Users' haptic product experiences
The visual aspects have always been of great significance and taken into account in designing consumer products. Other senses have been somewhat neglected as a result of this tradition. This thesis will prove different. People’s interactions with products are multisensory; they involve physical contact and haptic aspects should therefore be integrated into product development. Haptic aspects in this thesis refer to all possible experiences people have from actively touching, exploring and interacting with a product by their hands: all sensory impressions perceived in the skin, muscles, joints and tendons. What the person is experiencing relates to actual haptic product properties in all kinds of compositions and how they contribute to a particular meaning. The purpose of this research project has been to develop knowledge and understanding of haptics, and specifically its relation to user product experiences. The main focus has been on how users experience products through their haptic sense and how they describe these experiences. An assumption behind this work has been that “well thought-out haptic product properties in products can improve users’ product experiences. This implies a holistic view of product design and development, and involves not just technical, functional and usable products but products that are further improved to the extent that they can fulfil higher needs and bring pleasure.
The research questions posed have been investigated by intertwining literature reviews in related, multidisciplinary areas and empirical studies throughout the project. The empirical studies have been carried out partly in product development companies, but the emphasis has been on user studies.
The results indicate that the product development companies investigated worked on some specific haptic properties, such as weight, size and surface texture, but not haptics in general and did not use any specific methods. The conclusions were a perceived need for systematic support in terms of methods, tools and in particular a haptic language to incorporate the issues related to users’ haptic product experiences into their daily work. The empirical studies demonstrate that users’ haptic experiences can be verbalized by adjectives with support from a mediating tool in terms of an Experience Dimension tool (ED). A haptic language can also be created from the generated adjectives. The users’ haptic experiences appear to be related to Experience Dimensions, such as “emotional”, “social status” and “aesthetic/evaluative”, and “interface qualities” but primarily involve “objective/measurable” aspects. The ED tool combined with semantic bi-polar scales was found to be successful in creating haptic profiles. The haptic profile shows the direction and intensity of haptic experiences with sufficient sensitivity to reveal both differences and similarities between produced experiences among the products and objects investigated. The outcome from this research project conclusively provides deeper knowledge and understanding of users’ haptic product experiences: we know how to talk about it, have suitable ways of measuring it and the results also serve as input to product development companies on how to deal with the issue.
methods and tools