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.