The goal of the eSPACE project was to help agents and customers collaborate more effectively when developing complex, tailor-made products like round the world holidays, hi-fi systems, insurance portfolios, fitted kitchens, or digital TV packages. At the beginning of the project an in-depth six-month field study was conducted looking at how agents and customers plan and build up travel products. The study revealed that the collaborative process is often hampered by asymmetries in the planning process: the agent finds it difficult to communicate and share information about the product while the customer finds it difficult to piece together all the different aspects of the holiday experience. To overcome these problems an innovative workspace, called the ‘eTable,’ (see the figure below) was designed and implemented that uses interactive dynamic visualizations and user-centric interactive planning tools. The designs were informed by the conceptual framework of external cognition (Scaife and Rogers, 1996).
The eTable prototype was placed in trade shows across the world and has been evaluated in use at a leading travel agency. It has met with overwhelmingly positive responses. Customers come away with a much clearer idea of what they will be doing. Consultants are able to explore options with customers in a much more integrated way. One consultant commented that the eTable enabled her to ‘draw the customer in’ by providing an attractive vicarious experience of the holiday. ‘‘It’s much easier to sell when the client can see everything, they get excited when it starts taking shape.’’
Scaife, M. and Rogers, Y. (1996) External cognition: how do graphical representations work? International Journal of Human–Computer Studies 45, 185–213.
Espace video 57.4MB MP4 file