The Science Behind our Methods

Software: Requirements and Design


Imagine you're shopping for your next vehicle. Think about style, picture it in your mind. Visualize the color, its size, features, performance, and comfort. See the colors, hear the sounds, smell the scents, and feel the textures as you ponder. Now, let your mind wander to the heartbeat of the vehicle, its computerized components. What do they look like? Can you describe them?

Software is Hard

Shift your mindset to an area in your business that needs a website, a customized software application, or off-the-shelf software solution. Can you picture it? What does it look like? Can you describe it? How will you measure its ability to meet your business needs? Imagining software is just plain hard!

Software-based solutions are difficult to talk about, visualize, and specify. In fact, there are no silver bullets (Brooks, 1995), no single technique or method that gets to the heart of human and organizational software needs. Software and industry professionals continue to acknowledge the complexities and challenges in closing the gap in understanding between the system user and technology builders.

While technology continues to explode at exponential rates, our ability to discover and design to requirements can't keep pace. Traditional software development hosts a variety of methods in a not-so-ordinary toolbox. Structured Analysis, Object-oriented Analysis and Design , and Human-centered methodologies provide a plethora of diverse techniques for understanding requirements, designing, and building computer-based solutions. Application of these approaches vary from hired hacker to seasoned software engineer, each employing a chosen approach in their own way.

Contemporary software developers now face new challenges, along with an increased demand for the consumer attention. Today's software now faces a demand for social and psychological aspects of computing in a world of ubiquitous and competing software applications, social networks, and information systems. Consider Gamification—the application of game elements in non-game contexts—touted as a means to enhance engagement and heighten the user experience. Gamification preys on intrinsic motivation and emotion to prompt participation, and attempts to make work more fun.

“We don’t pretend to know the solution that fits your problem, until we learn more about you, and your space.”

Designing for psychological aspects adds a layer of complexity to an already difficult system and software challenge. What elements will motivate the user community to participate? What interactions will create positive user emotion and goal oriented experiences? When and how, can elements be applied that prompt and sustain user engagement?

In our quest to create compelling solutions, we consider the Methodopoly™ (Gears, Lorek, DiRisio, Goldberger, 2016) framework introduced by Rochester Institute of Technology researcher, Deborah Gears. We believe in a method‐opoly, a multi-method and interdisciplinary design process that integrates traditional software methods with motivation psychology, game design, and visual arts. While traditional systems and software development processes may follow a waterfall, iterative, or agile process, a diverse methodological approach accounts for the art, the science, and the mindful process of creativity in its unique path to solution design.

Methodopoly Board

How does the process work??

The analysis and design process we follow is one of discovery and design. It is iterative, incremental, improvisational, and interdisciplinary. The more we learn—the more we share—making creative solutions possible.

“We listen to your stories.”

What does it mean to be Iterative, Incremental, and Improvisational??

The process we follow is iterative and incremental. That means, the explorers (analysts/designers) cycle around and around, learning more through the application of formal methods, collaborating, and testing of ideas with each iteration. We take time to study the data, go back to collect more data, and we recognize time is needed to let the mind work. In agile fashion, we consult our customer and user community to clarify understanding and test proposed designs.

In what ways is the process Interdisciplinary??

Interdisciplinary means that we integrate psychology theory, game design, and visual design along with traditional systems and software development methods. We believe that each discipline contributes insights necessary for informed design. We select our tools from a suite of structured methods, motivation psychology, game design patterns, and collaborative engagement patterns that are predicated on the problem situation.

Structured methods

Data, object-oriented, and user-centered design methods are combined synergistically to acquire sufficient domain knowledge. For example, the affinity diagram may be used to identify problems, themes, and behavioral norms from interview data. The entity-relationship diagram serves to capture essential data and understand business rules. Class diagrams help to understand object behaviors and interaction with other objects. Logic models and prototypes provide a basis for decision making. Personas, user scenarios, and gamified use cases combine all requirements that articulate actor status, user expectations, user and system behavior, intrinsic desires, perceived value, and beyond.

Psychology Theory: Theory of 16 Basic Desires

Considering the significance of intrinsic motivation and human behavior, we want to learn more about what energizes and directs behavior in your domain. The Theory of 16 Basic Desires (Reiss, 2004; Reis, 2000) provides a scale to understand what motivates individuals. The Reiss’ Profile of Fundamental Goals and Motivational Sensitivities assessment with help guide functional and aesthetic design.

Psychology Theory: Self-Determination Theory

The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000) focuses on social and contextual conditions that facilitate and interfere with self-motivation. Autonomy, competence, and relatedness—psychological needs central in the SDT, also motivate game play (Rigby & Ryan, 2011). We focus on creating user experiences where 1) participation was volitional, 2) participation is not related to pay and performance, and 3) governance is open and democratic.

Collaborative Engagement Patterns

We understand that organizational contexts inherently foster influences that affect user engagement. Through our understanding of Collaborative Engagement Patterns (Gears & Lorek, 2013) we identify factors in organizational contexts that encourage participation and evoke positive emotion outcomes.

Game Design

Our approach to gamification design (Gears & Braun, 2013; Gears, et al., 2016) is not confined to badges, leaderboards, leveling, and reward structures. In fact, we try not to think about them as we design. Instead, we study a collection of game design patterns (Bjork & Holopainen, 2004) that prompt us to think more broadly about game element possibilities. We try to understand your population and what will be fun, engaging, and taken seriously.

Aesthetic Design

Aesthetic, or artful, design is necessary to create visual appeal. Typography, color, organization, and presentation of complex information help to create compelling artifacts. We believe that aesthetic excellence increases interest and perceived value.

“We continue to explore better ways to create, play, and engage.”

Closing Thoughts

This flexible process allows for deeply informed understanding, from data to emotion. Interdisciplinary methods are applied synergistically to examine new depths of reality—that motivate.


Bjork, S., Holopainen, and Jussi, H., 2004. Patterns in Game Design, Hingham, Charles River Media, MA, USA.

Brooks, F. P. 1995. The Mythical Man-Month, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, New York, NY.

Deci, E. L., and Ryan, R. M., 2000. The "what" and "why" of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-determination of Behavior, Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), pp. 227-268.

Gears, D. Lorek, C., DiRisio, K., & Goldberger, A., 2016. Motivative Computing: An Interdisciplinary Analysis and Design Framework, 9th IADIS Internation Conference on Information Systems 2016, Algarve, Portugal, pp. 99-106. Retrieved from

Gears, D., & Braun, K. 2013. Gamification in Business: Designing Motivating Solutions to Problem Situations. CHI'13 Workshop, Designing Gamification: Creating Gameful and Playful Experinces 2013, Paris, France.

Reiss, 2004. Understanding Motivation and Emotion, 4th ED., John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

Reiss, 2000. Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate our Actions and Define our Personality, Penguin Publishing, New York.

Rigby, S., & Ryan, R. M., 2011. Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us in and Hold Us Spellbound. Praeger, Santa Barbara, California.

Ryan, R. M., and Deci, E. L., 2000. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), pp. 54-67.


Copyright © 2020 Boolean Shore, LLC