Using Sociotechnical System Engineering for Designing Complex Interfaces


In Fall'16, I took several courses that dealt with Human Computer Interaction and Human-Centred Design. I found the approaches taken by these design methodologies very interesting. I also took a class called, "Sociotechnical Information Systems" and studied how sociotechnical methods have evolved over the years. I was able to map out many similarities between the sociotechnical methods and the Design Thinking approach proposed by IDEO. I was also able to conclude that these methods complement each other perfectly and could be combined to formulate a new framework which I named, "Human-Centred Sociotechnical Engineering". 


In the last decade, a Human-Centered Design(HCD) approach has been considered as the best way for designing interfaces that suit the needs of the user. But this approach does not take into account social and organizational factors. With this paper, I will examine some limitations of Human Centered Designing approach and propose a framework based on Sociotechnical System Engineering(STSE) proposed by Baxter and Sommerville. From the framework, I identify some cost effective solutions for incorporating STSE into User Interface design and how to best facilitate the incorporation of STSE with the current HCD approach for designing contextually aware and adaptable Interfaces.

Keywords: Human-Centered Design, Sociotechnical system engineering, User Interface design

The Framework in a nutshell

The HCSE Framework

The HCSE Framework


1. Context-aware Inspiration phase: Inspiration phase will contain identification of stakeholders and their concerns. Identification of the various social factors (external and internal) that could prove to affect the design of the system. Also, identifying the needs of the users and prioritizing their concerns. Developing an empathy for the users of the product and the stakeholders invested in the development phase.

2. Context-aware Ideation phase: Creating solutions to the needs identified by the users would be the topmost priority in this phase. The identified needs and the severity of those needs should be shared with other stakeholders so that they can develop an empathy for the user. Also, the creation of a team involving not only the designers but other stakeholders should be encouraged to avoid conflict in later phases. Prototypes should be created and tested internally by the organization as well as the end users.

3. Context-aware Implementation phase: The end product should be tested by the users after approval from the stakeholders.  

Full paper: HCSE