100 User Experience (UX) Design and Evaluation Methods for Your Toolkit
This is the 21st in a series of 100 short articles about UX design and evaluation methods. Today, I will discuss the use of collages for assessing emotional aspects of products and services and generating ideas and requirements.
Method 21 of 100: Collages
A collage study asks users to find pictures, words, and tangible objects from magazines, clip art, newspapers, the Internet, and physical artifacts that represent their feelings, emotions, and personal experiences with a particular product, service, setting, person, organization, or environment. The user is then asked to organize the clips into a physical or online collage. Tools for creating an online collage can be as simple as Microsoft® PowerPoint® or digital scrapbook software like MemoryMixer, My Memories Suite, and Digital Scrapbook Artist.
After creating the collage, the user, audience (in participatory design), and facilitator engage in a discussion about the meaning of the collage. Here are some examples of the use of collages in UX design:
- Asking people to construct a collage that illustrates their identity and aspirations:
- Making emotional connections:
- Using collages to share insights:
While collages are generally focused on emotional aspects of product design, they can also be used to support early concept design or requirements gathering. For example, you might ask colleagues to create collages of different ways to use ratings in Web and mobile products and then to highlight the top three ideas. Collages can also be used to support future workshops where you might want to create an artifact showing how participants might expect their work to be different in ten years.
Part of the theory behind the collage method is that it draws out emotional and cognitive issues that direct interviews, observations, or surveys do not easily tap. Collages are probably best suited for research into products, services, or systems with which the participant has some direct experience or interest.
Collage creation supports creativity, can be done by almost anyone, and requires little in the way of supplies or facilitation. Collages can be done by individuals or groups. Some UX practitioners use collages as a focus group activity.
One of the factors in the creation of collages is the degree to which the images are constrained. In some studies people have been given a set of pictures and/or words; in other studies, people had stacks of magazines or large online collections from which to draw their own images. McKay, Cunningham, and Thomson (2006) note that here is a trade-off between the number of images and the time required to create collages - a practical trade-off if you have limited time for creating collages.
Collages can be analyzed for themes. Themes might include things like:
- Barriers and support mechanisms
- Feelings about the target object or service
You can count the number of themes and also capture the collage makers’ comments and detailed issues, requirements, and problems.
When to Use:
You can use collage studies to:
- Understand emotional issues with concepts. For example, you might ask people to create a collage that expresses what is satisfying and dissatisfying about their work in general.
- Understand organizational culture. You might ask people to create a collage that describes aspects of their work culture and see images like barriers and army tanks or small images of smiling people in a conference room.
- Support participatory design (co-creation) workshops.
- Tie features and product attributes to user/customer values.
Hanington, B., & Martin, B. (2012). Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions. Creative Publishing International.
McKay, D., Cunningham, S. J., & Thomson, K. (2006). Exploring the user experience through collage. In Proceedings of the 7th ACM SIGCHI New Zealand chapter's international conference on Computer-human interaction: design centered HCI (CHINZ '06). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 109-115.
Sanders, Elizabeth B.N., & William, C. T. (2001). “Harnessing People’s Creativity: Ideation and Expression through Visual Communication” Focus Groups: Supporting Effective Product Development. London: Taylor and Francis.