Contextual Design, 1st Edition

Defining Customer-Centered Systems

Contextual Design, 1st Edition,Hugh Beyer,Karen Holtzblatt,ISBN9781558604117


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This book introduces a customer-centered approach to business by showing how data gathered from people while they work can drive the definition of a product or process while supporting the needs of teams and their organizations. This is a practical, hands-on guide for anyone trying to design systems that reflect the way customers want to do their work. The authors developed Contextual Design, the method discussed here, through their work with teams struggling to design products and internal systems. In this book, you'll find the underlying principles of the method and how to apply them to different problems, constraints, and organizational situations.

Contextual Design enables you to
+ gather detailed data about how people work and use systems
+ develop a coherent picture of a whole customer population
+ generate systems designs from a knowledge of customer work
+ diagram a set of existing systems, showing their relationships, inconsistencies, redundancies, and omissions

Hugh Beyer

Hugh Beyer is a co-founder of InContext Enterprises, Inc., a firm that works with companies, coaching teams to design products, product strategies, and information systems from customer data. Hugh Beyer has pioneered the link between the customer-centered front end and object-oriented design.

Affiliations and Expertise

InContext Enterprises, Inc., Concord, MA, USA

Karen Holtzblatt

Karen Holtzblatt is a co-founder of InContext Enterprises, Inc., a firm that works with companies, coaching teams to design products, product strategies, and information systems from customer data. Karen Holtzblatt developed the Contextual Inquiry field data gathering technique that forms the core of Contextual Design and is now taught and used world-wide.

Affiliations and Expertise

InContext Enterprises, Inc., Concord, MA, USA

View additional works by Karen Holtzblatt

Contextual Design, 1st Edition

Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems

by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt



    Chapter 1 Introduction
      The challenges for design

      The challenge of fitting into everyday life

      Creating an optimal match to the work

      Keeping in touch with the customer

      The challenge of design in organizations

      Teamwork in the physical environment

      Managing face-to-face design

      The challenge of design from data

      The complexity of work

      Maintaining a coherent response

      Contextual Design

    Part 1 Understanding the Customer

    Chapter 2 Gathering Customer Data
      Marketing doesn't provide design data

      The rocky partnership between IT and its clients

      Improving communication with the business

      The role of intuition in design

      Contextual Inquiry reveals hidden work structure

    Chapter 3 Principles of Contextual Inquiry
      The master/apprentice model

      The four principles of Contextual Inquiry





      The contextual interview structure

    Chapter 4 Contextual Inquiry in Practice
      Setting project focus

      Designing the inquiry for commercial products

      Designing the inquiry for IT projects

      Designing the interviewing situation

      Deciding who to interview

      Making it work

    Part 2 Seeing Work

    Chapter 5 A Language of Work
      Using language to focus thought

      Graphical languages give a whole picture

      Work models provide a language for seeing work

      Work models reveal the important distinctions

    Chapter 6 Work Models
      The flow model

      Recognizing communication flow

      Creating a bird's-eye view of the organization

      The sequence model

      Collecting sequences during an interview

      The artifact model

      Collecting artifacts during an interview

      Inquiring into an artifact

      The cultural model

      Recognizing the influence of culture

      Making culture tangible

      The physical model

      Seeing the impact of the physical environment

      Showing what matters in the physical environment

      The five faces of work

    Chapter 7 The Interpretation Session

    Building a shared understanding

    The structure of an interpretation session

    Team makeup


    Running the session

    The sharing session

Part 3 Seeing across Customers

Chapter 8 Consolidation
    Creating one representation of a market

    A single representation is a marketing and planning tool

    Facilitate the partnership between IT and customers

    IT can be the voice for coherent business processes

    Representations of work stabilize requirements

    Seeing the whole

Chapter 9 Creating One View of the Customer
    The affinity diagram

    Consolidating flow models

    Consolidating sequence models

    Consolidating artifact models

    Consolidating physical models

    Consolidating cultural models

    The thought process of consolidation

Chapter 10 Communicating to the Organization
    Communication Techniques

    Walking the affinity

    Walking the consolidated models

    Touring the design room

    Tailoring the language to the audience






    Models manage the conversation

Part 4 Innovation from Data

Chapter 11 Work Redesign
    Customer data drives innovation

    Creative design incorporates diversity

    Contextual Design introduces a process for invention

    Work redesign as a distinct design step

Chapter 12 Using Data to Drive Design
    The consolidated flow model

    Role switching

    Role strain

    Role sharing

    Role isolation

    Process fixes

    Target the customer


    The consolidated cultural model

    Interpersonal give-and-take

    Pervasive values

    Public relations

    Process fixes


    The consolidated physical model

    The reality check

    Work structure made real

    Movement and access

    Partial automation

    Process fixes


    Consolidated sequence models

    What the user is up to

    How users approach a task

    Unnecessary steps

    What gets them started

    Process fixes


    Consolidated artifact models

    Why it matters

    What it says

    How it chunks

    What it looks like


    Using metaphors

    Using models for design

Chapter 13 Design from Data
    Walking the data

    Priming the brain

    Creating a vision

    Creating a common direction

    Making the vision real

    Process and organization design

    Marketing plans

    System design


    Redesigning work

Part 5 System Design

Chapter 14 System Design
    Keeping the user's work coherent

    Breaking up the problem breaks up the work

    A system has its own coherence

    The structure of a system

    Designing structure precedes UI design

    The User Environment Design

    Representing the system work model

    The User Environment formalism in the design process

Chapter 15 The User Environment Design
    The reverse User Environment Design

    Building the User Environment from storyboards

    Defining a system with the User Environment Design

    User Environment Design walkthroughs

    Probing User Environment Design structure

Chapter 16 Project Planning and Strategy
    Planning a series of releases

    Partitioning a system for implementation

    Coordinating a product strategy

    Driving concurrent implementation

Part 6 Prototyping

Chapter 17 Prototyping as a Design Tool
    The difficulty of communicating a design

    Including customers in the design process

    Using paper prototypes to drive design

    Prototyping as a communication tool

Chapter 18 From Structure to User Interface
    Using the User Environment Design to drive the UI

    Mapping to a windowing UI

    Mapping to a command-line UI

    Mapping to UI controls

    A process to design the UI

Chapter 19 Iterating with a Prototype
    Building a paper prototype

    Running a prototype interview





    The structure of an interview




    The interview


    The interpretation session


    Completing a design


Chapter 20 Putting It into Practice
    The principles of Contextual Design

    The principle of data

    The principle of the team

    The principle of design thinking

    Breaking up design responsibilities across groups

    Addressing different design problems

    Team structure

    Maintaining a strategic customer focus

    Handling organizational change

    Designing the design process


Readings and Resources



Quotes and reviews

"If necessity is the mother of invention, then if you don't know what the users need you can't invent. Karen and Hugh present a step-by-step way to uncover, understand, and use those needs. If developers are not already using techniques like those presented here, they should read this book carefully to see what they are missing."
—-Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc

"Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt are widely recognized as the foremost experts on contextual inquiry, and they have packed what they know into a book of both substance and intelligence. It has been a long wait but worth it. The book lucidly shows how to capture the real requirements of customers and how to tailor designs to fit their needs. If you care about your customers and want to create products they as well as want, then you need to understand contextual inquiry and contextual design. You need this book."
--Larry Constantine, Principal Consultant, Constantine & Locwood, Ltd.; Professor of Computing Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney (Australia); Author of Constantine on Peopleware and Software for User

"For many years, Beyer and Holtzblatt have been pioneers in the field of human-computer interaction, showing how the context of computer use can be (and needs to be) the central focus of analysis and design. This book conveys the understanding and wisdom that they have gained from their experience in contextual design in a form that is accessible to students and design practitioners. It will serve as a guide and handbook for the next generation of interaction designers, and as a result we can expect the usability and appropriateness of computer systems to be greatly improved."
--Terry Winograd, Stanford University
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