TRUMP Cost-effective User Centred Design

Recommended methods: 2. Analyse context of use


To collect and agree detailed information about:

  • Who are the intended users and what are their tasks? (Why will they use the system? What is their experience and expertise?)
  • What are the technical and environmental constraints? (What types of hardware will be used in what organisational, technical and physical environments?)


  • Ensure that all factors that relate to use of the system are identified before design work starts.
  • Provide a basis for designing later usability tests



Arrange a half-day meeting. Invite stakeholders who have knowledge about the intended users and usage. This may include:

  • project manager
  • user representative(s)
  • developer(s)
  • training
  • support

The first two are key areas. You will also need a facilitator and a person to record the information provided during the meeting.

To obtain information on the context of use, a detailed checklist will be needed (see below).

Before the meeting

  • Provide all participants with a copy of the context of use checklist.

At the meeting

Discuss and fill in each item on the context checklist. Try to obtain consensus where there is uncertainty or disagreement. If information is missing, agree how this can be obtained. Avoid prolonged discussion of minor issues.

After the meeting

Obtain any missing information. If the information is not easily available, arrange a field study to observe users in their work environment.

Circulate to all participants a summary of the conclusions, and the filled in checklist.

More information: context checklists

Detailed information on usability context analysis and a comprehensive checklist can be found in the Usability Context Analysis Guide[600K] and forms[50K]. Other simpler checklists can be found in:

  • the RESPECT Handbook
  • the Baseline checklist
  • books which explain how instructional systems can be analysed in detail

When using a detailed checklist, to avoid prolonging the meeting it is important to fill in advance any items that are not contentious.

Alternative methods

If it is impossible to arrange a meeting, the information can be gathered by interviewing the stakeholders. This has the disadvantage that there is no opportunity to establish consensus on, and commitment to, the usage characteristics.

For simpler systems, the context information can be collected as part of the stakeholder meeting, using a less structured process.

Next steps

Generate scenarios to provide examples of usage as an input to design.

Copyright © 2002 Serco Ltd. Reproduction permitted provided the source is acknowledged.