Developing Information Communication Technologies for the Human Services: Mental Health and Employment

Developing Information Communication Technologies for the Human Services: Mental Health and Employment

Jennifer Martin (RMIT University, Australia) and Elspeth McKay (RMIT University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-735-5.ch010
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This chapter introduces a design process for developing useful information communication technologies for the human services. Key to the success of the design process is an in-depth knowledge and understanding of user needs and requirements. The stages involved in the design process are presented in this chapter and include: user and task analysis, persona and scenario development and the establishment of measurable usability goals. A case study illustrates the application of this design process to develop a Web enabled electronic work requirement awareness program (e-WRAP) for people recovering from mental illness seeking employment. The challenge for social workers is to use these new technologies to improve service provision and enhance quality of life without compromising ethical standards of practice; particularly in relation to client confidentiality, privacy and self-determination.
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‘After the idea, there is plenty of time to learn the technology’. -- James Dyson (1947-), English inventor and businessman, Against the Odds, 1997 in Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (2004, p.294:20).


User Analysis

The main features of user groups are identified by conducting a user analysis. This involves thinking and forming assumptions about what users would like. The next crucial step is to test these assumptions against the “reality” of the users in an endeavor to understand their needs, expectations, knowledge base, experience and preferences. Information is also gained on technologies and software that users have available to them, for example via broadband or dial up, as well as the physical environment where the Internet is accessed. By involving users in the pre-design stage they become active and important partners in the design process. Research techniques that complement each other for conducting a user analysis comprise: contextual interviews, individual interviews, surveys and focus groups (United States Department of Health & Human Services, 2008). The more techniques used the greater the depth of knowledge gained about the needs of users and the less likelihood of design errors. A common mistake to avoid is choosing “flashy” technology over accessibility.

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