Re: Interaction design vs. Usability -> differences in competency

21 Jul 2004 - 3:34am
931 reads
H Taylor

Well, Zayera, as you may be able to deduce from the stir your post
created (not least, in our beloved moderator), a certain amount of
ambiguity in roles and titles remains. Dave feels strongly, I believe,
that this situation is inherently unresolvable at this point, and that
a prolonged discussion along the lines of "well, I call myself an
'interactive usability interface imagineer' and my role includes..."
bring little other than a chaotic flurry of varying job descriptions,
which leads nowhere (Dave, I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth).

That said, I would say that in theory, "Usability" has traditionally
been based in a Human Factors/HCI, research-based approach of testing
and analyzing designs and users and is itself not primarily a design
discipline. Jakob Nielsen is perhaps the poster child for this camp (as
Dan pointed out, I believe). In practice, however, there are certainly
folks who come from that perspective but leverage and expand it to
produce designs, as well (some of these folks have spoken up on this
thread). As I said, the lines are not at all clear, and there is
generally a lot of overlap.

To tie this more particularly to your context, Switzerland is very
focused on narrow but deep expertise and not so much on generalists who
used mixed skill sets in hybrid roles. If you find that you are working
with "Usability Experts" who view themselves purely as testers and
analysts, they may be uninterested in (or consider themselves
unqualified for) doing design and may be equally uninterested in
hearing from designers who want to operate within the area of
specialization which is their domain.

I am guessing from your explicit references to Sweden and Switzerland,
and your swiss email address, that you have moved from Sweden to
Switzerland. As to whether it is better in other countries, well,
Switzerland is a small, conservative country with a strong focus on
banking, insurance and precision manufacturing, with virtually no
commercial software production and very limited ecommerce. That has
certain ramifications both for the culture and for the realities of the
job market. I suspect that larger markets have a larger and broader
culture in terms of various disciplines relevant to UX. Furthermore,
the Swiss tend to change very slowly and the whole area of interaction
design is relatively new, so perhaps the culture has not yet absorbed
it. I could name quite a few relevant academic programs in the EU and
the US. Switzerland has very little in terms of relevant formal
education, though the Zurich College of Art and Design has just
recently started an Interaction Design program.

Hope this helps,

Hal Taylor

On Jul 20, 2004, at 11:23, zayera at wrote:

> Hi folks,
> I would like to discuss the issues, of Interaction design vs.
> Usability. From my perspective, since I am trying to fit into both
> "Shoes" I find it very difficult to work in a Team, where only
> Usability Experts are around, and noone representing Interaction
> design or a broader UX-perspective.
> I have been thinking about why it is so?
> Could it be that the "design-thinking" is completely uncomprehendable
> for some Usability Experts? Meaning that they don't understand that
> there are FUNDAMENTAL differences both approaches. Or is it because 2
> competencies are trying to attack a problem/solve an issue with
> different mindsets and think that the other person is not "qualified"
> enough to appreciate their work?
> So therefore I would like to ask, if any of you have similiar
> experiences?
> And how do you go about it?
> Another issues seems also to be a Geographical & Cultural one...where
> both competencies are perceived and enacted differently depending on
> which Country & Culture we are talking about. In my case it is Swedish
> vs. Swiss :-( Even though both European, these cultures and work
> mentally differ very much.
> So therefore I am womdering if it is better in other countries?
> Regards,
> Zayera

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