Claus Knapheide Siemens AG Corporate Technology User Inter Face Design 81730 München
User related software development has recently been estimated as a key factor for the success of electronical products in the market. If users are related with the process from the very beginning, the software will meet the customers' expectations and can be used with a high degree of security and joy of use. Software will be streamlined and inexpensive when only those requirements are covered that proved to be really necessary under the aspect of usage.
For these reasons, the software certification criteria, do not only cover the process of inspection (ISO 9241, Part 10) and Usability Testing (ISO 9241, Part 11), but also a direct cooperation with users in the beginning of the process where the context of use and task analysis (ISO 13407) are in question. For this purpose, a discourse called focus group discussion has been established (cf. Greenbaum 1988, Stewart & Shamdasani 1990).
Group discussion originates from market research, where it was used as an economical version of deep interview with many participants. Still there is only little methodological knowledge on focus group discussion, since the technical disciplines that take part in the process hardly have theoretical access to the discourse as such, while psychological research tends to stress emotional, affective, or physiological aspects of behaviour (cf. Ehlich 1997). As a result, focus groups are still being used more or less accidental and as a non-systematic method to reveal any kind of knowledge.
A linguistic approach, however, looks into the verbal actions of participants and tries to relate these with mental categories such as knowledge. When designing the user software for a very complex medical equipment made by Siemens, we