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
Hayes, Caroline C.; Akhavi, Farnaz.
Creating Effective Decision Aids for Complex Tasks.
Usability Professionals' Association.
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