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Ford’s UX Research

Posted on Jan 7th, 2010 by Nate Bolt

image by IDEO

The new 2010 Ford Fusion, presented today at CES, has a heavy focus on in-car technology—SmartGauge fuel consumption meters, in-car wifi and touchscreen apps, voice-activated Sync technology, and iPod controls all introduce a huge amount of user interaction. As twitterer @zsazsa says:

“What impresses me most about Ford keynote isn’t their tech, but the huge amount of user research they’ve done and acted on.”

Clearly this is a huge user research task, and IDEO was called in to do design and research. As the Movement Design Bureau comments, the research project sounds pretty far-ranging:

The Smartgauge team worked closely not only with designers and engineers within Ford, but with the most famous user-design/research guys of them all – IDEO, and conducted extensive, ethnographic research – not only with hybrid drivers, but with those who drove hummers, bicycles, and even professional athletes and their trainers.

We’ve done some in-car ethnography ourselves, and we think it’s a fascinating area for innovative research—the inside of a car is an environment with a totally unique set of design constraints and user needs, and it’s a place where (for better or worse) Americans spend hours every day. We’re curious what the professional athletes were doing in that study, but word up to Ford and IDEO for working to understand how people use technology in their cars.

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