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PACT Analysis

A PACT analysis is a useful framework for thinking about human-centered design. The acronym PACT stands for People, Activities, Contexts, and Technologies. This structure used to analyze with whom, what, and where a user interacts with a user interface. Interaction is considered, in this framework, as a relationship between people, activities, contexts, and technologies. To analyze a user experience (UX) design using PACT, a designer must scope out the possible variety of people, activities, contexts, and technologies in a domain through brainstorming or envisionment techniques.


PACT also focuses on three categories for mapping people's differences: physical differences, psychological differences, and social differences.


People

  • Cognitive characteristics - level and duration of attention, perception, memory, learning abilities, cognitive capabilities, fears, personality characteristics

  • Physical characteristics - age differences, physical abilities,

  • What motivates, pleases, and engages - affect

  • experience & expectations - novice v's expert

  • language

  • Culture - For example, in Microsoft Excel there are two buttons, one labeled with a cross and the other a tick. In the US a tick is used for acceptance and the cross rejection, but in Ireland a tick or a cross can be used to show acceptance (e.g. a cross on a ballot paper).

  • special needs - blindness, colour blindness, deafness, wheel chair user

  • Homogenous vs heterogeneous user groups - website site users are (normally) heterogeneous - many different types of people; users of a company's intranet are (generally) homogenous

  • Discretionary vs committed users - does the user have a choice? if yes, then you need to encourage them to return

  • Infrequent vs frequent users - if users are normally infrequent, then interface must be particularly 'helpful' as users will forget how to complete complicated tasks.



Activities

  • Goals, tasks, and actions

  • Regular or unusual, weekly? Yearly? - frequent tasks should be easy to do; infrequent tasks should be easy to learn or remember

  • Well-defined or vague

  • Continuous or interrupted - the user may need to find their place' again

  • Current task practices

  • Individual vs co-operative work

  • Multi-tasking vs serial tasks

  • Passive vs active,

  • Quality vs quantity trade-off

  • Data input requirements

  • Length of time on tasks - peaks and troughs of working, need for fast response

  • Coping with errors - presentation of error messages, how to deal with them, how the system accommodates them, the significance of errors, safety-critical errors



Context

  • Physical environments - noisy, cold, wet, dirty, stressful, use dangerous materials, sunny

  • Social environments - channels of communication, structure, centralization vs decentralization, home, mobile, training materials

  • Organizational context - relationships with customers, other staff, the effect on work practices and job content, role, deskilling, job loss, shift in power

  • Circumstances under which activities happen (time, place, the pressure of work/time)

  • Amount and type of support for activities - tuition, manuals, demonstrations, new knowledge, new skills



Technologies

  • Input - Getting data in; getting commands; security

  • Output - Characteristics of different displays (e.g. video vs. photographs; speech vs. screen)

  • Communications - Between people, between devices, speed, etc. - What is connected to what?

  • Size of screen

  • GUI or not?

  • Sound?

  • Networked or stand-alone.

  • Always on or dial in?

  • Real-time systems;

  • Safety critical systems;

  • Walk-up-and-use systems (e.g. kiosks) / Office systems / Palm pilot application / Web site.


Why Use It?

A PACT analysis is useful for both analysis and design activities; understanding the current situation, seeing where possible improvements can be made, or envisioning future situations.



Task List

  • brainstorm the variety of P, A, C, and Ts that are possible

  • Explore design implications

  • Look for trade-offs between combinations of PACT

  • Think about how these might effect design

  • Conditions Required

  • Some information about a (similar) system is required

  • Marketing personnel may be involved also









Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash