Topic 7: Evaluation

7.1 Evaluation and designing

Outline the general criteria used to evaluate products.
Consider performance, reliability, ease of use, safety, aesthetics, materials, construction and cost.

Explain how the criteria used to evaluate products will vary depending on the purpose of the evaluation.
For example, crash-testing cars is done in relation to safety only.

Apply the general criteria to evaluate products.

Explain the use of qualitative and/or quantitative tests, models and experiments used to evaluate ideas at the design development stage (developing chosen solution) of the design cycle.
Consider the use of scale models to evaluate shape, form and proportion; materials tests; construction technique tests, and so on.

Define literature search.

Describe one advantage and one disadvantage of literature search for data collection.
Many sources of information are available, but there may be an abundance of data, which can be too time-consuming.

Evaluate the importance of ICT in aiding literature searching.
Consider access to information, speed, costs, storage and security.

Define user trial.

Describe one advantage and one disadvantage of a user trial to collect data.
The “user” is a non-specialist, which makes trials easier and cost-effective. However, users may carry out tasks in different ways from those expected and be inexperienced.

Define user research.

Describe one advantage and one disadvantage of user research to collect data.
Data is relatively easy and cheap to obtain but is largely qualitative.

Compare user research with user trial.
With user research, data is collected by obtaining users’ responses to questions. User trial data is collected by observing users’ behaviour.

Define expert appraisal.

Describe one advantage and one disadvantage of using expert appraisal to collect data.
For example, expert knowledge and advice are gained (compared to a user trial), but the expert may be biased. It may also be difficult to locate an expert. Data is usually qualitative.

7.2 Evaluation and manufacturing

Identify the nature of evaluation at different stages of the product cycle.
Different types of market research, for example, evaluating competitive products, evaluating the success of a new product and evaluating for redesign.

Define cost-effectiveness.

Explain the importance of cost-effectiveness to manufacturers.
In order to maximize profit, manufacturers require the most cost-effective production system. This is often the major aim of the brief for designers.

Define quality control and quality assurance.

Compare quality control with quality assurance for manufactured products.

Define performance test.

Describe one advantage and one disadvantage of using a performance test to collect data.
It is possible to collect quantitative data, but the test may be time-consuming and costly. It can be used where a user trial is not feasible, for example, crash-testing cars.

Define field trial.

Describe one advantage and one disadvantage of using a field trial to collect data.
Field trials are usually quite extensive exercises, so can be expensive, but the product is tested in the marketplace, which provides data that is different from laboratory-based evaluations.

7.3 Evaluation and the consumer

Define value for money.

Compare price with value when assessing a product for value for money.
If the price is too high, there may not be enough potential purchasers who can afford it or think the product is value for money. If the price is too low, consumers may think the product is too cheap to have much value. Demand for a product will generally establish the maximum price that can be charged, and the costs of production will determine the minimum price that is acceptable. However, a company may choose to set its price in relation to its competitors, or it may choose to set the price in accordance with the perceived value of the product.

Explain how consumers apply criteria to evaluate a product for value for money, referring to before purchase, purchase, initial use and long-term use.
Before purchase: advertising, manufacturer’s specification, list price, product image, and evaluation by experts and consumer groups.
Purchase: aesthetics, performance, build quality and purchase price.
Initial use: actual performance, safety and ease of use.
Long-term use: reliability, ease of maintenance, durability and running costs.

Discuss how the criteria in 7.3.3 are assigned different weightings depending on the design context.
Value judgments play a part in product analysis, and they vary according to the individual, the time (era) and the circumstances. Consumers often value utility, security, availability, rarity and aesthetics, while designers may consider function, reliability and ease of maintenance more important.

Explain the relevance of quality assurance to consumers.
Quality assurance means that consumers do not have to carry out their own research when considering purchasing products, and they have a means of redress if a product fails to match expected standards, for example, via a guarantee.

Discuss the role of consumer associations for product evaluation.
Consumer associations are independent organizations. They carry out tests on products to see if manufacturers’ claims are justified, and they provide published data for consumers. They compare similar products within a target market and recommend the best value-for-money products.

Explain the contribution of the media and education to product evaluation.
Consider the contribution of consumer and lifestyle programmes, the weekend sections of newspapers and consumer journals, and their focus on new products. Also curriculum development and design education in schools.