Do Engineers Understand UX documents?

3 Nov 2007 - 10:58am
7 years ago
5 replies
374 reads
Christopher Fahey
2005

On Nov 2, 2007, at 10:41 AM, Joseph Selbie wrote:
>
> I would love to see standardization also, but I don't expect it soon.
> Architecture has had 5 millennia to evolve some standards, software
> has had
> 5 decades :).

Agreed that we won't see it soon, but I don't agree that I would ever
love to see it.

As I've argued many times before (http://tinyurl.com/35gqm8),
standardization of design documentation in our business is in many
ways a sure-fire recipe for stagnation, especially if the products or
sites you are designing are intended to do wholly new things, or if
you intend to build a UI convention that improves on the product or
the industry's status quo.

Sure, standardization is good for "we don't need to re-invent the
wheel" products. But do such products really exist? How many products
do you work on where there is no new UI thinking required? If your
design challenge requires any innovation at all -- and in our
industry a great many design challenges do -- then we must constantly
innovate our design documentation, too.

(As an aside: The field of architecture isn't as wholly standardized
as we might think. Architects often devise new ways of showing and
explaining their ideas. From collage to painting and drawing, 3D
rendering software and animated flythroughs, physical models,
conceptual sculptures, full-scale room mock-ups, films and audio
renderings of the experience, and much more. The concept work and
schematic drawings by great architects are often prized as works of
art because they show new ways of perceiving structure and experience.)

If we in the UXD field had, say, strictly standardized our
wireframing process in 2000, we'd never have page-less Ajax
interfaces today. I even suspect that many sites that can and should
be using Ajax today still can't manage to upgrade their UI simply
because the information architects working on the site are hampered
by their primitive -- but standardized! -- IA toolsets. They cannot,
for example, document a registration form that displays the validity
of your new username as you type because the standardized wireframe
template requires all server interactions to be documented as a new
page/view -- their wireframe templates are page-based, so as a result
their sites are, too. When I hear someone ask "how do I document an
Ajax interaction", my answer is "just make it up".

What's more, I do not agree with the idea (posited by some here) that
engineers cannot understand documentation unless it is somehow
standardized. They're not robots -- we don't need to make our
documents machine-readable. The documents simply have to be good,
detailed, and responsive to the customer's (the engineer's) needs. If
every design document you make looks completely different from the
last, uses a whole new design vocabulary, this need never be a
problem as long as you work closely with the engineers to explain
your objectives and respond to their needs and questions. If
anything, a non-standard document is one that can be a great way to
bring everyone to the table, designers and engineers, to discuss a
design solution.

Reinventing the wheel is a waste of time? If you look at any industry
that actually makes wheels, they are essentially reinventing them all
the time. From carbon-fiber bicycle disk wheels to the Segway's
computer-controlled single-axle balancing act, assumptions about the
wheel are always being challenged.

Just say no to design document standardization. Reinvent the wheel.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

Comments

3 Nov 2007 - 11:22am
Joseph Selbie
2007

Christopher,

In a subsequent post to this thread I wrote this regarding documentation
standards:

"I just don't think it is simply a matter of agreeing on *existing*
standards. What we are designing is rapidly evolving, which is requiring an
equally rapid evolution of the tools we use to design. I can imagine a day
in the not too distant future where we have one type of design tool that
outputs any kind of documentation -- one to many, not many to one. If you
want to see the design as a working prototype it could give it to you -- in
any of a variety of standards. If you want to see the design as a series of
schematic drawings it could give it to you -- in any of a variety of
standards. We see glimpses of this kind of tool in some of the
interoperations between programs such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver or
Fireworks and Flash -- but these are just the beginning. Someday we'll have
our version of AutoCAD Inventor."

I completely agree with you that were we to freeze standards today that they
would be obsolete tomorrow!

However, I'm not sure that I agree that standardization would inherently be
a bad thing and cause stagnation. But, like most things in and around
business, it will work itself out in the market place. Useful standards will
evolve and be used because they are helpful to the process of making money.
Temporarily helpful documentation ideas will drop away to be replaced by new
ones.

I don't imagine that standards would ever completely finish evolving either.
I would guess (not being an architect) that in architectural documentation
new ways to document new building materials and new building techniques are
constantly being added -- but the framework within which they are added is
pretty stable.

As I say, I don't expect to see much standardization in IX design
documentation anytime soon, and I rather like the pace of rapid evolution
that is taking place on all fronts -- it's part of why I like this
profession. So when (and if) it does standardize, I'd probably lose interest
anyway!

Joseph Selbie
Founder, CEO Tristream
Web Application Design
http://www.tristream.com

5 Nov 2007 - 12:56pm
Dante Murphy
2006

-----Original Message-----

Reinventing the wheel is a waste of time? If you look at any industry
that actually makes wheels, they are essentially reinventing them all
the time. From carbon-fiber bicycle disk wheels to the Segway's
computer-controlled single-axle balancing act, assumptions about the
wheel are always being challenged.

Just say no to design document standardization. Reinvent the wheel.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey

*******************************************************

There it is, my nomination for best post of the year.

I'll put my spin on it...you don't want or need to re-invent the wheel
every time you design, but it's your responsibility to re-investigate
it.

Dante Murphy | Director of Information Architecture | D I G I T A S H E
A L T H
229 South 18th Street, 2nd Floor | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA
19103
Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com | www.digitashealth.com

5 Nov 2007 - 2:20pm
Christian Crumlish
2006

Oops, meant to reply to the list. All of Chris's wonderful examples of
course are still round wheels. The invention of the wheel did not
involve speccing out a tread or a spoke design. It was the discovery
that round objects work best for conveying loads horizontally. If you
looked at stone wheels and wooden wheels, and automobile tires from
the 30s and bicycle wheels and segway wheels, I still see a "pattern"
there. They are round. This does not negate the innovation involved in
each development around the axle, the tensile strength, the tread, the
torque-handling, etc.

And, yes, tanks have a treads that wrap around numerous round axles,
etc. You actualy can reinvent the wheel and go beyond "round." Maybe
there's a spherical all-direction wheel on someone's drawing board
right now.

So, while I love Chris's point, I don't necessarily want to concede
the (possibly stale) "truism" about reinventing the wheel.

-x-

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Christian Crumlish <xian at pobox.com>
Date: Nov 5, 2007 11:47 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Do Engineers Understand UX documents?
To: Dante Murphy <dmurphy at digitashealth.com>

True... But round is usually a good place to start.

--
sent from my jPhone

On Nov 5, 2007, at 10:56 AM, "Dante Murphy"
<dmurphy at digitashealth.com> wrote:

>
> -----Original Message-----
>
>
> Reinventing the wheel is a waste of time? If you look at any industry
> that actually makes wheels, they are essentially reinventing them all
> the time. From carbon-fiber bicycle disk wheels to the Segway's
> computer-controlled single-axle balancing act, assumptions about the
> wheel are always being challenged.
>
> Just say no to design document standardization. Reinvent the wheel.
>
> -Cf
>
> Christopher Fahey
>
> *******************************************************
>
> There it is, my nomination for best post of the year.
>
> I'll put my spin on it...you don't want or need to re-invent the wheel
> every time you design, but it's your responsibility to re-investigate
> it.
>
>
> Dante Murphy | Director of Information Architecture | D I G I T A S
> H E
> A L T H
> 229 South 18th Street, 2nd Floor | Rittenhouse Square |
> Philadelphia, PA
> 19103
> Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com | www.digitashealth.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://gamma.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://gamma.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://gamma.ixda.org/help

--
Christian Crumlish http://xianlandia.com
Yahoo! pattern detective http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns
IA Institute director of technology http://iainstitute.org

5 Nov 2007 - 2:30pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Re-inventing may be a bit overstating... maybe those are iterative improvements.

On Monday, November 05, 2007, at 03:20PM, "Christian Crumlish" <xian at pobox.com> wrote:
>Oops, meant to reply to the list. All of Chris's wonderful examples of
>course are still round wheels. The invention of the wheel did not
>involve speccing out a tread or a spoke design. It was the discovery
>that round objects work best for conveying loads horizontally. If you
>looked at stone wheels and wooden wheels, and automobile tires from
>the 30s and bicycle wheels and segway wheels, I still see a "pattern"
>there. They are round. This does not negate the innovation involved in
>each development around the axle, the tensile strength, the tread, the
>torque-handling, etc.
>
>And, yes, tanks have a treads that wrap around numerous round axles,
>etc. You actualy can reinvent the wheel and go beyond "round." Maybe
>there's a spherical all-direction wheel on someone's drawing board
>right now.
>
>So, while I love Chris's point, I don't necessarily want to concede
>the (possibly stale) "truism" about reinventing the wheel.
>
>-x-

5 Nov 2007 - 2:37pm
bminihan
2007

Don't forget the hamster ball, consisting of a spherical "wheel" inside
which the hamster tumbles about to move around.

Your tank example illustrates tremendously well why re-inventing the wheel
is so inefficient - even useful cases very rarely result in a better wheel.
Witness the roads in or near any military base to discover why.

Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Christian Crumlish
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2007 3:20 PM
To: IxDA
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Fwd: Do Engineers Understand UX documents?

Oops, meant to reply to the list. All of Chris's wonderful examples of
course are still round wheels. The invention of the wheel did not
involve speccing out a tread or a spoke design. It was the discovery
that round objects work best for conveying loads horizontally. If you
looked at stone wheels and wooden wheels, and automobile tires from
the 30s and bicycle wheels and segway wheels, I still see a "pattern"
there. They are round. This does not negate the innovation involved in
each development around the axle, the tensile strength, the tread, the
torque-handling, etc.

And, yes, tanks have a treads that wrap around numerous round axles,
etc. You actualy can reinvent the wheel and go beyond "round." Maybe
there's a spherical all-direction wheel on someone's drawing board
right now.

So, while I love Chris's point, I don't necessarily want to concede
the (possibly stale) "truism" about reinventing the wheel.

-x-

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Christian Crumlish <xian at pobox.com>
Date: Nov 5, 2007 11:47 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Do Engineers Understand UX documents?
To: Dante Murphy <dmurphy at digitashealth.com>

True... But round is usually a good place to start.

--
sent from my jPhone

On Nov 5, 2007, at 10:56 AM, "Dante Murphy"
<dmurphy at digitashealth.com> wrote:

>
> -----Original Message-----
>
>
> Reinventing the wheel is a waste of time? If you look at any industry
> that actually makes wheels, they are essentially reinventing them all
> the time. From carbon-fiber bicycle disk wheels to the Segway's
> computer-controlled single-axle balancing act, assumptions about the
> wheel are always being challenged.
>
> Just say no to design document standardization. Reinvent the wheel.
>
> -Cf
>
> Christopher Fahey
>
> *******************************************************
>
> There it is, my nomination for best post of the year.
>
> I'll put my spin on it...you don't want or need to re-invent the wheel
> every time you design, but it's your responsibility to re-investigate
> it.
>
>
> Dante Murphy | Director of Information Architecture | D I G I T A S
> H E
> A L T H
> 229 South 18th Street, 2nd Floor | Rittenhouse Square |
> Philadelphia, PA
> 19103
> Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com | www.digitashealth.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://gamma.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://gamma.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://gamma.ixda.org/help

--
Christian Crumlish http://xianlandia.com
Yahoo! pattern detective http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns
IA Institute director of technology http://iainstitute.org
________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://gamma.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://gamma.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://gamma.ixda.org/help

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