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. Effect? What you can see on the screen is presen­ted in the video below — take a look.

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.