When crea­ting new pro­ducts or ser­vices, it is worth doing it based on a deep under­stan­ding of the pro­blems and needs of users. That’s the time whe­re “Design Thin­king” should be used. In Code­lab, we have used this approach while working on a Rear Seat Enter­tain­ment (RSE) demons­tra­ti­on pro­ject that was pre­sen­ted at the Car HMI 2019 in Ber­lin. The goal of this rese­arch & deve­lo­p­ment pro­ject was to explo­re the pos­si­bi­li­ties to crea­te an info­tain­ment sys­tem for rear seat pas­sen­gers in modern cars. Hard­ware con­sists of Raspber­ry Pi, auto­mo­ti­ve-gra­de touch screen, cus­tom desi­gned alu­mi­num chas­sis and various accessories.

But let’s focus first on what “Design Thin­king“ exact­ly is: It is a pro­duct deve­lo­p­ment approach based on seve­ral assumptions.

At first it requi­res to con­cen­tra­te on the End User – his or her needs, no mat­ter if they are expli­cit­ly sta­ted or only sub­con­scious­ly perceived.

At this stage, we crea­ted a team to gather the requi­re­ments during seve­ral work­shops, whe­re we brain­stor­med to deter­mi­ne the actu­al user and their most important use cases. To find out what the need of such a user would be, we first had to careful­ly think who this typi­cal end user was? The­r­e­fo­re, when crea­ting RSE, we star­ted by crea­ting per­so­nas – peo­p­le to whom we gave spe­ci­fic names and cha­rac­te­ristics that repre­sen­ted typi­cal end users in their cate­go­ries. After­wards we star­ted to think about the needs of the­se typi­cal peo­p­le as rear passengers.

We all know that in the car, for exam­p­le, an air con­di­tio­ning con­trol sys­tem is useful, but would­n’t it be good to enable such con­trol from the touch screen level also for pas­sen­gers sit­ting in the back? Would­n’t it affect the com­fort of their trip?

Would­n’t the per­son in the back want to be able to read web con­tent? The dri­ver or front pas­sen­ger can choo­se a radio sta­ti­on, but would­n’t it be easier if a child sit­ting in the back could play con­tent from a USB flash drive?

Or may­be it would be useful to look at the navi­ga­ti­on screen to check the pro­gress of the trip? Or may­be the pass­an­ger needs some­thing else? After all, befo­re the appearance of tablets on the mar­ket, con­su­mers were per­fect­ly fine wit­hout them …

The­se and many other, often non-obvious ques­ti­ons nee­ded to be ans­we­red when we focu­sed on the end user during our mee­tings. Such mee­tings were per­for­med in ite­ra­ti­ve man­ner and we were able to impro­ve our under­stan­ding of user needs and expec­ta­ti­ons. We used sti­cky notes and phy­si­cal cork­boards to faci­li­ta­te inter­ac­tion bet­ween team mem­bers. Sub­se­quent­ly, the notes have been trans­fer­red to Git­Lab in digi­tal form and later trans­la­ted to set of for­mal requi­re­ments and user sto­ries. Final­ly, tasks were assi­gned to team mem­bers for implementation.

Ano­ther assump­ti­on of “Design Thin­king” is crea­ti­ve col­la­bo­ra­ti­on, in order to look at the pro­blem from various points of view and to think out­side the box. It is important to look at encoun­te­red pro­blems from many dif­fe­rent per­spec­ti­ves in order to actively search for new solu­ti­ons and not fall into the usu­al pat­tern. After all, just becau­se some­thing works does­n’t mean it can’t work bet­ter. The­r­e­fo­re, during the crea­ti­on of RSE, for exam­p­le, the con­cept of skins for screens appeared depen­ding on whe­ther the place is assi­gned to a child or an adult, or simp­le games for the youn­gest tra­ve­lers. Also, sin­ce it is not a dri­vers head unit with rela­tively sta­tic screen, we added some dyna­mic ele­ments on the screen such as particles.

Last but not least, an important pil­lar for Design Thin­king is expe­ri­men­ting and test­ing of hypo­the­ses. During the crea­ti­on of our RSE, we invi­ted mem­bers of other teams to see the out­co­me of our work and asked to share their usa­bi­li­ty impression.

Based on the­se opi­ni­ons, we were able to add appro­pria­te cor­rec­tions. Hence, for exam­p­le, in order to adapt to the needs as much as pos­si­ble, the media con­trol from the main screen was chan­ged many times or cor­rec­tions were made to the sys­tem of swit­ching bet­ween indi­vi­du­al appli­ca­ti­on win­dows. The effect of this approach was also the appearance of the pre­vious­ly men­tio­ned par­tic­les which chan­ged the appearance of the who­le inter­face into being more eye-friendly.

The Design Thin­king approach pro­ved to be suc­cessful and we are loo­king for­ward to app­ly­ing it again during our Rese­arch & Deve­lo­p­ment work in HMI Cen­ter of Competence.