Capturing design space from a user perspective: The Repertory Grid Technique revisited

Hassenzahl, M. and Wessler, R. (2000). Capturing design space from a user perspective: The repertory grid technique revisited. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 12(3&4):441-459.

The design of an artifact (e.g., software system, household appliance) requires a multitude of decisions. In the course of narrowing down the design process, “good ideas” have to be divided from “bad ideas.” To accomplish this, user perceptions and evaluations are of great value. The individual way people perceive and evaluate a set of prototypes designed in parallel may shed light on their general needs and concerns. The Repertory Grid Technique (RGT) is a method of elucidating the so-called personal constructs (e.g., friendly–hostile, bad–good, playful–expert-like) people employ when confronted with other individuals, events, or artifacts. We assume that the personal constructs (and the underlying topics) generated as a reaction to a set of artifacts mark the artifacts’ design space from a user’s perspective and that this information may be helpful in separating valuable ideas from the not so valuable. This article explores the practical value of the RGT in gathering design-relevant information about the design space of early artifact prototypes designed in parallel. Ways of treating the information gathered, its quality and general advantages, and limitations of the RGT are presented and discussed. In general, the RGT proved to be a valuable tool in exploring a set of artifact’s design space from a user’s perspective.