This work explores a framework for the gathering and analysis of information rich customer needs, with the goal of informing inclusive product design practice. The goal is to be able to provide information and experience to designers so that they can better understand the needs of exceptional users and include those needs in the early stages of design, making inclusive products easier and less expensive to design, produce and use. Human subjects testing is conducted to test a key aspect of the framework – that of a surrogate experience for general users as a valid proxy for eliciting needs similar to an exceptional user set. For this, both users with actual motion restrictions and general users wearing a motion restriction simulation suit (to provide an exceptional user-like experience) are included in this study to provide customer needs for a product set and mobility characterization data. The framework provided by this research enables designers to collect and classify the customer needs produced during elicitation activities, and connect those needs with the users’ functional capabilities and other information, making the needs useful for informing inclusive design. The interconnected data set is used to examine comparisons between user types and experience and other aspects of user functionality to provide evaluations for the surrogate experience. Both the customer needs and their categorizations are examined across multiple dimensions as well as additional connections to user activity and experience. Most importantly, validations of the collection methods and the surrogate experience are performed.
The research findings detail how functional capability metrics from the occupational therapy field are added into a motion restriction simulation study to enhance the available data and enable future correlation searches. This dissertation covers the methodology of the selection process for the new metrics along with their implementation into the research procedure and the types of considerations and constraints involved. It provides a detailed description of the motion restriction simulation suit as well as the data collection procedures.
This dissertation also includes a discussion of how a recent customer needs ontology is applied to a set of needs gathered for six different manually operated household products. A modification to the original customer needs ontology is proposed and analyzed. The coding of the collected needs sets serves as a validation for the usage and adaptation of the ontology. The different structures and emphases of the ontology as well as ontology code coverage for this particular type of customer need set and products are discussed. Insights on how the ontology can be helpful for future developments are noted results. The overall conclusion is that significant insight into exceptional users is gained, even with the limitations noted in this data set. By identifying so much interconnection, many aspects of niche design can be investigated that support a broader approach to design for exceptional users. That investigation is reported here, and subsequent avenues of investigation are suggested.