How do we ensure that the IT systems we develop are actually what is wanted, indeed demanded by today’s IT users?

Mandy Chessell knows the answer and will explain it at the BA Festival of Science on Wednesday September 8, 2004.

She says,

“People prefer to use products and services that satisfy their expectations. And they will relate their experience of using it to others. Great experiences may well be rewarded by rave reviews, but poor ones may receive disparaging remarks, or even bad press.”

The success of a product therefore, has a lot to do with how well it is received by its intended audience and this, typically, does not happen by chance. Usually it results from a systematic design process that involves the intended users in creating the solution.

Products need to be designed with the user in mind rather than focusing on the cleverness of the technology - this requires a focus on what the user wishes to achieve.

Mandy will describe User Engineering (UE) - a significant evolutionary advancement in the process of developing IT systems that satisfy and delight users, as well as the stakeholders who invest in bringing them to market. The objective is a balanced design that provides value for the business, stakeholders, and users!

User Engineering uses the Unified Modelling Language (UML) to create models of the roles that users can be grouped into, their goals and their conceptual model of the system. The conceptual model describes how users should think the system works - rather than all of the complex details associated with how it actually works.

Naturally, each group of users will have a slightly different conceptual model. The complete model shows the view each user should have of the system and how they should interact. The internal mechanisms of the system can then be developed to ensure that each user’s expectations are met.

Mandy says,

“The process of creating a model requires critical thinking that increases the completeness, integrity, and acceptability of a product. User Engineering uses UML as its modeling language for two reasons.

Firstly using UML results in precise and concise design specifications. This means important details can be accurately recorded. Secondly, UML is widely used in the IT industry. Therefore many IT professionals can understand it and so the model becomes a valuable reference document throughout the project - analogous to a blueprint in a building design.”

Many people have to use IT systems and may have an interest in how they are designed. Mandy will provide an insight into a method that helps improve the usability of IT systems and, as a result, helps businesses achieve their goals.

Supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the whole day promises to be a treat for all those attending with six presentations in total, a panel session and press conference.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, the Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. The BA is the UK’s nationwide, open membership organisation dedicated to connecting science with people, so that science and its applications become accessible to all. The BA aims to promote openness about science in society and to engage and inspire people directly with science and technology and their implications.
  3. The BA Festival of Science is one of the UK’s biggest science festivals. It attracts 400 of the best scientists and science communicators from home and abroad who reveal the latest developments in research to a general audience.
  4. The BA Festival of Science 2004 will take place at the University of Exeter from 6 - 10 September 2004, and throughout the city from 4 - 11 September. The Engineering Section ‘Where have all the engineers gone?’ takes place on Wednesday 8 September. The engineering session, Where have all the Engineers Gone? takes place on Wednesday 8 September, 09.30 – 17.00, Queen’s Building LT2.

For more information please contact

Dr Claire McLoughlin at the Royal Academy of Engineering
Craig Brierley at the BA, tel: 020 7019 4947