User-centered design (UCD)1 addresses the design of interactive systems placing the users in the center of the design with the aim of improving usability and user experience. Developing economies are in dear need of UCD; low IT literacy, low infrastructure and funds; and heterogeneity in culture and livelihood result in special requirements on usability in order to harvest the possible benefits of IT. Traditional UCD methods, however, are often regarded as heavy-weight and expensive. Agile software development methods are light-weight, flexible and iterative in order to accommodate the changing requirements and unsure funding and are therefore important for IT companies in developing economies. Can we adjust UCD methods to fit the need of developing economies and with agile development while taking advantage of the iterative character of agile development methods? The research appropriated an action research approach called Cooperative Method Development (CMD). Based on the empirical investigation, UCD challenges were identified, innovative use of light-weight UCD methods was deliberated and implemented. The improvements include: working with local IT personnel, light-weight and incremental use of personas, support departments performing acceptance testing on release versions, culturally adapted user testing in pairs and heuristic evaluation as adapted UCD practices. The evaluation together with the involved practitioners shows improvements in the development process including reduced reworks; satisfied users; better collaboration with stakeholders; and a close understanding of users and their needs. The evaluation of the resulting integrated approach with the involved practitioners as well as software engineers not involved in the research indicates that the results are transferable to similar contexts.
- agile development, discount usability methods, heuristic evaluation, lightweight UCD, personas, user-pair test