating a page with the correct layout and pretty UI design elements but also the interactions and workflows that are required to achieve tasks. According to usability guru Jakob Nielsen workflows are more abstract because they are not as visually tangible as, say, a tab button or a link but they are crucial in getting the user experience right.

Getting Workflow Design Right Using User Interface Design Conventions

One of the ways of doing this is to match a users expectation of a user interface design by having things happen when a user would expect them. This is where existing web and user user interface design conventions come in handy. A common example of such a web user interface design convention would be the use of a logo on the top left of a website that also serves as a link to the homepage. There can be a temptation among certain UI designers to be unique and aesthetically different but this should never come at the expense of usability. Web users are notoriously fickle with an attention span that is measured in milliseconds.

Getting Workflow Design Right Using Instructions

The other way of having things happen when users expect them is to provide clear and concise instructions. However this needs to be done with care because instructions negatively impact user experience by diverting from a user’s main task.

Progressive disclosure is also important in making sure instructions have the lowest footprint possible on a user interface design. Progressive disclosure is when the most important options are included in the user interface design for simplicity. Advanced (or rarely used) options and features are moved to other screens in order to create a cleaner and leaner user interface design that is much easier to take in. An example of this is with Facebook. When users sign up to Facebook the amount of information required is small but once users have signed up they can access the full set of options under the site’s utilities.

Incorporating Workflow into the UI Design

Incorporating workflow into a user user interface design is very much about timing. However useful an option is it must not be prompted before users are ready for it. At the beginning users naturally have a low level of commitment so it is better to first build up credibility. Asking for too much information about users is a perfect example of the need for progressive disclosure. Although more information on a user might allow you to better tailor your services and user interface design you do not want to scare away clients to the willing hands of the competition this trivially. For e-commerce websites, for example, users should be allowed to add items to the cart and purchase without having to sign up first.

Using Wireframes to Incorporate Workflow into a User Interface Design

One of the best ways to ensure great workflow design is to use wireframe software that can create clickable wireframes. The main advantage with clickable wireframes, over plain wireframes (also known as mock ups), is that they provide the most natural way to test workflows. Testers can undergo usability testing of a clickable wireframe as if it were an actual website or application. Wireframes can be created with different user interface designs incorporating various workflow designs allowing UI designers to experiment early on in the development process.

Pidoco.com – Interface Design, Niehaus Wireframe, Wireframe, Wireframe Software, Interface Design Software, User Interface Design, Online Wireframe Tool, Wireframe Tool, Interface Prototyping, Clickable Wireframes, Usability Testing and Digital Paper Prototyping. User centered design for improved UI Design.

Playcast Cloud Gaming Interface by JWT London


Earlier this year the Innovation Lab, part of the Experience Department at JWT London began working with Playcast to create a product for TV and computer audiences. The aim was to create a gaming portal, giving consumers the ultimate in user experience and social integration in gaming. It allows users to do the following: -make new friends and invite friends from Facebook , – challenge friends to play games and share tips, -Brag and post achievements on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube -Watch highlights from other players -comment on games -Record gameplay live and upload it to Youtube for other to watch and vote JWT have also implemented a user rewards system, with points and profile upgrades for: -Pre-release access to new titles, deals -And beta-testing new features. Publishers can show off new game releases and display the latest news in the gaming market.

T-Mobile G1 Review – Android User Interface


Review of the Android powered T-Mobile G1. Full review: www.mobileburn.com