A theory of tailorable technology design

Matt Germonprez, Dirk Hovorka, Fred Collopy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Tailorable technologies are a class of information systems designed with the intention that users modify and redesign the technology in the context of use. Tailorable technologies support user goals, intentions, metaphor, and use patterns in the selection and integration of technology functions in the creation of new and unique information systems. We propose a theory of tailorable technology design and identify principles necessary for the initial design. Following a Kantian style of inquiry, we identified four definitional characteristics of tailorable technology: a dual design perspective, user engagement, recognizable environments, and component architectures. From these characteristics, we propose nine design principles that will support the phenomenon of tailoring. Through a year-long case study, we refined and evidenced the principles, finding found that designers of tailorable technologies build environments in which users can both interact and engage with the technology, supporting the proposed design principles. The findings highlight a distinction between a reflective environment, where users recognize and imagine uses for the technology, and an active environment in which users tailor the technology in accordance with the imagined uses. This research contributes to the clarification of the role of theory in design science, expands the concept of "possibilities for action" to IS design, and proposes a design theory of a class of information systems for testing and refinement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-367
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Design theory
  • Information systems
  • Information technology
  • Kantian inquiry
  • Technology tailoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'A theory of tailorable technology design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this