Designing systems that support learning and use: A customer-centered approach

Karl L. Smart, Matthew E. Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


As the importance of customer satisfaction has grown, a corresponding emphasis on customer-centered design and end-user computing has emerged. However, little research has attempted to show the application of user-centered design for information-based products, specifically with how customers use information to learn about their software systems and how information assists users when problems arise. This article reports the results of a 2-year study of a cross-functional design team within a major software company; they were monitored while they used a contextual design process to gather information about users. The paper discusses the contextual design methodology, outlines the development of the cross-functional team and research focus, discusses the collection and interpretation of customer data, and shows how the development group translated data into design ideas and prototyped and tested those ideas. Constraints affecting the implementation of design ideas are discussed, with implications explored. This article provides an interpretive case study that demonstrates the contextual design methodology as it applies to the design of information. Additionally, it provides insights into customer use of information and the application of the methodology to the design of information systems, computer applications, and their documentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-190
Number of pages14
JournalInformation and Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 20 2001


  • Contextual design
  • Customer-centered design
  • Documentation
  • End-user computing
  • Information systems
  • Participatory design
  • Software and system development


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