In order to optimize the interaction between a system and its users, it is necessary to be aware of user needs, user characteristics, usage contexts, previous systems, and competitive systems aspects. At the beginning of each system development process, research into the requirements has to be done from a usage perspective.
Task analysis divides tasks into tree-structured subtasks, show the sequence of different tasks and show the information flow between users and the systems currently used. The tasks defined at this stage guide further design and implementation steps.
User studies analyze user characteristics and lead to a definition of user classes. In addition, user experience and usability criteria are prioritized. These criteria guide the whole development process and are also the basis of user evaluations.
Contextual studies add context variables - physical variables as well as psychological factors - to the requirements definition (e.g. the demands of specific work environments). In each context, a mosaic of research methods is applied in synergy. Contextual user studies include:
In the context of content oriented platforms, user needs have to be identified in relation to content demands. Content studies identify the content that is needed to fulfill specific usage tasks. Furthermore these studies lead to conceptual designs of this content's representation.
Within international oriented platforms, cultural user studies identify cultural usage attributes, which help to streamline the system to different target cultures. Cultural oriented user interface requirements are integrated in the user class definition.
If comparable systems are available, comparative usability studies can identify usability pros and cons of comparable (e.g. competitive) systems. This is a valuable starting point to overcome current usability flaws of available systems.
User experience and didactic concepts of e-learning products and systems are interconnected and interdependent. Therefore, we carry out didactic studies on various domains and user (learner) groups, analyzing learning goals, learning styles, social and physical learning environments, and the classifying aspects of the contents (e.g. descriptive versus procedural content, pictorial versus textual contents).
Systems have different usability requirements. For example, for some systems it is most important, that the users can work most efficiently, for others it is crucial that the users do not make errors. Requirements studies identify and prioritize these usability goals. Especially for innovative or alternative systems and application domains, as well as for special user groups it is not always obvious, which usability criteria are most important.
Identifying and defining objectively measurable and experimentally proven criteria for a system's user experience is the key activity of benchmark studies. That is the identification of the benchmarks themselves (numerical values, which the system is tested against). Furthermore the experimental method used (validity, reliability, objectivity etc.) is crucial for the success of the study.