11 August 2007

What does “user value” mean?

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International Journal of Design
The August issue of the International Journal of Design has just been published.

It is the second issue of this peer-reviewed journal issued by the Taiwan-based Chinese Institute of Design (read more here).

Suzan Boztepe of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, has contributed an article on the theoretical meaning of user value.

In design research, the issues of what exactly constitutes user value and how design can contribute to its creation are not commonly discussed.

This paper provides a critical overview of the theories of value used in anthropology, sociology, philosophy, business, and economics. In doing so, it reviews a range of theoretical and empirical studies, with particular emphasis on their position on product, user, and designer in the process of value creation.

The paper first looks at the similarities and differences among definitions of value as exchange, sign, and experience.

It then reviews types and properties of user value such as its multidimensionality, its contextuality, its interactivity, and the stages of user experience dependency identified by empirical studies. Methodological approaches to user value research and their possible applications in design are also discussed.

Finally, directions for future research on user value are discussed giving particular emphasis to the need of tools and methods to support design practice.

Suzan Boztepe earned her Ph.D. in Design from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2004, and has since served as an Assistant Professor of Design at Middle East Technical University. She has taught design innovation and human-centered design research methods at Pratt Institute and Carleton University’s School of Industrial Design. Her research interests include strategic applications of design, social and cultural human factors, and product localization issues. She also works as an innovation consultant to international companies in emerging markets.

I found a few more interesting papers by Suzane available for download:

  • User-value-based product adaptation (pdf, 200 kb, 14 pages), 2005
    This paper reports an ethnographic study on the use of kitchen appliances illustrating how various factors of physical and socio-cultural context influence users’ interaction with product and its value. Based on the relationship between these cultural influences and the value users derive from products, the paper proposes a user-centered framework for product adaptation. The primary drives for product adaptation decisions in the proposed framework include the consideration of convenience, compatibility, accessibility, social significance, and pleasure in user-product interaction.
     
  • The notion of value and design (pdf, 220 kb, 10 pages), 2003
    Globalization of businesses brings opportunities as well as failure. In today’s volatile economy, creating superior value for users is shown as a way of achieving competitive advantage. However, there is a little agreement of what exactly constitutes user value and how design can contribute to its creation. This paper examines the notion of value from sociological, anthropological, and business perspectives, reflecting on what each has to offer to design. A conception of value as a practical or symbolic benefit of a product which arises from the interaction with user and facilitates superior user experience is advocated. Finally, the role of design in creation of value is questioned and a framework for research into value is suggested.

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