How can a new vehicle maker ‘fast find and fix’ usability problems when its production cars do not yet exist, where the system itself is confidential – all while obeying highway and covid regulations too?
We describe the use of Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE) to study, over a period of two weeks, a novel automotive touchscreen-based ventilation UI, and how we adapted standard RITE and UX research methods to fit the unique, confined, sometimes moving, car space. Climate control is also different in an Electric Vehicle to a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle and consequently requires a different user mental model to operate efficiently. In addition ecological validity can also be challenging when testing a prototype vehicle.
We describe some pragmatic ways we devised to make static drivers feel like they’re driving (and feel like they’re hot or cold too); how we used limited on-road studies to validate our static findings, and how these findings and our recommendations made a significant impact to the driving experience as a whole, in some cases going beyond the original brief.
The importance and challenges of working co-operatively with designers, researchers and engineers with limited time and resources as well as a bit of skepticism is also addressed along with the importance of collaboration, triangulation and sticky putty to “hold everything together”.
We conclude that RITE has high impact relative to the effort involved, and helps elevate the role of UX researcher to a professional who works with designers to recommend and iterate, as opposed to a ‘tester’ brought in at the last minute to ‘validate’ an interface.