One of SOPRANO's main aims is to move away from technology-push and problem-focused development approaches towards more user-centred and user-driven design approaches. Such as system design is based upon well identified needs and requirements of older people. SOPRANO adopted the so-called Experience and Application Research (E&AR) design methodology which involves research, development and design by, with and for users. A new aspect of the E&AR method is that it involves users in all stages of R&D and all stages of the product development lifecycle, i.e. in the requirements elicitation phase, the development of conceptual design, and later, the prototypes. It is not the user who responds to the ideas of experts, rather the experts listen to the suggestions of older people and their carers and respond to their input.
An extensive program of research was carried out involving users at all stages of the R&D process.
The SOPRANO R&D process can be subdivided in several stages of user involvement. The aim of the first phase was to understand and specify the context of use and to also specify user and organisational requirements. The gathered information was transformed into use cases. Then, three more cycles of user interaction have been realised following an iterative multilevel prototyping approach.
In the first cycle use cases were transformed into multimedia demonstrators and scenarios were presented to users by a theatre group. User feedback was reflected in the prototypes of the next cycle.
The second cycle aimed at testing real component prototypes of the SOPRANO system with end users for the very first time and to help technical designers to improve the prototype components and overall system.
In a third cycle the integrated SOPRANO system as a close-to-final prototype will be tested both in demonstration homes and in large scale field trials in order to evaluate the system's impact in real-life situations.
In every stage of the user involvement the user feedback has been analysed and evaluated according to its value for SOPRANO (criteria are acceptability, perceived usefulness, usability, etc.), according to its cross-cultural validity and in stages of prototyping according to the feasibility of the idea.