Software companies actually using UCD

30 Jun 2006 - 9:10am
8 years ago
13 replies
807 reads
bhekking
2006

I'm preparing to present an overview of UCD, Usability, and such to my
company's management.
I'd like to show them a list of familiar software (application) companies who
known to be using (and benefitting from) a UCD process (that is, they are doing
user research, iterative prototyping, and evaluation with users) as part of
their product design process.

Here are some I have heard of:
Google
Microsoft
IBM
Apple
Mathworks
SAP
Oracle
Cognos
Autodesk

What are some others? Are there recognizable examples among small software
companies?

Thanks,
Bret Hekking
Applix, Inc

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Comments

30 Jun 2006 - 9:36am
peter sikking
2006

Bret wrote:

> I'd like to show them a list of familiar software (application)
> companies who
> known to be using (and benefitting from) a UCD process (that is,
> they are doing
> user research, iterative prototyping, and evaluation with users) as
> part of
> their product design process.
>
> Here are some I have heard of:
> Google
> Microsoft
...

Nokia. Simply said, they sell twice as much phones as anybody
else, because a UI process is at the core (and at the start) of
any development process. My company is part of that.

I would not try to prove your point with microsoft.
Looking at the results over the years I would say that it
is a typical example of a company where there is a token
UI process, but its results are simply 'absorbed by the system.'
Looks to me like the lead developers still implement
'whatever they personally like.'

--ps

principal user interaction architect
man + machine interface works

http://mmiworks.net/blog : on interaction architecture

30 Jun 2006 - 10:47am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> Google

Google rules. Whatever it is they're doing, it's workin' for me.

Microsoft

UCD is not working well for them.

Apple

Didn't they get rid of their HCD team? I thought they were taking the ACD
approach discussed by Norman.

-r-

30 Jun 2006 - 11:07am
Adler
2006

the design of Skype for mobile phones/PDAs is developed by a
Interaction Design company (and they do user research, iterative
prototyping, and evaluation with users...)

at least for me, it's a IM very easy to use, useful and playful.

Philips has a design center... seems they do UCD as well, however I
don't know much about it. Check
http://www.design.philips.com/About/Design/Index.html

Adler

> I'd like to show them a list of familiar software (application) companies who
> known to be using (and benefitting from) a UCD process (that is, they are doing
> user research, iterative prototyping, and evaluation with users) as part of
> their product design process.

--
Interaction Design
HCI Group, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden
adler at BEST.eu.org | http://www.nada.kth.se/~adler/
http://www.linkedin.com/in/adler

30 Jun 2006 - 12:07pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Neither Google or Apple strike me as great examples to pitch if
you're making the case for user centered design.

Google seems to me to be a very engineering-centric company. Projects
seem to bubble up from the technical possibilities, or from 20% time
pet projects. That doesn't mean that they're necessarily bad ideas,
just not spawned from a user centered methodology. Apple has a
reputation for eschewing user research, or at least limiting their
user pool to Steve Jobs.

I don't contest that these companies and others like them engage in
usability testing at some stage of the process, or iterative
prototyping based on those results. But the genesis of their ideas
don't strike me as user-centered. I think they weaken your
argument.

// jeff

30 Jun 2006 - 2:23pm
Mark Schraad
2006

I would only ad to what Jeff so accurately articulated that... user
centric or very usable objects/functions can come out of a non user
centric process. ie - the ipod click wheel and other innovations from
apple and google. Sometimes we as consumers are willing to change our
behavior when there is sufficient incentive (cool factor). That can
be confused with user centric.

Mark

On Jun 30, 2006, at 12:07 PM, Jeff Howard wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Neither Google or Apple strike me as great examples to pitch if
> you're making the case for user centered design.
>
> Google seems to me to be a very engineering-centric company. Projects
> seem to bubble up from the technical possibilities, or from 20% time
> pet projects. That doesn't mean that they're necessarily bad ideas,
> just not spawned from a user centered methodology. Apple has a
> reputation for eschewing user research, or at least limiting their
> user pool to Steve Jobs.
>
> I don't contest that these companies and others like them engage in
> usability testing at some stage of the process, or iterative
> prototyping based on those results. But the genesis of their ideas
> don't strike me as user-centered. I think they weaken your
> argument.
>
> // jeff
> ________________________________________________________________
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Mark Schraad
mschraad at mac.com

"Surround yourself with people that you admire and desire to be more
like."

30 Jun 2006 - 8:33pm
dszuc
2005

What if the "cool factor" gave us the same result as UCD?

What are some of the *other factors/elements* that impact product success?
(in addition to UCD)

I have often asked myself (& colleagues), how products (like the iPod) or
other products have been produced and how the level of UCD involvement &/or
development cultures within their organizations have impacted their
success/failure.

For example, Google (and I am guessing here) may not have included formal
UCD, but did work towards their number 1 philosophy: "Focus on the user and
all else will follow." - http://www.google.com/corporate/tenthings.html (did
this help? Looks like it did)

Daniel Szuc
Principal Usability Consultant
Apogee Usability Asia Ltd
www.apogeehk.com
'Usability in Asia'

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Mark
Schraad
Sent: Saturday, July 01, 2006 3:24 AM
To: Jeff Howard
Cc: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Software companies actually using UCD

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

I would only ad to what Jeff so accurately articulated that... user
centric or very usable objects/functions can come out of a non user
centric process. ie - the ipod click wheel and other innovations from
apple and google. Sometimes we as consumers are willing to change our
behavior when there is sufficient incentive (cool factor). That can
be confused with user centric.

Mark

On Jun 30, 2006, at 12:07 PM, Jeff Howard wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Neither Google or Apple strike me as great examples to pitch if you're
> making the case for user centered design.
>
> Google seems to me to be a very engineering-centric company. Projects
> seem to bubble up from the technical possibilities, or from 20% time
> pet projects. That doesn't mean that they're necessarily bad ideas,
> just not spawned from a user centered methodology. Apple has a
> reputation for eschewing user research, or at least limiting their
> user pool to Steve Jobs.
>
> I don't contest that these companies and others like them engage in
> usability testing at some stage of the process, or iterative
> prototyping based on those results. But the genesis of their ideas
> don't strike me as user-centered. I think they weaken your argument.
>
> // jeff
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

Mark Schraad
mschraad at mac.com

"Surround yourself with people that you admire and desire to be more
like."

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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1 Jul 2006 - 8:17am
Juan Lanus
2005

Cool factor? Cool to whom?

For anything to be adopted it must be cool for those who will use it
(as opposed to the designers, or the developers, or the computer
itself, for example).

This is the underlying idea of the UCD, its cornerstone.
Designing for the user is not acting a predefined ceremonial steps
like having meetings and wearing persona's caps. Sometimes it can be
done in isolation maybe while watching the sun setting behind the sea.
This is how innovation comes to life. No use testing, no focus groups.
You can't walk the streets asking people what they think about a flock
browser, or anything else, like al iPod before it was released.

Anyway, do it alone or in massive rituals, UCD is simply the oppposite
to self-referential design and those who don't do it usually hav in
trouble.
My point it that everybody designs for the user. Maybe the wrong one
but the user.

If you are in a company, and doing something not-so-small then you use
a methodology.
Here is where other differences show. With the same tools, different
people do different things according to their involvement, the
environment, and ultimately the "ambiental talent".
That's why mileages vary. This might be the answer to Daniel's
question about 'the *other factors/elements* that impact product
success.'

Also, I've noticed that size matters. There are methods and tools
published by big companies that only apply for the biggest projects.
I'm seeking a method for smaller ones. In all cases, what's always
true is that the more design you set before starting development, the
better and the sooner satisfaction is achieved.
--
Juan Lanus
TECNOSOL
Argentina

1 Jul 2006 - 2:19pm
Juan Lanus
2005

On 7/1/06, Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:
> ustomers do not
> know what is cool until they (Oakley) design it & present it.
Mark, this is absolutely right!
I think it was Jakob Nielsen (among others) who said about doing what
the user want, but not the way they say.
IMO the design process is this translation, interpretation, from what
the users say to what the users want.
Other people wrote about this design step. For example Larry
Constantine in his famous "What do users want" article
http://www.foruse.com/articles/whatusers.htm

A mother, when her baby cries, she interprets the baby's needs and
solves them. By instinct, experiece, try and error, or chance.
This is similar: you don't expect the user to express the solution but
the needs. Like in the "homermobile" episode of The Simpsons.
Then you "design" a solution, cool if possible. There is some mistery
in this step, from the problem to the solution, from the baby cay to
the warm bottle. For a single interaction "problem" there are so many
solutions, one for each designer ...
--
Juan Lanus
TECNOSOL
Argentina

On 7/1/06, Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:
>
> On Jul 1, 2006, at 8:17 AM, Juan Lanus wrote:
>
> > [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> > material.]
> >
> > Cool factor? Cool to whom?
>
> I am not a proponent of this mentality, but if you asked the folks at
> Oakley a few years ago they would tell you that they do not believe
> in market research or pre design research because customers do not
> know what is cool until they (Oakley) design it a present it. This
> likely more of a PR spin than a methodology, but it is exemplary of
> ego-centric and myopic design.
>
> > For anything to be adopted it must be cool for those who will use it
> > (as opposed to the designers, or the developers, or the computer
> > itself, for example).
>
> As well as paying Michael Jordan, Tiger, and George Foreman etc.
> millions to use the product.
>
> > This is the underlying idea of the UCD, its cornerstone.
> > Designing for the user is not acting a predefined ceremonial steps
> > like having meetings and wearing persona's caps. Sometimes it can be
> > done in isolation maybe while watching the sun setting behind the sea.
> > This is how innovation comes to life. No use testing, no focus groups.
> > You can't walk the streets asking people what they think about a flock
> > browser, or anything else, like al iPod before it was released.
> >
> > Anyway, do it alone or in massive rituals, UCD is simply the oppposite
> > to self-referential design and those who don't do it usually hav in
> > trouble.
> > My point it that everybody designs for the user. Maybe the wrong one
> > but the user.
> >
> > If you are in a company, and doing something not-so-small then you use
> > a methodology.
> > Here is where other differences show. With the same tools, different
> > people do different things according to their involvement, the
> > environment, and ultimately the "ambiental talent".
> > That's why mileages vary. This might be the answer to Daniel's
> > question about 'the *other factors/elements* that impact product
> > success.'
> >
> > Also, I've noticed that size matters. There are methods and tools
> > published by big companies that only apply for the biggest projects.
> > I'm seeking a method for smaller ones. In all cases, what's always
> > true is that the more design you set before starting development, the
> > better and the sooner satisfaction is achieved.
> > --
> > Juan Lanus
> > TECNOSOL
> > Argentina
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> > List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> > (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> > Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> > Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> > Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> > Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>
> Mark Schraad
> mschraad at mac.com
>
>
> "Surround yourself with people that you admire and desire to be more
> like."
>
>
>

1 Jul 2006 - 11:26pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

On 7/1/06, Juan Lanus <juan.lanus at gmail.com> wrote:
> ...
> Designing for the user is not acting a predefined ceremonial steps
> like having meetings and wearing persona's caps. Sometimes it can be
> done in isolation maybe while watching the sun setting behind the sea.
> This is how innovation comes to life...

Please explain this to me more --
Why will anybody need to "innovate"? Isn't "innovate" opposite of "design"?
Are you suggesting that UCD has failed to achieve what you can get
while watching the sun setting behind the sea?
Sorry,
Pradyot

2 Jul 2006 - 12:19am
Andrew Otwell
2004

>
> Microsoft
> UCD is not working well for them.

That's the conventional wisdom, isn't it? I enjoy MS-bashing as much
as the next UX-wonk, but I think this should concern us as a
profession. MS hires very smart people, and invests hugely in user
experience and particularly in usability testing. There are many,
many people at MS who care *a lot* about UCD and about thoughtfully
building products using it. Gates regularly mentions "customer
experience" in interviews; they get it already. I can't believe that
they're doing everything wrong, or misunderstanding UCD, or haven't
read their Don Norman closely enough. So what's going on here?

2 Jul 2006 - 10:25am
Juan Lanus
2005

On 7/2/06, prady <pradyotrai at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 7/1/06, Juan Lanus <juan.lanus at gmail.com> wrote:
> > ...
> > Designing for the user is not acting a predefined ceremonial steps
> > like having meetings and wearing persona's caps. Sometimes it can be
> > done in isolation maybe while watching the sun setting behind the sea.
> > This is how innovation comes to life...
>
> Please explain this to me more --
It should read " ... is not ONLY having meetings ...."
What I failed to mean is that designing for the user can be both ways.
That not doing it the formal way doesn't mean that it's not user
centered.

In fact, my whole point is that however you do it, you always are
aiming at the user.
Even in the most severe self-referential design, the designer designs
for the single user, himself. This is a deviation, sort of a
psychopathic design. :-)
--
Juan

2 Jul 2006 - 1:08pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Andrew Otwell wrote:
> I can't believe that they're doing everything wrong, or
misunderstanding
>UCD, or haven't read their Don Norman closely enough. So what's
going >on here?

I think that it's too easy to view Microsoft as a monolithic entity.
This obscures the fact that there are many, many different teams
inside, each with their own facet of the culture. I firmly believe
that there are good designers at Microsoft doing good work. I don't
know that it's happening everywhere, but they do embrace UCD
principles. There are anecdotes that support that argument, but for
most people there's no incentive to look closely enough to find
them.

Anyway, Microsoft's history and its scale make changes to its public
perception move at a glacial pace. When Gates observes that to make
software user friendly you just stamp the words "user friendly" on
the side of the box, I think people suspect there's more truth than
he lets on. Their past products haven't been exemplars of design and
that inertia is hard to shift.

Neal Stephenson wrote this about Microsoft in 1999:
"If Microsoft sells goods that are aesthetically unappealing, or
that don't work very well, it does not mean that they are
(respectively) philistines or half-wits. It is because Microsoft's
excellent management has figured out that they can make more money
for their stockholders by releasing stuff with obvious, known
imperfections than they can by making it beautiful or bug free."

>From that cynical point-of-view, it follows that if they're
embracing UCD now, it's only part of some new calculus to sell more
software rather than from an honest desire to make it easier for
people to do their work and live their lives. I don't believe
that's quite the truth (for the reasons I mentioned above), but it
makes it easier for people to bash them.

I think that Microsoft can turn that perception around. It's just
going to take some time.

5 Jul 2006 - 11:00am
Michael Micheletti
2006

I previously worked with two excellent designers who have since hired on
at Microsoft to do game design work. These were skillful and generous
people with strong educational backgrounds - I was sorry to see them go.
I was once a usability test participant at MS' Issaquah facility and the
place was jaw-drop well-equipped. The local newspaper lists Product
Designer positions at MS nearly every week.

Yes they're responsible for legacy abominations like MS Word, but
perhaps the X-Box 360 and some of the new games show that the battleship
is turning.

Michael Micheletti
Seattle, WA

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Jeff Howard
Sent: Sunday, July 02, 2006 11:09 AM
To: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Software companies actually using UCD

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

Andrew Otwell wrote:
> I can't believe that they're doing everything wrong, or
misunderstanding
>UCD, or haven't read their Don Norman closely enough. So what's going
on here?

Jeff Howard wrote:
>>I firmly believe that there are good designers at Microsoft doing good
work.

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