Data and the influence on User Centered Design

Data is becoming a material and part of the UCD process. But what does this mean to the role of designers? 

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project master's study

tasks research   

year 2016/17



In my design master’s study at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, I explore the influence of large amounts of data on the design process. This means, in particular, the handling of human data in the User Centered Design (UCD) process of digital services/products and its consequences.

Data has arrived

Data is here, data is around us. We are creating it with our interactions, mostly automatically with our precious digital companions. Our environment and its manifestations in the form of services and products begin to speak with each other about us — in the language of data (1).

We are exploring the full meaning of a connected environment through sudden events. Byte, by, byte. As designers, we are at the forefront of these changes (1). We are giving new technologies a face which people can interact with. In the last years, we are even becoming co-creators for technologies and models behind digital systems. This happens in businesses as well as in governments.

»Collecting data is not hard; collecting the right data — relevant data — and drawing the necessary insights is.«

- Matt McManus (Director of P. M. at PBS)

Data as Material

Data became a material which we form and use for ideas. We ideate, create from and validate through it. We are taking data out of context and giving it a new meaning (3). The sources of this material are mostly humans; in form of behavior in interactions with their environment or personal data about themselves. This happens with no differences between our categories of qualitative or quantitative data.

»[…], designers like myself are active participants in this business of collecting, processing, and sharing personally identifiable data.«

- Elizabeth Goodman (UC Berkeley)

Designers and the near Future

The new material data is becoming more and more a part of the work of User Experience Designers in all their various roles. From Research, Strategy, Interaction Design to Visual Design and UI Development (2)(3). But what does this exactly mean?

Central research questions of my study will be placed in this gap. To reflect and explore the role of design in handling human data inside User Centered Design:

  • How should reasonable handling of Human Data look like?
  • What can an HCD Process with the new sources of data look like?
  • Which tools do designers need to fulfill their new challenges?

Get in touch and share

Are you researching or working in a similar field? You want to exchange knowledge or sources? No problem. I’m happy to share what I have so far. Just contact me via e-mail or @thomasotto_.

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  1. Reigeluth, Tyler. “Why Data Is Not Enough: Digital Traces as Control of Self and Self-Control.” Surveillance & Society 12, no. 2 (2014): 243.
  2. Mortier, Richard, Hamed Haddadi, Tristan Henderson, Derek McAuley, and Jon Crowcroft. “Human-Data Interaction: The Human Face of the Data-Driven Society,” 2014.
  3. Wolff, Annika, Kortuem Gerd, Daniel Gooch, Elias Giaccardi, and Chris Speed. “Designing with Data: A Designerly Approach to Data and Data Analytics,” 53–56. ACM Press, 2016. doi:10.1145/2908805.2913017.

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