Physical design, especially industrial design, has many different ways of measuring products. However, there is a need for a unified method to perform heuristic analysis for physical design.
Heuristic analysis is a fundamental part of a set of UX research methodologies. There are a variety of measurements that can be used and applied in the field of physical design, especially when used in conjunction with digital design and IoT. These overlaps also require their own methods, so having a predefined starting point to measure at least part of the project is invaluable.
It should be noted that the field UX seems to leave the field from which it actually originated: Ergonomics and Human Factors. For this reason, the common heuristics (such as the 8 golden rules of Shneiderman, Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics, ISO 9241 and others less known such as those of Weinschenk and Barker, Bastien & Scapin, etc.) are mainly focused on digital design, UI design, web design and the like.
A set of guidelines for physical product design (in addition to rules such as Fitt’s Law, Hick’s Law, Apple’s HIG, and the like) is therefore urgently needed by both researchers and designers.
In this article, we present a set of 77 UX heuristics that can be used in physical design and product design in general. These heuristics are the result of research by Seda McKilligan of Iowa State University and Shanna Daly, Colleen M. Seifert, and Richard Gonzalez from University of Michigan.
The paper, titled “Evidence-based design heuristics for idea generation,” looks at some conceptual techniques for developing new ideas for physical product design.
However, one of the most interesting aspects of this paper is that it provides a list of 77 UX heuristics that can be used in testing physical design with users.
Introduction to Physical Design Testing
The authors of the paper have a clear intention to deal in depth with methodology, which is very common (and appreciated) in academic papers. Although the paper itself contains many citations and references to external resources that elaborate on each point, it is possible to read it without these links.
They introduce the paper as follows:
How do designers successfully create novel product concepts? One suggested approach is to ﬁrst generate a wide range of concepts to consider. This requires the ability to create a large number of concepts that diﬀer from each other so that the set of concepts covers the space of possible designs. Logically, the idea generation process beneﬁts from considering as many diﬀerent concepts as possible. However, generating a diverse set of concepts can be challenging because designers tend to ﬁxate on speciﬁc design speciﬁcations, which leads them to generate more concepts with similar features.Yilmaz, S., et al., Evidence-based design heuristics for idea generation, Design Studies (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.destud.2016.05.001
A number of approaches for facilitating idea generation during the early phases of conceptual design have been proposed. One approach distills knowledge about speciﬁc designs into an intermediate-level knowledge base by constructing composites from multiple examples. In Alexander’s pattern language, and Krippendorf’s design discourses, patterns common in successful design solutions are identiﬁed at a component level linking the designer to a broad range of helpful guidance. This composite knowledge about design has been referred to as heuristic knowledge. Heuristics are described as ‘mental shortcuts’ that capture cognitive strategies that may lead to solutions (though not necessarily the best one), and are ubiquitous in human reasoning. Heuristics capture important features of problem situations and solutions that tend to reoccur in experiences
77 Heuristics to measure product design
As mentioned earlier, this set of heuristics includes 77 parameters. These parameters were extracted from the findings of four different studies. While the list may seem somewhat extensive and cumbersome, it is possible to extract smaller clusters of data to create heuristics that meet our needs. Moreover, the authors do this in their own list: The original list contains only 70 heuristics, but there are seven additional ones that subdivide one of the previous 70.
Again, you don’t have to follow ALL this heuristic (and you probably won’t). Just think of this list as a tool to create a well-defined set of parameters against which you can measure your product’s usability, ergonomics, innovation, and other factors you may need to consider.
Product Design Heuristics
- Add levels
- Add motion
- Add natural features esplit from
- Add to existing product
- Adjust function through movement
- Adjust functions for speciﬁc users
- Align components around center
- Allow user to assemble
- Allow user to customize esplit from
- Allow user to rearrange esplit from
- Allow user to reorient
- Apply mechanism in new way
- Attach independent functional components
- Attach product to user
- Build user community
- Change direction of access
- Change ﬂexibility
- Change geometry
- Change product lifetime
- Change surface properties
- Convert 2-D material to 3-D object
- Convert for second function
- Cover or wrap
- Create service esplit from
- Create system
- Divide continuous surface
- Elevate or lower
- Expand or collapse
- Expose interior
- Extend surface
- Hollow out
- Impose hierarchy on functions
- Incorporate environment
- Incorporate user input
- Layer esplit from
- Make components attach/detachable
- Make multifunctional
- Make product recyclable esplit from
- Merge surfaces
- Mimic natural mechanisms
- Mirror or array
- Offer optional components
- Provide sensory feedback
- Redeﬁne joints
- Reduce material
- Repeat 0
- Repurpose packaging
- Scale up or down
- Separate functions esplit from
- Substitute way of achieving function
- Synthesize functions
- Use common base for components
- Use continuous material
- Use different energy source
- Use human-generated power
- Use multiple components in one function
- Use packaging as functional component
- Use repurposed or recycled materials
- Utilize inner space
- Utilize opposite surface
- Visually distinguish functions
The heuristics in visual format
The authors have created a monochrome image series that serves as a visual aid and includes a longer explanation of each of the previous guidelines.
You can click on the images to enlarge them.
We think that a proper set of guidelines for product and physical design was a great need. Heuristic analysis is the parameters that guides usability testing. And as such, it must be part of any good UX researcher’s toolbox.
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