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Understanding everyday activities in context

Written by Colette Nicolle and Eddy Elton, Loughborough Design School

Within the discipline of Ergonomics, context of use is defined by the British Standards Institution (1998) as:

“Users, tasks, equipment (hardware, software and materials), and the physical and social environments in which a product is used”

Using this definition as a starting point, focus groups and observations with older people helped us to identify situations where context has the biggest impact upon product use. This investigation included an exploration of people’s feelings and motivations, the nature of their everyday tasks and both the physical and social environments in which they interacted with products.  These terms form the basis of the Context Framework (4 main areas are described below) and illustrate the multi-faceted impact of context upon product use, product demand and user capabilities.

Understanding the person

Nature of Task

Physical environment

Social environment

They captured these factors as CONTEXT FRAMEWORK
More information on this academic research can be obtained through:

BS EN ISO 9241-11, 1998, Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDT’s). Part 11- guidelines for specifying and measuring usability. (British Standards Institute, London)

Elton, E.M., Nicolle, C.A. and Mitchell, V.A., ”Identifying contextual factors in inclusive design”, CWUAAT Proceedings, Chapter 2, Clarkson,P., Langdon,P., Goodman-Deane,J., Robinson,P. (Eds), CWUAAT, Proceedings of the 4th Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technology [CWUAAT], 14-16 April 2008, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, 2008, p1-3, ISSN 0963-5432.  Link

Elton, E.M. and Nicolle, C.A., ”The importance of context in inclusive design”, Contemporary Ergonomics 2010, Philip D Bust, Taylor & Francis, Proceedings of the Ergonomics Society Contemporary Ergonomics, 13-15 April, Keele University, Staffordshire, 2010, p1-16.