Interaction design vs. Usability -> differencesincompetency

20 Jul 2004 - 10:38am
590 reads

I beg to differ. Usability engineers are not de facto interaction
designers and vice versa.

User research such as usability testing (or user engineers, or whatever
other name we can think of...) is, without a doubt, imperative, but it
certainly is not (interaction) design. It identifies problems, but does
not, except maybe at the most detailed level, suggest adequate
solutions. Interaction designers have to visualize and refine broad and
detailed solutions, while user researchers supposedly extract facts from
identified situations.

Yet, user researchers, as they evaluate results from actual usage, are
in a good position to articulate what a given problem is and,
consequently, formulate potential solutions. Having researchers
recommend solutions can be helpful if the suggestions are expressed
without an inflexible and biased undertone (ditto: *cough* Jakob
*cough*) and leave sufficient room for designers to effectively address
the issue with their expertise.

Research can inform design, whether designers do the research themselves
or rely upon a researcher (the latter is preferable in my opinion.) To
provide a solution that addresses the problem, investigation or research
is necessary. But bad design will always remain bad design and extensive
usability testing will not address that issue.

So, can a person be both a usability engineer and an interaction
designer? Sure, why not, but I have my doubts. Besides, the question
remains if that would be a healthy situation. Think of it as the
seperation of power within governments, i.e. legasliture, executive and
judiciary. The analogy may not be perfect, but you get the gist of my


Didier Hilhorst

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