Skip to main content
Creating Effective Decision Aids for Complex Tasks
Hayes, Caroline C.; Akhavi, Farnaz (Usability Professionals' Association, 2008)

Creating Effective Decision Aids for Complex Tasks

Issue Date

Usability Professionals' Association


Engineering design tasks require designers to continually compare, weigh, and choose among many complex alternatives. The quality of these selection decisions directly impacts the quality, cost, and safety of the final product. Because of the high degree of uncertainty in predicting the performance of alternatives while they are still just sketches on the drawing board, and the high cost of poor choices, mathematical decision methods incorporating uncertainty have long held much appeal for product designers, at least from a theoretical standpoint. Yet, such methods have not been widely adopted in practical settings. The goals of this work are to begin understanding why this is so and to identify future questions that may lead to solutions. This paper summarizes the results of several studies by the authors: two laboratory studies in which we asked product designers to use various mathematical models to compare and select design alternatives, and a set of ethnographic studies in which we observed product designers as they worked so that we could better understand their actual practices and needs during decision making. Based on these studies, we concluded that the mathematical models, as formulated, are not well suited to designers’ needs and approaches. We propose a research agenda for developing new approaches that combine decision theoretic and usercentered methods to create tools that can make product designers’ decision making work easi

Appears in Collection(s)

Other Identifier(s)
issn: 1931-3357

Previously Published Citation
Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 3, Issue 4, August 2008, pp. 152-172

"© UPA, 2008. Reprinted from Journal of Usability Studies, VOL 3, ISS 4, (November 2008)

Suggested Citation
Hayes, Caroline C.; Akhavi, Farnaz. (2008). Creating Effective Decision Aids for Complex Tasks. Usability Professionals' Association. Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.