The Interaction Discovery project explores the problem of how our designed user experiences can be made more resilient
to surprising interactions, when people use something in unanticipated ways or for unexpected reasons. In recognition of its
widespread use, we are focussing on how this can be done in the context of agile development.
Challenges in the discovery of unwanted interactions
Challenges in the Discovery of Unwanted Interactions April 2019
The question of how to discover unwanted features of a design can be
broken down into a set of closely related questions (Fig 1).
If user research identifies pain points, how relevant a prediction are
they for a new or modified system that does not exist yet? Current use may also include important
workarounds developed by the users themselves if elements of the system are programmable in some way,
raising questions of customisation. If a problem is suspected, evidence
might be sought through comparative testing, but how would the alternatives be chosen when some of them
are undesirable? Would they be sufficiently different for the suspected effect to be seen in typical
use, or would an unusual scenario be needed for differentiation? Is it
practical to write a clear test hypothesis when exploring a problem, or would it rely too much on luck
and imagination? When considering the resilience of a
system, recognition of how you are currently succeeding can be
important. Use of modelling and simulation can be useful, but raises
questions of how reliable indicators will emerge from those models, and
whether representation of the
user population is adequate at the start and how
its evolution should be managed to track contextual changes. It may be
difficult to anticipate the user's navigation of a future system, and any
extrapolation of current user stories to identify future issues may
have validation problems.
This breakdown has been used as a guide in designing structured interviews to address the question.
Interaction Discovery Research Questions (Updated) July 2020
Some industries have products independently assessed before delivery and address
by imposing limitations on how they are used rather than making late
changes. The motivating question that underlies our study arises from participation in
Why do experienced teams of suitably qualified people still deliver products
that fail to meet their non-functional engineering and usability goals?
Our study is an exploration of what designers do to identify undesirable interactions.
The interaction type of interest is
where users issue instructions to the system. The more complex situations that arise in
where a goal is set but the system has a degree of freedom in how it
achieves it, will not be considered. Similarly, conversational interactions, as used in chat-bots,
and the manipulatory or exploratory interactions used in virtual environments will
not be considered.
The idea of interaction discovery as a mindful examination of cooperation assumptions and
requirements between users and systems will be developed and informed by the research.
These ideation activities come under additional pressure in development environments based
on the rapid introduction of functional increments, making Agile practices
of particular interest as both a challenging technical problem and one sufficiently bounded in
time to facilitate study. Our primary research questions address the particular challenges of
interaction discovery in Agile development:
What methods are applied in current Agile software design practice to discover
interactions with the user that the intended users will consider undesirable?
Users may have concerns about the integrity and use of their data. The related question
of interactions that the system operators regard as undesirable might require consideration
of commercial, security and availability issues that do not necessarily coincide with these
concerns. Where it is necessary to make the distinction, our study will consider only what is
desirable from the point of view of the intended user. Interactions that are immediately
undesirable at the time of the instruction, and those likely to be undesirable within the
timeframe of the overall activity, will both be considered.
One method of encapsulating the behaviour of an identified segment of the user population is to link
their behaviour, their needs, and a narrative of use, with a stereotypical user description, or
persona. The way the data is presented may affect the choices made, so we have an interest in personas
and other ways of understanding user research that designers create for themselves, as a part of an
implied choice architecture, and its possible role in interaction discovery:
How can Agile teams be helped to create and maintain a choice architecture for their work that
assists prediction of undesirable behaviours
These questions are embedded in the broader issue of how user centred design is currently
practiced in general and in Agile development environments in particular, so addressing our
specific issue will also contribute to an understanding of current practice.
By a shortfall we mean something that is disappointing compared to the expectation.
This could be a functional, or capability, shortfall if it is not possible to do something that should have been provided,
or a non-functional shortfall if it is possible but with a lower quality or performance.
By directive control we mean step-by-step instructions, typically with only one correct interpretation.
By objective control we mean situations where a goal has been set, possibly with more than one correct interpretation,
where it may not be known in advance how the goal will be met, and possibly will not be obvious after the objective has
been achieved what the steps taken were or why they were chosen.