Involving stakeholders in agricultural decision support systems: Improving user-centred design12 Jul 2018
© 2017 International Farm Management Association and Institute of Agricultural Management. Decision Support Systems (DSS) can improve farm management decisions and offer the opportunity to improve productivity and limit environmental degradation, both key tenets of the sustainable intensification of agriculture. While DSS are becoming increasingly useful for agriculture, the uptake of computer-based support systems by farmers has remained disappointingly low as evidenced by studies spanning at least two decades. This paper explores the reasons behind this continued lack of interest. Is it, as previous researchers have proposed, the lack of user involvement in the design and development of these systems? If so why should this be the case given decades of evidence underlining the value in user centred design (UCD)? The paper reviews literature on the desirable characteristics of DSS, and then uses 78 interviews and five focus groups to explore a case study of system use. The paper suggests that without changes to how systems are developed, particularly in how users are consulted, use of this technology will continue to be low. Practical suggestions are proposed to encourage more effective user-centred design. Chief amongst these, the need for designers to undertake a 'decision support context assessment' before building and launching a product is highlighted. Better knowledge of user-centred design practices, a clear understanding of advice systems, and greater collaboration with human-computer interaction researchers are also required.