Valence method

Method suitability

Study type

Field studies
XLab studies
Online studies
Questionnaire

Development phase

Concepts
Early prototypes
XFunctional prototypes
XProducts on market

Studied period of experience

Before usage
XSnapshots
XAn episode
Long-term UX

Evaluator / Info provider

UX experts
XOne user at a time
Groups of users
Pairs of users

Data

XQualitative
XQuantitative

Applications

XWeb services
XPC software
XMobile software
XHardware designs
Other:

Requirements

XTrained researcher
Special equipment

Summary

The valence method is based on the user experience model of Hassenzahl (2008) defining user experience as a primary evaluative feeling during the usage of a product or service. A positive user experience the consequence of fullfinging human needs. The valence method captures positive and negative feelings (valence) during the explorative usage of an interactive product. In a subsequent retrospective interview phase users indicate for each instance of a positive or negative feeling (valence marker) the product design aspects inducing it. This phase further employs the laddering interview technique [Reynolds & Gutman, 1988] to reveal the personal meaning of product design aspects to the user and the underlying fulfilled or frustrated needs. The generated information helps designers to understand and optimize the user experience potential of a product.

Description

The method consists of two phases: In an exploration phase, users experience positive or negative feelings
while using a product. They are asked to continuously monitor all instances of feeling good and bad by pressing a dedicated button for positive
(e.g. a green plus sign) and negative (e.g. a red minus sign) feelings on a remote control. The button presses are recorded as valence markers with time stamps in a video recording of the exploration phase. The exploration phase should be kept short because otherwise memory will decrease in the retrospective phase. In our tests, 6 to 8 minutes yielded good results.
The second phase is a retrospective interview.Two aspects have to be investigated for each valence marker: (1) Which product design aspect caused setting the valence marker? (2) What are the personal meansing and the underlying needs? Users watch a video recording of their exploration session augmented by the valence markers presented on a timeline of the video recording. The instruction is to watch the recording, comment on what they were experiencing, and pause at each valence marker. The interviewer then asks whichdesign elements and product design aspects caused setting the current valence marker. After determining the specific product design aspect, the interviewer determines the meaning and the underlying needs
by applying the laddering technique [Reynolds & Gutman, 1988]. The central question of laddering is: “Why is this attribute positive or negative?”. This type of question is repeated until the need related to the valence marker has been identified.

Strengths

Compared to other UX evaluation tools the valence method supports designers as a formative evaluation tool in (1) identifying emotional relevant design elements and design aspects, (2) showing the personal and experiential meaning for the users, and (3) revealing the underlying need of the user. These information are relevant for finding more and better experiential design elements and aspects.

Weaknesses

The main weaknesses are:
a) The question technique requires some training
b) Analysis of valence markers and meaning is quite simple, but interpretation of the underlying needs is difficult and often not very reliable. Here more research work is necessary.
c) Designers need a fundamental understanding of emotion and motivation based design. Otherwise it seems to be rather difficult to use the results of the method.

References describing the method

Burmester, M., Mast, M., Jäger, K. & Homans, H. (2010). Valence Method for Formative Evaluation of User Experience. In: K. Halskov & M.G. Graves Petersen (eds.), DIS2010 Proceedings, 16.20. Aug. Århus, Denmark (p. 364-367).New York: ACM.

Burmester, M. Jäger, K., Mast, M., Peissner, M. & Sproll, S. (2010). Design verstehen – Formative Evaluation der User Experience. In: H. Brau, S. Diefenbach, K. Göring, M. Peissner & K. Petrovic (Hrsg.), Usability Professionals 2010 (S. 206-214). Stuttgart: Fraunhofer.

Burmester, M., Jäger, K., Festl, L., Mast, M. (2011). Studien zur formativen Evaluation der User Experience mit der Valenzmethode. In S. Schmid et al. (Eds.), Reflexionen und Visionen der Mensch-Maschine-Systeme - Aus der Vergangenheit lernen, Zukunft gestalten. 9. Berliner Werkstatt Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion, 5. bis 7. Oktober 2011. Fortschritt-Berichte VDI Reihe 22 Nr. 33. (pp. 567-572). Düsseldorf: VDI-Verlag.

Burmester, M. (2013, in Druck). Valenzmethode – Formative Evaluation der User Experience. In: K. Scherfer & H. Volpers (Hrsg.), Methoden der Webwissenschaft – Ein Handbuch. Bd. I Anwendungsbezogene Methoden. Münster: LIT Verlag.

References about quality of the method

Burmester, M., Mast, M., Jäger, K. & Homans, H. (2010). Valence Method for Formative Evaluation of User Experience. In: K. Halskov & M.G. Graves Petersen (eds.), DIS2010 Proceedings, 16.20. Aug. Århus, Denmark (p. 364-367).New York: ACM.

Burmester, M., Jäger, K., Festl, L., Mast, M. (2011). Studien zur formativen Evaluation der User Experience mit der Valenzmethode. In S. Schmid et al. (Eds.), Reflexionen und Visionen der Mensch-Maschine-Systeme - Aus der Vergangenheit lernen, Zukunft gestalten. 9. Berliner Werkstatt Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion, 5. bis 7. Oktober 2011. Fortschritt-Berichte VDI Reihe 22 Nr. 33. (pp. 567-572). Düsseldorf: VDI-Verlag.

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