The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!

17 Dec 2007 - 2:12pm
6 years ago
70 replies
1343 reads
dawa riley
2007

The latest from Jacob Nielsen's Alertbox

"AJAX, rich Internet UIs, mashups, communities, and user-generated content
often add more complexity than they're worth. They also divert design
resources and prove (once again) that what's hyped is rarely what's most
profitable." http://www.useit.com/alertbox/web-2.html

All hail the mighty one.

Perhaps Mr. Nielsen would rather we return the user to a clunky,
non-contextual, individual page refresh era. RIA has made tremendous
improvements in user experience and is not as dangerous as he would
have us believe.

Comments

17 Dec 2007 - 10:15pm
Alvin Woon
2007

>
> Perhaps Mr. Nielsen would rather we return the user to a clunky,
> non-contextual, individual page refresh era.

he did not say that, nor do I think that's what he's implying.

Here's the summary of the article, in bullet points

- simple websites do not need RIA
- community/social feature does not necessary suit all kind of
websites
- specialty > mashup in terms of usability
- advertising alone is not a sufficient business model
- beware of hype, focus on serving your users. Add web 2.0 feature
because it helps, not because everyone is doing so.

all of those seem like valid points to me. Thanks for sharing the article
though.

- Alvin W

17 Dec 2007 - 10:25pm
dawa riley
2007

I didn't say that he said that - I was making a joke :-)

I did receive an alertbox though with the subject: Alertbox: Web 2.0
Can Be Dangerous

Summary:
AJAX, rich Internet UIs, mashups, communities, and user-generated content
often add more complexity than they're worth. They also divert design
resources and prove (once again) that what's hyped is rarely what's most
profitable.

All technologies can be 'dangerous' in terms of user experience if they
hinder rather than enhance the user experience...

On Dec 17, 2007 10:15 PM, Alvin Woon <alvinwoon at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Perhaps Mr. Nielsen would rather we return the user to a clunky,
> > non-contextual, individual page refresh era.
>
> he did not say that, nor do I think that's what he's implying.
>
> Here's the summary of the article, in bullet points
>
> simple websites do not need RIA
> community/social feature does not necessary suit all kind of websites
> specialty > mashup in terms of usability
> advertising alone is not a sufficient business model
> beware of hype, focus on serving your users. Add web 2.0 feature because it
> helps, not because everyone is doing so. all of those seem like valid points
> to me. Thanks for sharing the article though.
>
> - Alvin W
>
>

17 Dec 2007 - 11:02pm
White, Jeff
2007

I haven't read the entire article, just the summary, a quick scan and
years of reading Nielsen is enough :-) He does have a point though -
design/development teams deploying new technology just because it's,
well, new technology is always a dangerous thing. But that certainly
doesn't make it generally bad - as with everything - it's all about
the context, how a particular design is implemented, and how that
design provides value to users.

I did see his comment about the page model being simple, which is
good, because users know and understand it. Admittedly, maybe I'm
making an assumption because I didn't continue reading the article.
But Nielsen seems to not realize why people are familiar with it -
*because they're familiar!!*. They've been using the page model for
years and years, they know what to expect. There's no doubt in my mind
that RIAs can provide huge productivity gains when implemented in the
right way. And, it doesn't really take people that long to learn it.
After some years go by and RIAs get better and more widespread, the
same thing will happen. People will get used to them. Let things
progress and change, I say. If Nielsen is missing this, that's really
too bad.

Jeff

On Dec 17, 2007 2:12 PM, dawa riley <dawachan at gmail.com> wrote:
> The latest from Jacob Nielsen's Alertbox
>
> "AJAX, rich Internet UIs, mashups, communities, and user-generated content
> often add more complexity than they're worth. They also divert design
> resources and prove (once again) that what's hyped is rarely what's most
> profitable." http://www.useit.com/alertbox/web-2.html
>
> All hail the mighty one.
>
> Perhaps Mr. Nielsen would rather we return the user to a clunky,
> non-contextual, individual page refresh era. RIA has made tremendous
> improvements in user experience and is not as dangerous as he would
> have us believe.
> ________________________________________________________________
> *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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

17 Dec 2007 - 11:17pm
regnard
2006

Replace Web 2.0 with Flash and were back to 1999. :)

He used the Iron Chef - Facebook analogy and Mr. Nielsen said that:

"The Iron Chef competition makes for great TV, but has nothing to do with
running a restaurant as a successful business."

"Facebook has much drama that makes for good press coverage, but most of its
features are worthless for a B2B site..."

Facebook-like features would be OK with entertainment/leisure sites but
would be a stretch for a business site. I guess it's a rehash of the old
"Flash is not for all websites." and just a reminder for all designer to not
get carried away with AJAX et al.

On 12/17/07, Jeff White <jwhite31 at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> I haven't read the entire article, just the summary, a quick scan and
> years of reading Nielsen is enough :-) He does have a point though -
> design/development teams deploying new technology just because it's,
> well, new technology is always a dangerous thing. But that certainly
> doesn't make it generally bad - as with everything - it's all about
> the context, how a particular design is implemented, and how that
> design provides value to users.
>
> I did see his comment about the page model being simple, which is
> good, because users know and understand it. Admittedly, maybe I'm
> making an assumption because I didn't continue reading the article.
> But Nielsen seems to not realize why people are familiar with it -
> *because they're familiar!!*. They've been using the page model for
> years and years, they know what to expect. There's no doubt in my mind
> that RIAs can provide huge productivity gains when implemented in the
> right way. And, it doesn't really take people that long to learn it.
> After some years go by and RIAs get better and more widespread, the
> same thing will happen. People will get used to them. Let things
> progress and change, I say. If Nielsen is missing this, that's really
> too bad.
>
> Jeff
>
> On Dec 17, 2007 2:12 PM, dawa riley <dawachan at gmail.com> wrote:
> > The latest from Jacob Nielsen's Alertbox
> >
> > "AJAX, rich Internet UIs, mashups, communities, and user-generated
> content
> > often add more complexity than they're worth. They also divert design
> > resources and prove (once again) that what's hyped is rarely what's most
> > profitable." http://www.useit.com/alertbox/web-2.html
> >
> > All hail the mighty one.
> >
> > Perhaps Mr. Nielsen would rather we return the user to a clunky,
> > non-contextual, individual page refresh era. RIA has made tremendous
> > improvements in user experience and is not as dangerous as he would
> > have us believe.
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > *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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> *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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

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17 Dec 2007 - 11:06pm
Ben Hunt
2004

What Jakob is best at is causing a stir! He's been doing it for years,
resolutely throwing up over-contentious headlines (remember "Flash 99% bad!"
?) and refusing to make his own web site any more appealing (they even joke
about that in NNg seminars). He does this in order to make ripples, with
people like us having to take a position one way or another. All that keeps
him in people's minds and on their lips.

I'm sure we all know the truth is somewhere in between "yes, sometimes" /
"no, usually" and "it depends", and so does Jake!

- Ben

18 Dec 2007 - 1:59am
Jeff Seager
2007

There's little doubt that self-promotion is high on Nielsen's list of talents, Ben, but I also think he has a pretty good grasp on the essence of usability. If you read far enough in the Alertbox missive he sent out today, you'll see he's giving away a 150-page study that includes 75 well-summarized accessibility guidelines. Grab it while you can, folks! It's a good reference with actual user testing to back it up, especially handy if you ever need to teach newbies about accessibility ... which I'll be doing next month.

You can find it here:
http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility

Jeff Seager

> From: ben at scratchmedia.co.uk
> To: dawachan at gmail.com; alvinwoon at gmail.com
> Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 04:06:09 +0000
> CC: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!
>
> What Jakob is best at is causing a stir! He's been doing it for years,
> resolutely throwing up over-contentious headlines (remember "Flash 99% bad!"
> ?) and refusing to make his own web site any more appealing (they even joke
> about that in NNg seminars). He does this in order to make ripples, with
> people like us having to take a position one way or another. All that keeps
> him in people's minds and on their lips.
>
> I'm sure we all know the truth is somewhere in between "yes, sometimes" /
> "no, usually" and "it depends", and so does Jake!
>
> - Ben

_________________________________________________________________
Don't get caught with egg on your face. Play Chicktionary!
http://club.live.com/chicktionary.aspx?icid=chick_wlhmtextlink1_dec

18 Dec 2007 - 5:48am
Ben Hunt
2004

Jeff, I'm not discounting Jakob's expertise for a minute. I have the utmost
respect for the chap.
I'm actually praising his PR ability - keeping himself top of the public
consciousness after 20 years in the business.

- Ben

_____

From: Jeff Seager [mailto:abrojos at hotmail.com]
Sent: 18 December 2007 06:59
To: Ben Hunt; ixda
Subject: RE: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!

There's little doubt that self-promotion is high on Nielsen's list of
talents, Ben, but I also think he has a pretty good grasp on the essence of
usability. If you read far enough in the Alertbox missive he sent out
today, you'll see he's giving away a 150-page study that includes 75
well-summarized accessibility guidelines. Grab it while you can, folks!
It's a good reference with actual user testing to back it up, especially
handy if you ever need to teach newbies about accessibility ... which I'll
be doing next month.

You can find it here:
http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility

Jeff Seager

> From: ben at scratchmedia.co.uk
> To: dawachan at gmail.com; alvinwoon at gmail.com
> Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 04:06:09 +0000
> CC: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!
>
> What Jakob is best at is causing a stir! He's been doing it for years,
> resolutely throwing up over-contentious headlines (remember "Flash 99%
bad!"
> ?) and refusing to make his own web site any more appealing (they even
joke
> about that in NNg seminars). He does this in order to make ripples, with
> people like us having to take a position one way or another. All that
keeps
> him in people's minds and on their lips.
>
> I'm sure we all know the truth is somewhere in between "yes, sometimes" /
> "no, usually" and "it depends", and so does Jake!
>
> - Ben

18 Dec 2007 - 8:16am
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Jeff. Let me back up a bit. I've
along wondered about the difference between 'Good Design' and Not[Bad]
Design. The aim of the latter is to ensure that the design doesn't
interfere with the purpose of the artifact, while the aim of the former is,
well, Good Design, whatever that might be.
Many years ago I saw Jakob Nielsen for the first time at a CHI conference
(this was long before IxDA, UPA and stuff). He sported a striped shirt;
checked (bell-bottomed) trousers worn well above the navel; a wide, black
belt; wide, black-rimmed glasses, and sideburns. He could have stepped out
of a late 1970's sitcom. Stay with me here for a moment. At that time I
wondered, What IS this guy, an epitome of bad taste, doing at a conference
that, in my perspective, celebrated that which was beautiful and cool? It
took me some years to find an answer to that question.

And my own answer is that Jakob is a master of Usability and not Design.
Usability is about ensuring that your design is NOT BAD -- i.e., does not
in any way impede, restrict, prevent, the user from accomplishing her goals
through using an artifact. I think Jakob understands that he doesn't
possess that thing that comes naturally to some people, especially those who
take up design as a career -- fine aesthetic taste. He is not a natural
designer; he is an engineer and scientist. As an engineer and scientist he
provides a solid foundation for designers -- who typically design
intuitively, the better ones getting the usability part right the first time
-- to come up with designs that are also functionally usable.

Jakob's website is simple because he is not good at design. He plays it
safe by ensuring that his site is NOT BADLY DESIGNED, and above all USABLE
rather than by trying to create a GREAT DESIGN. He is understandably
conservative -- I would be, if I chose to wear checkered, bell-bottomed
trousers and sideburns (I don't know how his sartorial choices have evolved,
btw). GOOD, AESTHETICALLY PLEASING DESIGN, can manifest in an infinite
number of ways. Nielsen knows that tools for RIA can very easily be misused
by people who lack taste (and who don't understand usability) in much the
way that typefaces and fonts were misused when the Mac was first introduced.
It is for this majority that Nielsen appears to writing his cautionary
note. And from that perspective, I believe his Alertbox note is
well-intended.

Design is about DOING -- it is not about NOT DOING. You don't act by
ensuring non-action. Nielsen's guidelines cannot be used for initiating
design. You put something down on paper based on an understanding of the
requirements and as the NEXT step, evaluate its usability. As an experienced
(and 'natural') designer, you get many things right the first time. But
following Nielsen's guidelines, you don't let the tool dictate your design
-- you continue to rely on your knowledge, experience and intutions, using
those aspects of the tool that fit into your intuitions -- and experimenting
with others that don't but falling back on USABILITY guidelines to check if
things are working out well.

I hope I am making sense.

-murli

On 12/18/07, Jeff Seager <abrojos at hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>
> There's little doubt that self-promotion is high on Nielsen's list of
> talents, Ben, but I also think he has a pretty good grasp on the essence of
> usability. I

--
murli nagasundaram, ph.d. | www.murli.com | murli at murli.com | +91 99 02 69
69 20

- The reason why death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity
-- it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a
jealous possessive love that grabs at what it can. - Yann Martel, The Life
of Pi.

18 Dec 2007 - 9:28am
Mark Schraad
2006

Hi Jeff,

You elude to an important point for clarification. That one is an expert in usability, does not mean they are an expert in interaction design - or an interaction designer. Usability is a large area - only a portion of which is focused upon interfacing with software/web. Likewise, I interaction designers must think well usability. Many of us on this discussion group use usability or interaction when we mean quite the other and should be more specific. Jakob's expertise is in usability.

Mark

On Tuesday, December 18, 2007, at 07:15AM, "Jeff Seager" <abrojos at hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>There's little doubt that self-promotion is high on Nielsen's list of talents, Ben, but I also think he has a pretty good grasp on the essence of usability. If you read far enough in the Alertbox missive he sent out today, you'll see he's giving away a 150-page study that includes 75 well-summarized accessibility guidelines. Grab it while you can, folks! It's a good reference with actual user testing to back it up, especially handy if you ever need to teach newbies about accessibility ... which I'll be doing next month.
>
>You can find it here:
>http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility
>
>Jeff Seager
>
>
>> From: ben at scratchmedia.co.uk
>> To: dawachan at gmail.com; alvinwoon at gmail.com
>> Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 04:06:09 +0000
>> CC: discuss at ixda.org
>> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!
>>
>> What Jakob is best at is causing a stir! He's been doing it for years,
>> resolutely throwing up over-contentious headlines (remember "Flash 99% bad!"
>> ?) and refusing to make his own web site any more appealing (they even joke
>> about that in NNg seminars). He does this in order to make ripples, with
>> people like us having to take a position one way or another. All that keeps
>> him in people's minds and on their lips.
>>
>> I'm sure we all know the truth is somewhere in between "yes, sometimes" /
>> "no, usually" and "it depends", and so does Jake!
>>
>> - Ben
>
>_________________________________________________________________
>Don't get caught with egg on your face. Play Chicktionary!
>http://club.live.com/chicktionary.aspx?icid=chick_wlhmtextlink1_dec
>________________________________________________________________
>*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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>

18 Dec 2007 - 11:19am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Dec 18, 2007, at 8:16 AM, Murli Nagasundaram wrote:

> I hope I am making sense.

Hi Murli,

You are making sense.

However, you're not correct. In particular, this statement:

> Usability is about ensuring that your design is NOT BAD -- i.e.,
> does not
> in any way impede, restrict, prevent, the user from accomplishing
> her goals
> through using an artifact.

This is a limited viewpoint -- the equivalent of saying, "Design is
about making things pretty," which we both know is not true.

Usability practice is about measuring how usable something is, on a
scale from extreme frustration to extreme delight. Using the
information gained through good usability practice, a designer can
work to eliminate the user's frustration, then learn to enhance the
user's delight.

I would agree that many usability practitioners focus primarily on
frustration. The field is far more developed on that side of the
problem. However, that behavior doesn't define the entire field of
practice, nor does it define those usability practitioners who excel.

Some of us spend a lot of time thinking about the delight side of the
equation and what designers can do to increase it.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

18 Dec 2007 - 11:36am
Mark Schraad
2006

Jared,

Are you suggesting that the domain of usability is growing? Nearly everything I have read and most of what I have heard about usability is in fact 'working to make the interface transparent' - which implies staying out of the way, or making the interface 'not bad'. It does not seam the norm for usability experts to be concerned about delight or pleasurability. Is this a domain shift - or is it how you are now approaching the topic?

Mark

On Tuesday, December 18, 2007, at 11:19AM, "Jared M. Spool" <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
>
>On Dec 18, 2007, at 8:16 AM, Murli Nagasundaram wrote:
>
>> I hope I am making sense.
>
>Hi Murli,
>
>You are making sense.
>
>However, you're not correct. In particular, this statement:
>
>> Usability is about ensuring that your design is NOT BAD -- i.e.,
>> does not
>> in any way impede, restrict, prevent, the user from accomplishing
>> her goals
>> through using an artifact.
>
>This is a limited viewpoint -- the equivalent of saying, "Design is
>about making things pretty," which we both know is not true.
>
>Usability practice is about measuring how usable something is, on a
>scale from extreme frustration to extreme delight. Using the
>information gained through good usability practice, a designer can
>work to eliminate the user's frustration, then learn to enhance the
>user's delight.
>
>I would agree that many usability practitioners focus primarily on
>frustration. The field is far more developed on that side of the
>problem. However, that behavior doesn't define the entire field of
>practice, nor does it define those usability practitioners who excel.
>
>Some of us spend a lot of time thinking about the delight side of the
>equation and what designers can do to increase it.
>
>Jared
>
>Jared M. Spool
>User Interface Engineering
>510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
>e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
>http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks
>
>
>
>________________________________________________________________
>*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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>

18 Dec 2007 - 11:57am
bminihan
2007

I agree with you that many usability practitioners push hard to make the
interface transparent in the face of the content or process at hand. Funny
enough, though, NNg's own Intranet Design Annual includes one category
called something like the "Wow factor", which is some element of the
interface that (in their words) is innovative and really improves the user
experience through sophisticated behaviors not found anywhere else. I have
the words a little off, but essentially intranets get bonus points for
breaking the norm in a usable way. I don't really object to the category,
but giving points for inconsistency (however good) doesn't exactly follow
the mantra of "Good design is transparent" taught by their consultants.

Not making a judgment either way - I think they included the category
because they can't ignore the benefit that innovation in the right direction
provides. Just think it doesn't fit their model exactly...

Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Mark
Schraad
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:37 AM
To: Jared M. Spool
Cc: ixda
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!

Jared,

Are you suggesting that the domain of usability is growing? Nearly
everything I have read and most of what I have heard about usability is in
fact 'working to make the interface transparent' - which implies staying out
of the way, or making the interface 'not bad'. It does not seam the norm for
usability experts to be concerned about delight or pleasurability. Is this a
domain shift - or is it how you are now approaching the topic?

Mark

18 Dec 2007 - 12:01pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> all of those seem like valid points to me.

They also seem painfully obvious. Why do we need Jakob to point this out?

I'm not knocking Jakob - he's doing the right thing by trying to communicate
these insights to the masses. Rather, I'm pointing out how sad it is that
designers still need to be told things like this.

-r-

18 Dec 2007 - 11:20am
kimbieler
2007

Murli,

I think that's a really useful distinction -- good design versus not-
bad design.

Perhaps unusually for a designer, I long ago put myself in the not-
bad design camp. To flourish as a designer and business person, I had
to let go of the conceit that every job has to be award-winning -- or
even portfolio-worthy. So much of what we do as designers is turn
things from bad into not-bad. And it's still, as often as not,
putting lipstick on a pig. Very seldom do we get the chance (or the
inspiration, or the budget, or the daring clients) to do something
great. And usually, the only people who can tell it's something great
are other designers.

95% of what's wrong with most web sites can be cured by applying the
not-bad prescription. And, as you point out, most of this
prescription is an objective set of rules and standards that any
clever, motivated person can understand. (Unfortunately,
democratizing design will always scare the people who have a vested
interest in exclusivity and mystique. But that's another topic...)

I have to view Nielsen's design-agnostic persona (and website) as a
design statement in itself. I think his point is, people don't care
about the wrapping as long as they're convinced they want the present
inside. Or, put another way, content is king.

And yes, I do think he's thumbing his nose at all those lipstick-
wearing pigs out there.

-- Kim

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Kim Bieler Graphic Design
www.kbgd.com
240-476-3129
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

18 Dec 2007 - 11:56am
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

Jared, I realized after I hit 'Send' that I was danger of implying that
'design = making things pretty' or something similar, but the deed was done.
Design and Usability can be treated as:
1. Two ends of a continuum/spectrum
2. Two sides a coin
3. Two intersecting circles in a Venn diagram
4. <insert your favorite metaphor here>

Now, there is a wide variety of professions that use the term 'designer' in
their title, and these range from 'people who make pretty things' to 'people
who build railroad tracks' (to pick something really mundane and far removed
from art and prettiness). Perhaps there's no need to make distinctions
between Usability and Design. Then there's certainly no need to have two
separate professional associations (UPA and IxDA). I know that this debate
has been going on for a while and probably will never be resolved, or
eventually become irrelevant.

Now, coming to what 'Usable' means. Does 'delight' also come under the
category? If so, where do we draw the line? Was the act of designing a
feature/attribute that caused 'delight'? Let's take response time -- say,
I click on a link and the page comes up in 2 microseconds -- I'm delighted.
Does that make the site more usable? It certainly makes it more likely
that I will click on that link again.

But delight is a general response to a variety of phenomena. I see
something pretty, and I am delighted. I learn that I don't have to wait as
long as I had anticipated and I am delighted. The first response was
grounded in aesthetics, while the second was in efficiency. My delight was a
result of an absence of frustration. The 'mere' elimination of frustration,
pain, effort generates delight.

When I, Usability Expert, advise a client to Do This In Order to Make Your
Site More Usable, am I providing Usability or Design advice? When you
"spend a lot of time thinking about the delight side of the equation and
what designers can do to increase it", aren't you, in fact, engaged, at
least to some extent, in the task of design?

I'm not trying to contradict you -- what you say is perfectly reasonable.
I'm just not sure where 'usability' ends and 'design' begins. There are
people who work at the extreme ends of the spectrum (assuming there is a
spectrum) and there are those (probably the majority) who are simultaneously
attending to design as well as usability. I suppose, wherever design
involves human beings, one cannot but attend to both simultaneously; even a
hard-core, salt-of-the-earth, no-nonsense, beer-swilling, gruff, hairy,
pot-bellied, engineer when designing a car, is unlikely to build a seat with
spikes all over them; it most probably will be 'seat-like', even if he has
never seen a seat before.

So,

Does it make sense to make distinctions between actions that 'increase
usability' and actions that 'improve design'. How are these two different?
Do they actually mean the same thing? Can you enhance/reduce one without
affecting the other -- i.e., are 'usability' and 'design' independent? I
resolved this issue for myself by making what is perhaps an artificial
distinction -- individuals probably draw the line of distinction (if any) at
different places.

-- murli

--
murli nagasundaram, ph.d. | www.murli.com | murli at murli.com | +91 99 02 69
69 20

- Find your purpose; the means will follow - Mahatma Gandhi

18 Dec 2007 - 11:26am
Trivedi, Riddhish
2007

I'm disappointed by the tone of his article. Jakob Nielsen is known for a
dramatic flair and absolute statements and he has shown it once again in his
text. I think he could have softened the blow by taking a more objective
tone. None of what he says is untrue, but there are several path breaking
RIA examples that changed paradigms for the better (Google Maps). When well
researched prior to implementation, there's no reason why they should be
counterintuitive.

The problem with an article like this is when it is read by business
influencers who are not very close to this domain. Nielsen is well known
across multiple disciplines and can influence IT management decisions in the
adoption of this technology. He may well end up 'dumbing-down' several
bright initiatives by associating high risk to them once this article
proliferates.

- Riddhish

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Mark
Schraad
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 9:29 AM
To: Jeff Seager
Cc: ixda
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!

Hi Jeff,

You elude to an important point for clarification. That one is an expert in
usability, does not mean they are an expert in interaction design - or an
interaction designer. Usability is a large area - only a portion of which is
focused upon interfacing with software/web. Likewise, I interaction
designers must think well usability. Many of us on this discussion group use
usability or interaction when we mean quite the other and should be more
specific. Jakob's expertise is in usability.

Mark

On Tuesday, December 18, 2007, at 07:15AM, "Jeff Seager"
<abrojos at hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>There's little doubt that self-promotion is high on Nielsen's list of
talents, Ben, but I also think he has a pretty good grasp on the essence of
usability. If you read far enough in the Alertbox missive he sent out
today, you'll see he's giving away a 150-page study that includes 75
well-summarized accessibility guidelines. Grab it while you can, folks!
It's a good reference with actual user testing to back it up, especially
handy if you ever need to teach newbies about accessibility ... which I'll
be doing next month.
>
>You can find it here:
>http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility
>
>Jeff Seager
>
>
>> From: ben at scratchmedia.co.uk
>> To: dawachan at gmail.com; alvinwoon at gmail.com
>> Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 04:06:09 +0000
>> CC: discuss at ixda.org
>> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!
>>
>> What Jakob is best at is causing a stir! He's been doing it for years,
>> resolutely throwing up over-contentious headlines (remember "Flash 99%
bad!"
>> ?) and refusing to make his own web site any more appealing (they even
joke
>> about that in NNg seminars). He does this in order to make ripples, with
>> people like us having to take a position one way or another. All that
keeps
>> him in people's minds and on their lips.
>>
>> I'm sure we all know the truth is somewhere in between "yes, sometimes" /
>> "no, usually" and "it depends", and so does Jake!
>>
>> - Ben
>
>_________________________________________________________________
>Don't get caught with egg on your face. Play Chicktionary!
>http://club.live.com/chicktionary.aspx?icid=chick_wlhmtextlink1_dec
>________________________________________________________________
>*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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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>
>
________________________________________________________________
*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
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18 Dec 2007 - 12:56pm
dmitryn
2004

Robert,

I think you just answered your own question. Nielsen is not communicating to
designers.

His articles are aimed at what you call "the masses" - people who have a
stake in usability/design, but are not necessarily designers themselves.
This is fairly clear from statements like "if you focus on over-hyped
technology developments, you risk diverting resources from the high-ROI
design issues that really matter to your users — and to your profits".

For those familiar with and immersed in the practice of good design, Nielsen
is, of course, stating the obvious, and not nearly subtly enough. But, the
way he makes his points (as well as his reputation/brand) allows for
crossover to a wider audience of business stakeholders, in a way that
discourse aimed at designers cannot. That's why what he has to say remains
relevant.

Dmitry

On Dec 18, 2007 9:01 AM, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:

> > all of those seem like valid points to me.
>
>
> They also seem painfully obvious. Why do we need Jakob to point this out?
>
> I'm not knocking Jakob - he's doing the right thing by trying to
> communicate
> these insights to the masses. Rather, I'm pointing out how sad it is that
> designers still need to be told things like this.
>
> -r-
> ________________________________________________________________
> *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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

18 Dec 2007 - 1:25pm
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

Kim, to reinforce your point, I was sent a link to a simple flash-based game
that I passed on to friends and family. It's a very simple, very
crudely-designed game, but has turned out to be so addictive that it has led
some to joke that it's threatening to tear apart families and destroy
productivity at some corporations where it has been spreading around like
wildfire. If nothing else, Jakob is reminding us to focus on the essence of
the site/application rather than being carried away by the promise of shiny
bells and whistles available in hot new tools.
Incidentally, this discussion also reminds me of the distinction (in my
view) between a couple of generations of iMacs. (For ease of reference,
I'll use the following idiosyncratic generational nomenclature:

1. Jelly Bean
2. Desklamp
3. Monopod I
4 Monopod II (current generation)

I refer here to Desklamp and Monopod I. Desklamp was a truly original
design which couldn't have emerged from 'Usability Principles' alone. There
was a great deal of novelty in its physical appearance and the elements of
which it was constituted, which would have required a great deal of
Productive (vs. Reproductive) Thinking. Monopod II, on the other hand, is a
stark, minimalist design, more likely to have been created from Usability
Principles alone. There was a zen-like stripping down of the design to its
bare essentials. And what could be more bare and essential than a flat
panel monitor with just one foot/leg.

I actually felt very sad and disappointed to see Monopod I replacing
Desklamp, but Monopod has grown on me, with time. Desklamp is a delight to
look at, intriguing in its juxtaposition of fshapes, but Monopod works well
without attracting any attention to itself beyond a 'Oh, that's nice, now
let's get on with our work.'

-m
ps: oh btw, in case you've been a little too worried about your high
productivity, here it is; you may have already received it from some friend
or family member:

http://n.ethz.ch/student/mkos/pinguin.swf

On 12/18/07, Kim Bieler <kim at kbgd.com> wrote:
>
>
>
> I have to view Nielsen's design-agnostic persona (and website) as a
> design statement in itself. I think his point is, people don't care
> about the wrapping as long as they're convinced they want the present
> inside. Or, put another way, content is king.
>
> And yes, I do think he's thumbing his nose at all those lipstick-
> wearing pigs out there.
>
>
--
murli nagasundaram, ph.d. | www.murli.com | murli at murli.com | +91 99 02 69
69 20

- The reason why death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity
-- it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a
jealous possessive love that grabs at what it can. - Yann Martel, The Life
of Pi.

18 Dec 2007 - 1:44pm
Joseph Selbie
2007

"Jared, I realized after I hit 'Send' that I was danger of implying that
'design = making things pretty' or something similar, but the deed was done.
Design and Usability can be treated as:
1. Two ends of a continuum/spectrum
2. Two sides a coin
3. Two intersecting circles in a Venn diagram
4. <insert your favorite metaphor here>"

I have always thought this was the wrong way to view the difference between
usability and design. It makes it seem as if they are part of the same
process. My way of thinking about them -- which at least makes it clear for
me -- is that usability testing *measures* the success of design. Once you
get your measurement of success or failure, then you *design* a new solution
-- two different processes.

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

18 Dec 2007 - 1:55pm
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

Correct me if I am wrong here, Joseph, but from your perspective the term
Usability should be used only with regard to Testing and Evaluation. Am I
right? (I'm not challenging your perspective, only trying to determine if
there is a consensual or at least majority view here.)

On 12/19/07, Joseph Selbie <jselbie at tristream.com> wrote:
>
>
> I have always thought this was the wrong way to view the difference
> between
> usability and design. It makes it seem as if they are part of the same
> process. My way of thinking about them -- which at least makes it clear
> for
> me -- is that usability testing *measures* the success of design. Once you
> get your measurement of success or failure, then you *design* a new
> solution
> -- two different processes.
>

--
murli nagasundaram, ph.d. | www.murli.com | murli at murli.com | +91 99 02 69
69 20

- The reason why death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity
-- it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a
jealous possessive love that grabs at what it can. - Yann Martel, The Life
of Pi.

18 Dec 2007 - 2:07pm
Joseph Selbie
2007

"Correct me if I am wrong here, Joseph, but from your perspective the term
Usability should be used only with regard to Testing and Evaluation. Am I
right? (I'm not challenging your perspective, only trying to determine if
there is a consensual or at least majority view here.) "

That is a good question. My take is that usability as a *process* is
measurement (testing and evaluation). Usability as a *concept* refers to
qualities of the design. So you could make the statement that good design is
highly usable - which mixes the two ideas - but, in my view point, it
doesn't mix the two processes.

Joseph Selbie

Founder, CEO Tristream

Web Application Design

http://www.tristream.com

18 Dec 2007 - 3:07pm
Katie Albers
2005

It appears to me that you are equating "transparent" with "conforms
to a set of known standards" and to me that makes no sense.

I see no inconsistency at all in doing something better than the norm
and building a "transparent" interaction.

I understand that you aren't disagreeing with the idea of the
"better" but I think letting the equivalence stand unchallenged is
dangerous. I have sat through way too many meetings regarding a
usability tested prototype that tested out much better than the norms
have, only to have some VP say "but that isn't the Best Practice." It
is not necessarily more transparent to use the same solution that has
been used before. In fact, I've sat through enough "Oh, thank God,
you made this easier" moments in usability testing that I pretty much
expect that the Standard is so because people stopped thinking about
how best to solve the problem and went for the established Best
Practice instead.

To my mind, usability is about making sure that you're asking the
right question (for example, how to do indicate a country in a form)
rather than the top of mind question (how do you order a drop down
list of countries) and the technology is changing so fast that the
best answer to that is going to change quickly as well.

Transparency is more nearly synonymous with highly learnable than it
is with standard. For example, the interface of a book is so
transparent we seldom think of it as having one, but the process of
learning to use it is quite extensive. It's highly learnable because
at each stage, the next stage and the end stage are readily
apparent....first you learn about book covers and then you find out
that they have contents which remain the same, and that the contents
are made obvious by the cover, so you don't bring Dad "Leo the Lion"
when you want him to read "Sam I Am" and then you match up pages with
words and memorize them and realize that somehow those words are
captured on the page...and so forth. It's very complex and it's
evolved to be completely transparent.

Okay...enough on that...

Katie

At 11:57 AM -0500 12/18/07, Bryan Minihan wrote:
>I agree with you that many usability practitioners push hard to make the
>interface transparent in the face of the content or process at hand. Funny
>enough, though, NNg's own Intranet Design Annual includes one category
>called something like the "Wow factor", which is some element of the
>interface that (in their words) is innovative and really improves the user
>experience through sophisticated behaviors not found anywhere else. I have
>the words a little off, but essentially intranets get bonus points for
>breaking the norm in a usable way. I don't really object to the category,
>but giving points for inconsistency (however good) doesn't exactly follow
>the mantra of "Good design is transparent" taught by their consultants.
>
>Not making a judgment either way - I think they included the category
>because they can't ignore the benefit that innovation in the right direction
>provides. Just think it doesn't fit their model exactly...
>
>Bryan
>http://www.bryanminihan.com

--

------------------
Katie Albers
User Experience Consulting & Project Management
katie at firstthought.com

18 Dec 2007 - 4:07pm
bminihan
2007

Actually, I was equating "many usability practitioners" sense of
transparency with "equates to a set of known standards". Particularly, many
who have just begun learning their craft and follow Jakob Nielsen with a
vengeance.

I fell in that camp only 7 years ago and have since evolved a better
understanding of the principles you describe below.

So...I agree with you, but was commenting on how NNg recognizes when usable
innovations trump more comfortable patterns. NNg doesn't come out and SAY
that (I asked awhile ago), but it would be nice if they did, especially in
Jakob's "Flash Will Kill Us All" alertboxes.

Cheers =]

Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Katie
Albers
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 3:08 PM
To: 'ixda'
Cc: 'ixda'
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!

It appears to me that you are equating "transparent" with "conforms
to a set of known standards" and to me that makes no sense.

I see no inconsistency at all in doing something better than the norm
and building a "transparent" interaction.

I understand that you aren't disagreeing with the idea of the
"better" but I think letting the equivalence stand unchallenged is
dangerous. I have sat through way too many meetings regarding a
usability tested prototype that tested out much better than the norms
have, only to have some VP say "but that isn't the Best Practice." It
is not necessarily more transparent to use the same solution that has
been used before. In fact, I've sat through enough "Oh, thank God,
you made this easier" moments in usability testing that I pretty much
expect that the Standard is so because people stopped thinking about
how best to solve the problem and went for the established Best
Practice instead.

To my mind, usability is about making sure that you're asking the
right question (for example, how to do indicate a country in a form)
rather than the top of mind question (how do you order a drop down
list of countries) and the technology is changing so fast that the
best answer to that is going to change quickly as well.

Transparency is more nearly synonymous with highly learnable than it
is with standard. For example, the interface of a book is so
transparent we seldom think of it as having one, but the process of
learning to use it is quite extensive. It's highly learnable because
at each stage, the next stage and the end stage are readily
apparent....first you learn about book covers and then you find out
that they have contents which remain the same, and that the contents
are made obvious by the cover, so you don't bring Dad "Leo the Lion"
when you want him to read "Sam I Am" and then you match up pages with
words and memorize them and realize that somehow those words are
captured on the page...and so forth. It's very complex and it's
evolved to be completely transparent.

Okay...enough on that...

Katie

At 11:57 AM -0500 12/18/07, Bryan Minihan wrote:
>I agree with you that many usability practitioners push hard to make the
>interface transparent in the face of the content or process at hand. Funny
>enough, though, NNg's own Intranet Design Annual includes one category
>called something like the "Wow factor", which is some element of the
>interface that (in their words) is innovative and really improves the user
>experience through sophisticated behaviors not found anywhere else. I have
>the words a little off, but essentially intranets get bonus points for
>breaking the norm in a usable way. I don't really object to the category,
>but giving points for inconsistency (however good) doesn't exactly follow
>the mantra of "Good design is transparent" taught by their consultants.
>
>Not making a judgment either way - I think they included the category
>because they can't ignore the benefit that innovation in the right
direction
>provides. Just think it doesn't fit their model exactly...
>
>Bryan
>http://www.bryanminihan.com

--

------------------
Katie Albers
User Experience Consulting & Project Management
katie at firstthought.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://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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18 Dec 2007 - 3:34pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Thanks, Mark. I agree. I also believe that usability may be the core component of all design (I don't care if my house/car/computer/website is sleek and pretty if it doesn't function). And though I occasionally praise Nielsen's usability evangelism, this is one of those fields in which I don't hasten to call
anyone an "expert." (If you want to call yourself one, that's OK with
me.) The end user in all his/her diversity is the expert, and the only one who knows his or her
experience. We have the privilege of practicing a very interesting
craft, but it's all practice and the best we can hope for is to come a
little closer to success each time. There is no Holy Grail of
interaction design (or usability, or accessibility) because there are too
many physical, social, economic and cognitive differences among users.
But man, it is fun to try!

In terms of usability and design both, the challenge I see again and again is that most people create for themselves and their peers, with very little consideration given to those invisible unknown people "out there somewhere" who perceive and function differently. I've observed the results many times, and Nielsen writes and talks about it sometimes, and very few others do. I'd like to see a more general awareness of that. And when I say "people create for themselves and their peers," I understand that we are all involved in a multitude of peer groups categorized by culture, gender, social status, wealth, ethnicity, education and many other factors. Any one of us may have vast and diverse experience, but even that is not enough without a well-distilled combination of imagination and humility. The great designers are those few who break free of their roles and stereotypes and develop a much broader perspective on interaction design and the consumers thereof. So there aren't many great designers, but that could change if we incorporate these qualities in our goals.

Jeff

> Hi Jeff,
>
> You elude to an important point for clarification. That one is an expert in usability, does not mean they are an expert in interaction design - or an interaction designer. Usability is a large area - only a portion of which is focused upon interfacing with software/web. Likewise, I interaction designers must think well usability. Many of us on this discussion group use usability or interaction when we mean quite the other and should be more specific. Jakob's expertise is in usability.
>
> Mark
>
>
>
> On Tuesday, December 18, 2007, at 07:15AM, "Jeff Seager" <abrojos at hotmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >There's little doubt that self-promotion is high on Nielsen's list of talents, Ben, but I also think he has a pretty good grasp on the essence of usability. If you read far enough in the Alertbox missive he sent out today, you'll see he's giving away a 150-page study that includes 75 well-summarized accessibility guidelines. Grab it while you can, folks! It's a good reference with actual user testing to back it up, especially handy if you ever need to teach newbies about accessibility ... which I'll be doing next month.
> >
> >You can find it here:
> >http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility
> >
> >Jeff Seager

_________________________________________________________________
The best games are on Xbox 360. Click here for a special offer on an Xbox 360 Console.
http://www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/wheretobuy/

18 Dec 2007 - 3:29pm
Eva Kaniasty
2007

Mark,

I don't agree with the conclusion that usability is always about
'staying out of the way' or making the interface 'not bad'. I think
it's about ensuring that the
design and features are helping the users (and the business) move
toward their goals, rather than hindering them. This is as likely to
mean adding functionality or visual elements as removing them, and
boils down to placing the _proper_ emphasis on elements within the
interface. A lot of usability work by necessity focuses on the
'taking away' end of the continuum because most interfaces suffer from
feature and information overload rather than the opposite, but that's
just the reality we live in. I would suggest that what makes an
interface great is not
the wow factor of novelty or aesthetic appeal, but true
responsiveness to the user's needs, regardless
of whether this means an understated design that lets them focus on a
business goal
or a delightfully fun game that wows them with visuals and helps them
forget they're at work.

-eva

18 Dec 2007 - 5:21pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Comparing 'usability' to 'design' is like comparing 'cooking' to a
'watermelon'. It's a non-sensical notion, in my mind.

Usability is a quality of a design, like performance or elegance. It
can only be thought of relative to other designs. One design is more
or less usable than another, based on the criteria one uses to assess
usability. (Like performance, which is measured by "fast" or "slow",
usability is measured my frustrating or delighting.)

Design (the verb) is an action (in contrast to design, the noun,
which is a result of the action). You don't measure a design. You
measure a design's qualities, like usability.

You'll notice, in my original post, that I used the term usability
practice, which is a verb, like design. You *can* compare usability
practice to design, though that's sort of like comparing eating to
cooking. I'm not sure what the benefit of such a comparison would be.

What it sounds like you're trying to say is that somehow designers
are more enlightened about good design than usability practitioners.
I think this is a fallacious argument (and, to some, probably
insulting).

Designers and usability practitioners have different roles in the
design process and, when they work together well, they can produce
amazing results. Of course, it takes little skill to do something
poorly (damn, I really want to get that on a t-shirt), so when they
work together poorly, which takes virtually no skill or effort, then
the results are likely to be less-than-desirable.

I don't know what a "usability expert" is. (I've been called one, but
there is so much I don't know about usability work that I don't know
how the label applies to me.) However, when someone who thinks they
understand how to make something more usable makes a suggest on
changing a design, they are, in fact, designing. For the record,
someone who knows nothing about making things more usable could just
as easily make suggestions to improve the design. And they have an
equal likelihood of being right.

When I said I was spending a lot of time thinking about the delight
side of the equation, I wasn't so much thinking about the design of
delightful things, but instead how we measure when we've achieved
delight. Of course, I need to find things that purport to be
delightful, so I can develop my measures and calibrate them, and that
probably involves some sort of design.

However, I don't consider myself a designer. I consider myself a
researcher. I don't design things, per se (though, as the owner of a
small business, I do take part in the design of my own customer's
experiences). I research how to effectively do great design. It's the
difference between an artist and an art historian. I'm more of the
latter -- I look at what's been done and try to apply models to
assess its effectiveness.

Hope this helps clear up the confusion.

Jared

On Dec 18, 2007, at 11:56 AM, Murli Nagasundaram wrote:

> Jared, I realized after I hit 'Send' that I was danger of implying
> that 'design = making things pretty' or something similar, but the
> deed was done. Design and Usability can be treated as:
>
> 1. Two ends of a continuum/spectrum
> 2. Two sides a coin
> 3. Two intersecting circles in a Venn diagram
> 4. <insert your favorite metaphor here>
>
> Now, there is a wide variety of professions that use the term
> 'designer' in their title, and these range from 'people who make
> pretty things' to 'people who build railroad tracks' (to pick
> something really mundane and far removed from art and prettiness).
> Perhaps there's no need to make distinctions between Usability and
> Design. Then there's certainly no need to have two separate
> professional associations (UPA and IxDA). I know that this debate
> has been going on for a while and probably will never be resolved,
> or eventually become irrelevant.
>
> Now, coming to what 'Usable' means. Does 'delight' also come under
> the category? If so, where do we draw the line? Was the act of
> designing a feature/attribute that caused 'delight'? Let's take
> response time -- say, I click on a link and the page comes up in 2
> microseconds -- I'm delighted. Does that make the site more
> usable? It certainly makes it more likely that I will click on
> that link again.
>
> But delight is a general response to a variety of phenomena. I see
> something pretty, and I am delighted. I learn that I don't have to
> wait as long as I had anticipated and I am delighted. The first
> response was grounded in aesthetics, while the second was in
> efficiency. My delight was a result of an absence of frustration.
> The 'mere' elimination of frustration, pain, effort generates delight.
>
> When I, Usability Expert, advise a client to Do This In Order to
> Make Your Site More Usable, am I providing Usability or Design
> advice? When you "spend a lot of time thinking about the delight
> side of the equation and what designers can do to increase it",
> aren't you, in fact, engaged, at least to some extent, in the task
> of design?
>
> I'm not trying to contradict you -- what you say is perfectly
> reasonable. I'm just not sure where 'usability' ends and 'design'
> begins. There are people who work at the extreme ends of the
> spectrum (assuming there is a spectrum) and there are those
> (probably the majority) who are simultaneously attending to design
> as well as usability. I suppose, wherever design involves human
> beings, one cannot but attend to both simultaneously; even a hard-
> core, salt-of-the-earth, no-nonsense, beer-swilling, gruff, hairy,
> pot-bellied, engineer when designing a car, is unlikely to build a
> seat with spikes all over them; it most probably will be 'seat-
> like', even if he has never seen a seat before.
>
> So,
>
> Does it make sense to make distinctions between actions that
> 'increase usability' and actions that 'improve design'. How are
> these two different? Do they actually mean the same thing? Can you
> enhance/reduce one without affecting the other -- i.e., are
> 'usability' and 'design' independent? I resolved this issue for
> myself by making what is perhaps an artificial distinction --
> individuals probably draw the line of distinction (if any) at
> different places.
>
> -- murli
>
>
> --
> murli nagasundaram, ph.d. | www.murli.com | murli at murli.com | +91
> 99 02 69 69 20
>
> - Find your purpose; the means will follow - Mahatma Gandhi

18 Dec 2007 - 6:01pm
Joseph Selbie
2007

"I don't agree with the conclusion that usability is always about
'staying out of the way' or making the interface 'not bad'. I think
it's about ensuring that the
design and features are helping the users (and the business) move
toward their goals, rather than hindering them. This is as likely to
mean adding functionality or visual elements as removing them, and
boils down to placing the _proper_ emphasis on elements within the
interface. A lot of usability work by necessity focuses on the
'taking away' end of the continuum because most interfaces suffer from
feature and information overload rather than the opposite, but that's
just the reality we live in. I would suggest that what makes an
interface great is not
the wow factor of novelty or aesthetic appeal, but true
responsiveness to the user's needs, regardless
of whether this means an understated design that lets them focus on a
business goal
or a delightfully fun game that wows them with visuals and helps them
forget they're at work."

Eva,

It seems to me that you are expanding the meaning of usability to include
anything good. It becomes fun-ability, can-accomplish-goals-ability,
maps-to-workflow-ability, responsiveness-to-users-needs-ability and so on. I
prefer to think these are all elements of good design but are not subsets of
usability. A website can pass usability tests with flying colors but not
include these other qualities.

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

18 Dec 2007 - 6:26pm
Joseph Selbie
2007

"What it sounds like you're trying to say is that somehow designers
are more enlightened about good design than usability practitioners.
I think this is a fallacious argument (and, to some, probably
insulting)."

Jared,

If a designer isn't more enlightened about good design than a usability
practitioner, than I would have to say they probably shouldn't be designers.
I'm not sure why this has to sound like it would be insulting to usability
practitioners. Designing is a different process than evaluation.

Clearly, both designers and usability practitioners have to understand the
principles of what makes a site, or software or product usable, but this
doesn't mean that the person who is the usability specialist would be an
equally good designer.

I will also say (clearly opening myself to heated disagreement) that
designing something is much more difficult than evaluating and incrementally
improving something already established. It requires a holistic appreciation
of many factors. And it takes talent -- which is not simply the sum of all
the skills and experiences the designer has picked up over the years -- it
is more than that. *Good* designers are, in fact, more enlightened about
good design than *good* usability practitioners and it is that indefinable
something that separates art from science that makes it so.

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

18 Dec 2007 - 5:55pm
Ben Hunt
2004

Katie said:
Transparency is more nearly synonymous with highly learnable than it is with
standard. For example, the interface of a book is so transparent we seldom
think of it as having one, but the process of learning to use it is quite
extensive.

*Brilliantly* illustrated in this hilarious video (Dutch with English
subtitles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6j8XPFOPy4

I'm always mindblown by how many design conventions there are to be found in
a humble newspaper..

18 Dec 2007 - 5:59pm
Ben Hunt
2004

Jeff said:

In terms of usability and design both, the challenge I see again and again
is that most people create for themselves and their peers, with very little
consideration given to those invisible unknown people "out there somewhere"
who perceive and function differently. I've observed the results many
times, and Nielsen writes and talks about it sometimes, and very few others
do. I'd like to see a more general awareness of that. And when I say
"people create for themselves and their peers,"

I've just published a short article called "Design versus Design Toss",
following Jakob's model to some degree, in which I argue for "vernacular
design", and urge designers to ignore "design tossers" who try to keep a
moat of exclusivity around their skills, but in fact are caught in a trap of
addiction to new, edgy visuals, reinforced by the fact that they only seek
validation from other designers..
http://webdesignfromscratch.com/web-design-versus-design-toss.cfm

Ben

18 Dec 2007 - 11:51pm
npangti
2005

> Correct me if I am wrong here, Joseph, but from your perspective the term
Usability should be used only with regard to Testing and Evaluation. Am I
right? (I'm not challenging your perspective, only trying to determine if
there is a consensual or at least majority view here.)

i would whole heartedly agree that usability is about testing and evaluation
and not design. i see usability as a subset of design and not vice versa.
usability is inherent in a good design process. people may argue that tasks
like data collection, user definition or functional specs creation are part
of usability but isn't that what designers have been doing all along. unlike
art, design has always been a user centric process. i think usability came
into focus because designers did not quickly catch up and respond to the
changing needs of the new medium.

it is rather strange that evaluation and analytical tools tend to start
playing the role of a design tool. even in process design i see more and
more people resorting to simulation and evaluation tools for the purpose of
design itself. no wonder good processes don't get made that easily.

warm regards
navin pangti
------------------
www.dolka.com
www.himalayanvillage.com
www.pangti.com

19 Dec 2007 - 1:16am
Joseph Selbie
2007

Jeff,

This was in my original post:

"Clearly, both designers and usability practitioners have to understand the
principles of what makes a site, or software or product usable, but this
doesn't mean that the person who is the usability specialist would be an
equally good designer."

When a good designer is working, he or she is combining their knowledge of
what makes things usable, with a number of other considerations -- user
research, business goals, user types/personas, browser or OS limitations,
back end limitations and more -- which all come together in a creative flow.

The results of the creative flow, if the designer is a good one, will indeed
be highly usable. It may combine many elements that have already been used
in other software and web sites, web apps, etc., but the design will
none-the-less feel unique - greater than the sum of its parts so to speak.

That is what I mean by the intangible difference between art and science. It
is artistry, talent, something more than just the synthesis of information,
though it includes the synthesis of information.

In my experience, the people who are very good at usability, as a science of
measuring and analyzing, are most often not equally good at design. I dare
say the reverse is also true. The meticulous, concrete, analytical
temperament that are the hallmarks of a good analyst are rarely found at a
high level in a good designer.

If I could ask your indulgence with a rather elaborate metaphor, I would say
that excellent usability practitioners are highly skilled at breaking down
the whole into myriad parts and measuring them all separately. The excellent
designer, on the other hand, is highly skilled at taking myriad inputs and
creating a whole. The former strikes me as more inherently rational and
science-like, while the latter strikes me as requiring more art.

I agree with you that both disciplines are necessary. Without the science of
usability, we would have a lot of bad software and webware. But without the
art of design we would have no excellent software or webware.

There may be people who combine these two temperaments - but frankly I've
yet to meet them. Usually everyone is a mix of both but with greater
excellence in one direction or the other.

Joseph Selbie

Founder, CEO Tristream

Web Application Design

http://www.tristream.com

19 Dec 2007 - 1:30am
Joseph Selbie
2007

Navin,

You say:

"it is rather strange that evaluation and analytical tools tend to start
playing the role of a design tool. even in process design i see more and
more people resorting to simulation and evaluation tools for the purpose of
design itself. no wonder good processes don't get made that easily."

I agree whole-heartedly. I talk with lots of people (as a consultant being
inside many different firms, and as a presenter at conferences where I field
questions) who seem to feel that if they collect enough techniques, enough
tools, enough process, that their project will somehow all come together as
a whole. Their conception of the design process is too mechanical.

Good design is holistic. A good designer synthesizes the information
available yet adds cohesion, magic, wow, clarity, simplicity to the project
in a way that no amount of tools or process can duplicate.

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

18 Dec 2007 - 11:56pm
Jeff Seager
2007

> *Good* designers are, in fact, more enlightened about
> good design than *good* usability practitioners and it is that indefinable
> something that separates art from science that makes it so.

Hmmmm. Not all of us live in that dichotomous world that divides art from science. We may have to agree to disagree, if our perceptions about that are so different.

It seems you assume that a designer can't be a usability practitioner, and I think he or she must be both to be good at either one. I perceive usability and design as complementary considerations that combine to yield varying degrees of satisfaction in user experience. It sounds like your definition of a usability practitioner is one who, like Jakob Nielsen, only assesses the work of others and designs nothing himself. Or one engaged in the metrics of usability. Am I interpreting you correctly, Joseph? I don't meant to be contentious at all, only to understand your perspective.

Evaluating the usability of design -- we're talking interaction design, right? not something painted on afterward or applied as a skin? -- is a rightful part of the design process, and many factors argue for its integration long before a prototype is presented for testing. Similarly, it makes no sense to ignore accessibility considerations from the start. Accessibility and usability are hard to separate anyway. Good design doesn't need to be retrofitted with anything, because it's designed with all essential criteria in mind from the beginning. Of course, these are ideals and our real-world experience has to make allowances for all kinds of circumstances. But given the opportunity to do it right, my own life experience with everything from fixing cars to fixing websites tells me that it's very hard to go back in and retrofit usability when it was not considered important at the outset or at other points in the design process.

Regards,
Jeff Seager

_________________________________________________________________
Get the power of Windows + Web with the new Windows Live.
http://www.windowslive.com?ocid=TXT_TAGHM_Wave2_powerofwindows_122007

19 Dec 2007 - 9:55am
Eva Kaniasty
2007

Joseph,

This might just be an argument in semantics, but I do think that your
view of usability is a reductionist one. If a usability test does
not test a user's ability to accomplish a goal using the system under
question, what does it test? If a usability test exposes that users
hate the system (or love the system) for whatever reason, does that
not contribute to that system's usability? When I think of usability,
I don't think of it exclusively as an evaluative function. In fact,
the 'design first,' 'evaluate later,' paradigm has not been proven
very effective in practice, which is why we're seeing a blurring of
lines between traditional usability and design disciplines.

I think Jared has it right when he says that usability is a quality of
design. Perhaps what we are really talking about is user experience,
which seems to be displacing the term usability in many contexts
because it does have broader connotations. But I don't see how you
can separate usability and design. When we do interaction design, we
strive to design the system to be usable, to work well for the purpose
that it is being designed for. And when we do visual design, in
addition to aesthetics, we think about issues such as, let's say,
visual weight, that do affect usability. The final product design
will affect the user experience, which can range from hate to love,
frustration to delight. I am not saying that it's necessary for a
system be delightful to be usable, but it might be required, if users
won't use it otherwise.

Lastly I cannot resist bringing up this book...

Designing Pleasurable Products: An Introduction to the New Human Factors
http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Pleasurable-Products-Introduction-Factors/dp/0415298873

-eva
(crawling back into my usability hole)

> Eva,
>
> It seems to me that you are expanding the meaning of usability to include
> anything good. It becomes fun-ability, can-accomplish-goals-ability,
> maps-to-workflow-ability, responsiveness-to-users-needs-ability and so on. I
> prefer to think these are all elements of good design but are not subsets of
> usability. A website can pass usability tests with flying colors but not
> include these other qualities.
> Joseph Selbie
> Founder, CEO Tristream
> Web Application Design
> http://www.tristream.com
--
Eva Kaniasty
http://www.linkedin.com/in/kaniasty

19 Dec 2007 - 11:09am
Michael Micheletti
2006

So I didn't read the screed, but I did download the usability study. It was
eye-opening for me, and I have some experience at crafting accessible
websites. The NNG did a careful study of visually and physically disabled
people attempting to perform common web tasks (look up a bus schedule, buy a
CD) on existing public sites. The study participants had a hard time of it,
and clued me into some accessibility issues I hadn't previously know about.
I'm carefully reviewing a volunteer side project I'm working on at home in
light of this report; it's a website redesign with improved accessibility
one of the key goals. Thanks for posting this link, Jeff; highly recommended
reading.

Michael Micheletti

On Dec 17, 2007 10:59 PM, Jeff Seager <abrojos at hotmail.com> wrote:

>
> If you read far enough in the Alertbox missive he sent out today, you'll
> see he's giving away a 150-page study that includes 75 well-summarized
> accessibility guidelines. Grab it while you can, folks! It's a good
> reference with actual user testing to back it up, especially handy if you
> ever need to teach newbies about accessibility ... which I'll be doing next
> month.
>
> You can find it here:
> http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility
>

19 Dec 2007 - 11:11am
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

Man, is this a can of worms, or what! Maybe only because we might sometimes
choose to make it so. For the sake of building a profession as well as a
professional identity, and perhaps also (as a consequence) to communicate
the profession's purpose and importance to outsiders, one creates these
artificial boundaries and walls ... perhaps it is necessary. And then
again, things evolve so rapidly. For my part, I am deeply interested in
both design as well as usability. As some have stated, I see it thus:
Design FOR Usability

the left-hand side being the act and the right hand side being the
consequence. Now comes the chicken and egg part: which of the two comes
first. Obviously, there are arrows pointing in both directions, making the
process a loop.

Thus,

The process of Design generates an artifact which then needs to be evaluated
for (among other things) Usability.

The process of Usability Testing generates data which inform the Designer
about how to go about modifying the design.

Someone will quickly point out that the Designer wouldn't have any basis to
build a half-way decent design if she didn't have a set of Usability
Principles to guide her. And then someone else will interject that the
Usability 'Specialist' (the term 'expert' having now been banished from this
discussion) wouldn't have any basis for conducting a decent Usability Test
if she didn't have any basic understanding of the purpose of the design and
constraints that shaped it's form. For instance, should a Usability
Evaluator the usability of the design of an automobile 'cockpit' for the
purpose of making cellphone calls and eating breakfast while checking the
latest news on the internet? And if the design fails this test should the
Usability Evaluator declare the design to be unusable?

Design, I guess, is the process of Giving Form to Required/Desired Function.
Unfortunately, we also call the resulting form a Design: The result of the
Design Process is a Design. The Designer, being experienced and all, knows
a lot about Usability, and designs usability into the Design.

Some of the comments suggest that the term Usability is becoming passe and
increasingly being replaced by User Experience which encompasses, more (much
more, perhaps) than just Usability. Nobody wants 'merely' to be a Usability
Tester/Evaluator -- they are now User Experience Specialists (not Experts).

So, I guess User Experience Assessment (not just Evaluation) is the process
of Determining if the Designed Form Meets Required/Designed Function and --
this is where it seems the line between design and evaluation gets fuzzy --
suggesting ways in which the design could go beyond just meeting
requirements, like generating Delight. The result of the User Experience
Assessment Process is a User Experience Assessment.

Okay: Designer knows Usabilty/UX; UX Specialist knows Design. Only the
Designer doesn't NECESSARILY do detailed UX testing, while the UX Specialist
doesn't USUALLY do Design. Fair and square; no turf wars.

Oh Lord! Could a Designer call herself a UX Specialist (or whatever)? Why
or why not? What is she first and foremost?

So what is User Experience?
- Usability
- Delight (or is delight also a part of 'usability' as Jared suggests?)
- Amusement
- Enlightenment
- Joy
- Nirvana
- etc.

BTW, one could conceive of such a thing as:

Design for Unusability -- think security devices: you might want them to be
unusable (by the bad guys). Or is 'unusability' merely a special case of
'usability' where 'usability' = 0 or a negative value, in a mathematical
sense? <Tongue not entirely outside cheek>

Whew! Did I get all this okay?

-murli
--
murli nagasundaram, ph.d. | www.murli.com | murli at murli.com | +91 99 02 69
69 20

- The reason why death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity
-- it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a
jealous possessive love that grabs at what it can. - Yann Martel, The Life
of Pi.

19 Dec 2007 - 11:12am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Dec 18, 2007, at 6:26 PM, Joseph Selbie wrote:

> If a designer isn't more enlightened about good design than a
> usability
> practitioner, than I would have to say they probably shouldn't be
> designers.
> I'm not sure why this has to sound like it would be insulting to
> usability
> practitioners. Designing is a different process than evaluation.
>
> Clearly, both designers and usability practitioners have to
> understand the
> principles of what makes a site, or software or product usable, but
> this
> doesn't mean that the person who is the usability specialist would
> be an
> equally good designer.

With all due respect, let me say this: This is just a load of crap.

Good design is an end result that is the product of the work of a
team. To produce good design, all members of the team need an almost
equal understanding of good design. Interaction designers will know
how they contribute to that goal, as will visual designers, but they
won't necessarily have cross-over skills.

Of course, designing is a different process than evaluation. In fact,
I defy you to tell me what the "process of design" is, particularly,
as it leads to the predictable and reliable creation of good designs.

Designing is not a unified, singular process. It's stylistic. It
takes a lot of different components. It requires a specific type of
culture to do well. It thrives in certain contexts and fails in
others. It involves skills from all over the organization. (http://
tinyurl.com/2wyjj4) Even the best organizations, have tremendous
trouble doing it predictably (Apple's iPhone vs. Apple TV -- both
announced on the same day and produced in the same culture, but have
very different results).

Unless you're a one-person company, more than one person contributes
to the final design. I contend that all the members on the team have
to have an equal enlightenment about good design (and about how their
individual skills and talents will contribute to that good design)
for a good design to result.

> I will also say (clearly opening myself to heated disagreement) that
> designing something is much more difficult than evaluating and
> incrementally
> improving something already established. It requires a holistic
> appreciation
> of many factors. And it takes talent -- which is not simply the sum
> of all
> the skills and experiences the designer has picked up over the
> years -- it
> is more than that. *Good* designers are, in fact, more enlightened
> about
> good design than *good* usability practitioners and it is that
> indefinable
> something that separates art from science that makes it so.

I'm glad you recognize this is clearly opening yourself up to a
heated disagreement because, again with all due respect, this too is
crap. There is virtually nothing in this statement that is accurate.

If you believe that designing something is more difficult than
evaluating something, (a) you've probably never seriously evaluated
anything and (b) you probably should be an evaluator, since design
seems so difficult to you. Try being at the leading edge of
evaluation for 25+ years and then tell me how difficult it is. Doing
a quality job at evaluation is extremely challenging for even the
most talented in the field.

I think your implication that usability practice is about "evaluating
and incrementally improving something already established" shows
misses what good usability practice bring to the design process. Good
usability practice informs the team by providing insights into the
team's decision making process, thereby enhancing the quality of the
resulting design.

Your definition of talent is also incorrect. Talent, by most
behavioral definitions, is not the sum of all skills and experiences,
which are separate from talent. Talent is an innate capability. You
can have two people with the exact same skills (which are learned)
and experiences, yet if one is more talented, you'll see results.
That's why David Ortiz plays baseball very differently than Alex
Rodriguez. Both have almost equivalent skills (as does every major
league player) and very similar experiences, but very different talents.

Designing is not any more an artistic endeavor than usability
practice. And good design employs as much "science" as good
evaluation does.

Of course, these are just my opinions and based purely on my
experience doing research and evaluation the field of design for
almost 30 years. It's likely I'm not enlightened enough to understand
how it's really done, so please assess the validity of my comments
accordingly.

Jared

19 Dec 2007 - 11:41am
Joseph Selbie
2007

Eva,

"This might just be an argument in semantics, but I do think that your
view of usability is a reductionist one. If a usability test does
not test a user's ability to accomplish a goal using the system under
question, what does it test? If a usability test exposes that users
hate the system (or love the system) for whatever reason, does that
not contribute to that system's usability?"

I think you are right that some of this discussion is semantic. If usability
becomes a more generic term and becomes synonymous with "quality" then so be
it. I won't like it :), but better that than no evaluation of other aspects
of the design at all. And I agree that if usability testing reveals other
flaws in the design that are not specifically issues of whether a feature is
usable or not, that is a bonus.

But, if a design team is relying on "usability testing" to reveal *all*
flaws in design, that begs the question of whether common usability methods
for evaluation are really up to *intentionally* finding all flaws.

For example, in my primary work as a web application designer, mapping
screen flow to work flow is one of the most important "critical to quality"
elements in design. Usability evaluation may reveal whether a person likes
or dislikes the screen flow, but it doesn't measure the *effectiveness* of
the screen flow. For that you need the classic time and motion stop watch
approach.

So if usability is going to expand to include all critical to quality
measurement, then it will have to expand its tool set and methods as well.

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

19 Dec 2007 - 1:40pm
Katie Albers
2005

I can't decide whether to be amused by the irony or deeply depressed
by the presence of the usability/design dichotomy that's playing out
in this question -- certainly elsewhere in this thread if not in this
particular piece of it.

I came to usability precisely because it was not about metrics -- it
was about a holistic view of whether users could effectively and
happily perform their required tasks with your product. Some of the
most inefficient ways of getting to that information are
statistically valid tests (aka "measurements") for performance
against set parameters.

As I worked in that field, I came more and more to believe that
usability was a far more pervasive element than I had previously
considered it.

* You design and define the overall product because it will be useful
and therefore, the greater its usability the more financially
remunerative
* You define the personae because they are tools in creating a
functional and usable product
* You design the process so that it will be as nearly self-evident as
possible and therefore usable
* You design the taxonomy and information architecture to support the
user's needs and ease their path
* You define the visual elements so that they support certain goals
which make the product usable (This must be obvious; this needs to be
present but we don't want it to distract attention; we need to make
sure they notice this...)
* You design tests on an ongoing basis -- where "test" usually means
sitting in a room with a series of individual users who conform to
the personae and having them use the product
*You design the interactions so that the response methods and
progress through the product are apparent and usable

None of that is metric. Almost none of it is a "last thing". The only
two places where I don't consider usability practitioners as
essential are in the actual coding of the product and in the actual
creation of the visual presence -- although they play editorial roles
in both.

Usability is not a science. It has scientific elements to it. But
anyone who's been practicing in the field for any length of time can
tell you stories of the times when the scientifically perfect
response failed utterly.

I realize that there are a million different definitions of usability
professional -- that's what mine has grown to be after 15 years of
practice. To me, usability in the sense of "delightful" as well as
coldly "efficient" is the start point and the end point of the
development cycle and informs all the phases in between.

Katie

At 4:56 AM +0000 12/19/07, Jeff Seager wrote:
> > *Good* designers are, in fact, more enlightened about
>> good design than *good* usability practitioners and it is that indefinable
>> something that separates art from science that makes it so.
>
>Hmmmm. Not all of us live in that dichotomous world that divides
>art from science. We may have to agree to disagree, if our
>perceptions about that are so different.
>
>It seems you assume that a designer can't be a usability
>practitioner, and I think he or she must be both to be good at
>either one. I perceive usability and design as complementary
>considerations that combine to yield varying degrees of satisfaction
>in user experience. It sounds like your definition of a usability
>practitioner is one who, like Jakob Nielsen, only assesses the work
>of others and designs nothing himself. Or one engaged in the
>metrics of usability. Am I interpreting you correctly, Joseph? I
>don't meant to be contentious at all, only to understand your
>perspective.
>
>Evaluating the usability of design -- we're talking interaction
>design, right? not something painted on afterward or applied as a
>skin? -- is a rightful part of the design process, and many factors
>argue for its integration long before a prototype is presented for
>testing. Similarly, it makes no sense to ignore accessibility
>considerations from the start. Accessibility and usability are hard
>to separate anyway. Good design doesn't need to be retrofitted with
>anything, because it's designed with all essential criteria in mind
>from the beginning. Of course, these are ideals and our real-world
>experience has to make allowances for all kinds of circumstances.
>But given the opportunity to do it right, my own life experience
>with everything from fixing cars to fixing websites tells me that
>it's very hard to go back in and retrofit usability when it was not
>considered important at the outset or at other points in the design
>process.
>
>Regards,
>Jeff Seager

--

------------------
Katie Albers
User Experience Consulting & Project Management
katie at firstthought.com

19 Dec 2007 - 1:46pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Dec 19, 2007, at 11:11 AM, Murli Nagasundaram wrote:

> Whew! Did I get all this okay?

Almost.

You seem to want to think broadly (very commendable), but then you
take a narrow view when you define the base discussion elements:

> The process of Design generates an artifact which then needs to be
> evaluated
> for (among other things) Usability.
>
> The process of Usability Testing generates data which inform the
> Designer
> about how to go about modifying the design.

I would argue that the process of design produces a solution that
improves an individual's quality of life. In the process of design,
artifacts are generated. Those artifacts are then evaluated in a
myriad of ways (not just by usability practitioners) to move the
design forward.

The process of usability testing provides insights and information
for the design team to make future design decisions. For example, you
can usability test a finished product to learn about outstanding
frustration or unmet requirements that would then be used in the
requirements of an entirely new product.

I'd also argue that usability testing is but one tool of the
usability practitioner. A good usability practitioner has many tools
in their toolbox for collecting data, including, but not limited to,
field studies, interviews, and about 80 different variants on the
traditional usability test. They also have great tools for
synthesizing that data into information and insights and other great
tools for communicating that information and insights to the team as
effectively as possible.

I think your line of thinking (and your description of it) will get
much easier if you reach parity on how your describing the problem.
Comparing a process of design to a single tool in the usability
practitioner's toolbox results in an impedance mismatch.

Another way to think about it is to look at how designers make
decisions. Design is an iterative process, where the designer posits
an approach then makes decisions on the effectiveness of that
approach, sometimes comparing it to alternative approaches and
sometimes just looking for insights by 'raising it up the flagpole
and seeing who salutes it.'

Some decisions are made from their own gut feel. Other decisions are
made from business needs. Other decisions are made from data
collected from the people who the design is for.

Usability practice is focused on collecting the user's information,
which is varied and complex. That information is analyzed,
synthesized, then absorbed into the decision making process.

I suggest, if you want to philosophize broadly about the nature of
design, you should choose broad discussion elements to do so.

BTW, your notion about security is correct. To state it a different
way, it's selective usability, where you want to make an unusable
design for the villians or intruders, while giving a very usable
design (with minimal frustrations) for the good-guys. It's an
extremely hard set of design challenges, compounded by the dedication
the villians/intruders are employing to defeat it.

:)

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

19 Dec 2007 - 2:00pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 18, 2007, at 2:21 PM, Jared M. Spool wrote:

> What it sounds like you're trying to say is that somehow designers
> are more enlightened about good design than usability practitioners.
> I think this is a fallacious argument (and, to some, probably
> insulting).

Generally speaking good designers are more enlightened about good
design. If a usability wants to learn more about what it takes to
craft good design, then that person will become enlightened. However,
given equal education in theory and academics, unless a person
*crafts and makes* a product with their own two hands, there's no way
they will ever know as much as the person who does. Simple as that.

> Designers and usability practitioners have different roles in the
> design process and, when they work together well, they can produce
> amazing results. Of course, it takes little skill to do something
> poorly (damn, I really want to get that on a t-shirt), so when they
> work together poorly, which takes virtually no skill or effort, then
> the results are likely to be less-than-desirable.

Agreed.

> However, when someone who thinks they
> understand how to make something more usable makes a suggest on
> changing a design, they are, in fact, designing.

I disagree. They are simply making a suggestion, nothing more or
nothing less. Unless they actually design and craft the solution to
the suggestion they are making, they are simply contributing, but
they are not "designing."

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

19 Dec 2007 - 1:35pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Nicely summarized, Murli.

> BTW, one could conceive of such a thing as:
>
> Design for Unusability -- think security devices: you might want them to be
> unusable (by the bad guys). Or is 'unusability' merely a special case of
> 'usability' where 'usability' = 0 or a negative value, in a mathematical
> sense? <Tongue not entirely outside cheek>
>

I'll leave the quantification of it to the mathematicians, but I can think of one such 'unusability' design off the top of my head. The holsters used by most police officers these days are designed to resist someone else pulling the weapon out, which could easily happen in a crowd. Officers are trained in the proper way to release the firearm from the holster, and (by design) it might take the rest of us a while to figure it out if we'd never encountered it before. This gives the officer time to react and deny access to the would-be assailant.

Usability for one is not usability for all, and to deny access intentionally is Good Design because that was one of the design criteria. Unusability can be really simple and unintentional, too; you can deny access with something as simple as vocabulary, by writing in engineer-speak or accountant-speak ... or, as we often see, by delivering all content in English even though the intended audience is multinational.

Jeff

_________________________________________________________________
Get the power of Windows + Web with the new Windows Live.
http://www.windowslive.com?ocid=TXT_TAGHM_Wave2_powerofwindows_122007

19 Dec 2007 - 1:17pm
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

These conversations are why I have joined this list and find this to be the best professional group I have found in a long time.

These conversations are painful, but they should be! To be successful we need to synthesis all of our backgrounds into this practice of interaction design.

If you consider yourself a designer and know nothing about usability, then you are really an artist. You are designing for yourself.

If you are a usability professional and know nothing about design, then you are an obstacle. You place road blocks in the way of a project and offer no value in overcoming them.

Bill Buxton's new book (Sketching User Experiences) has it right: where we are at now is analogous point to where the Industrial designers where 90 years ago.

The Industrial revolution created a need for Industrial designers. The information revolution (ugh, but what else to call it?) has created a need for Interaction designers.

When the Industrial designers figured out their profession, all of the contributing professions still existed afterward. Manufacturing engineering, material sciences, set design, etc.. did not all go away. Instead they contributed to this new field. They same will happen to us. The need for usability experts, for visual designers, for software engineers will not go away. But a new role will be created that combines these. No single person can be in the top of their field in all of these areas. But they can know enough to drive the development of software down the correct path and know when and how to use these folks who are the experts in their respective areas.

Nick Iozzo
Principal User Experience Architect

tandemseven

847.452.7442 mobile

niozzo at tandemseven.com
http://www.tandemseven.com/

19 Dec 2007 - 3:51pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Dec 19, 2007, at 2:00 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> On Dec 18, 2007, at 2:21 PM, Jared M. Spool wrote:
>
>> What it sounds like you're trying to say is that somehow designers
>> are more enlightened about good design than usability practitioners.
>> I think this is a fallacious argument (and, to some, probably
>> insulting).
>
> Generally speaking good designers are more enlightened about good
> design. If a usability wants to learn more about what it takes to
> craft good design, then that person will become enlightened. However,
> given equal education in theory and academics, unless a person
> *crafts and makes* a product with their own two hands, there's no way
> they will ever know as much as the person who does. Simple as that.

Yes, yes.

Many people who conduct usability practice these days are not
specialists, but generalists on the design team with other
responsibilities, including design. Because design teams have been
shrinking over the last ten years, you rarely find teams consisting
of specialists. (Wrote about this here: http://tinyurl.com/2oba65)

The result is, as already has been mentioned in this thread, that
many usability practitioners also regularly "craft and make" elements
of the designs their teams produce.

I don't understand why there's a need to drive this dividing line
between design professionals and usability professionals. I
understand that many people don't like Jakob's approach to expressing
his notion of right and wrong, but he doesn't represent the state-of-
the-art in usability practice any more than Steve Jobs represents the
way things are done across all of design.

Why is it important that designers distance themselves from the
evaluation side? Where is this coming from?

Jared

19 Dec 2007 - 4:11pm
Joseph Selbie
2007

Jared,

I appear to have touched a nerve. My comments below:

"If a designer isn't more enlightened about good design than a usability

practitioner, than I would have to say they probably shouldn't be designers.

I'm not sure why this has to sound like it would be insulting to usability

practitioners. Designing is a different process than evaluation.

Clearly, both designers and usability practitioners have to understand the

principles of what makes a site, or software or product usable, but this

doesn't mean that the person who is the usability specialist would be an

equally good designer.

With all due respect, let me say this: This is just a load of crap.

Good design is an end result that is the product of the work of a team. To
produce good design, all members of the team need an almost equal
understanding of good design. "

I have watched well over 100 different teams design web ware, and I have
never seen a team where all members of the team have an equal understanding
of good design. There are always one or two people who take the lead and
create the design. The rest contribute information and critical evaluation
to the process certainly, but they do not have an equally broad holistic
view of the project - nor do they design.

"Interaction designers will know how they contribute to that goal, as will
visual designers, but they won't necessarily have cross-over skills.

Of course, designing is a different process than evaluation. In fact, I defy
you to tell me what the "process of design" is, particularly, as it leads to
the predictable and reliable creation of good designs."

In a way you are making my point for me here. You can't define the process
of design. It is an art, not a science. It is creative, something new comes
out of it that is not the result of process, which is the result of the
design talent of an individual.

"Designing is not a unified, singular process. It's stylistic. It takes a
lot of different components. It requires a specific type of culture to do
well. It thrives in certain contexts and fails in others. It involves skills
from all over the organization. (http://tinyurl.com/2wyjj4) Even the best
organizations, have tremendous trouble doing it predictably (Apple's iPhone
vs. Apple TV -- both announced on the same day and produced in the same
culture, but have very different results).

Unless you're a one-person company, more than one person contributes to the
final design. I contend that all the members on the team have to have an
equal enlightenment about good design (and about how their individual skills
and talents will contribute to that good design) for a good design to
result."

It would be good if they did all have equal enlightenment but it just
doesn't happen in the real world.

I have seen a lot of design teams take a beginning design that looks like a
horse with only two legs and end up with a horse that has four legs in all
the right places. Teams like this create end products that are neither
really bad nor really good. They are adequate, and fulfill the long
checklist of requirements attached to the project.

I have seen other teams start with a racehorse and turn it into a camel. The
"design process" as you like to call it just means that eveyone's opinion is
to some extent honored (usually on the basis of how much status they have in
the organization, rarely is it based on enlightenment :). Excellent design
gets lost in the process.

If you don't have someone on the team who can design elegant excellence, no
amount of team process is going to make it so.

"I will also say (clearly opening myself to heated disagreement) that

designing something is much more difficult than evaluating and incrementally

improving something already established. It requires a holistic appreciation

of many factors. And it takes talent -- which is not simply the sum of all

the skills and experiences the designer has picked up over the years -- it

is more than that. *Good* designers are, in fact, more enlightened about

good design than *good* usability practitioners and it is that indefinable

something that separates art from science that makes it so.

I'm glad you recognize this is clearly opening yourself up to a heated
disagreement because, again with all due respect, this too is crap. There is
virtually nothing in this statement that is accurate.

If you believe that designing something is more difficult than evaluating
something, (a) you've probably never seriously evaluated anything and (b)
you probably should be an evaluator, since design seems so difficult to you.
Try being at the leading edge of evaluation for 25+ years and then tell me
how difficult it is. Doing a quality job at evaluation is extremely
challenging for even the most talented in the field."

Sorry, but I disagree. This is an age old debate. But there is no question
in my mind that it is harder to write a book than to write a book review. It
is harder to make a movie than to write a movie review. It is harder to pull
together all the myriad inputs for web ware and software (usability inputs
among them) and design an elegant, user-friendly, simple solution that
satisfies all inputs, than it is to measure and critique the proposed
solution. The people who can design well rise to the top in any design
organization, precisely because they *are* more enlightened about designing
than other members of the team.

"I think your implication that usability practice is about "evaluating and
incrementally improving something already established" shows misses what
good usability practice bring to the design process. Good usability practice
informs the team by providing insights into the team's decision making
process, thereby enhancing the quality of the resulting design."

I never said that a good usability practice was not extremely helpful. I
just said design was harder because it has to include the awareness of
usability along with creativity.

"Your definition of talent is also incorrect. Talent, by most behavioral
definitions, is not the sum of all skills and experiences, which are
separate from talent. Talent is an innate capability. You can have two
people with the exact same skills (which are learned) and experiences, yet
if one is more talented, you'll see results. That's why David Ortiz plays
baseball very differently than Alex Rodriguez. Both have almost equivalent
skills (as does every major league player) and very similar experiences, but
very different talents."

I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. It seems to me that you are
making my point that design talent crosses over into the indefinable
difference between science and art. I never said that talent is the sum
total of one's skills and experience - just the opposite.

"Designing is not any more an artistic endeavor than usability practice. And
good design employs as much "science" as good evaluation does."

Here is where I think we diverge the most. I am compelled to offer back to
you your elegant phrase, "This is just a load of crap". As far as I can
tell, you tend to think there is a design *process* that results in good
design. Get the right inputs into the process and out comes a good design.

In my experience, a good design process merely enables talented individuals
to design well. A good process insures that the designer(s) are not unaware
of key criteria for the design. A good design process iterates without
losing the magic of the core design. But the outcome of the process still
relies centrally on the talents of the designer(s). As I said earlier, if
the designer isn't very talented, a good design team may insure that the
horse that started with only two legs ends up with four. But if you don't
have a talented designer you'll never end up with a racehorse.

Of course, these are just my opinions and based purely on my experience
doing research and evaluation the field of design for almost 30 years. It's
likely I'm not enlightened enough to understand how it's really done, so
please assess the validity of my comments accordingly.

These are of course my opinions also, based on 15 years critiquing design,
managing design, and designing.

Respectfully yours,

Joseph Selbie

Founder, CEO Tristream

Web Application Design

http://www.tristream.com

19 Dec 2007 - 4:14pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 19, 2007, at 10:17 AM, Nick Iozzo wrote:

> The Industrial revolution created a need for Industrial designers.
> The information revolution (ugh, but what else to call it?) has
> created a need for Interaction designers.

For consistency, I would phrase that as: "The digital revolution has
created a need for digital designers."

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

19 Dec 2007 - 4:40pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 19, 2007, at 12:51 PM, Jared M. Spool wrote:
> Why is it important that designers distance themselves from the
> evaluation side? Where is this coming from?

I'm not sure it's "important." I only distance myself from the likes
of Nielsen simply because he has never built or designed anything in
his life (that I'm aware of) and seems to go out of his way to make
my job as a designer harder, not easier, by making absurdist
proclamations to executives who want to believe his brings the truth
because they have paid him a lot of money. If he actually took the
time to practice what he preaches with useit.com, or even took more
time to learn what kinds of compromises, solutions and constraints
designers have to work with in order to actually build digital
products, I might think differently. But he doesn't. He's still
basically hurting the design profession more than he helps it, imho,
so he reaps what he sows.

However, outside of that, you have to recognize that designers are
the most exposed people in companies in terms of their work. It's the
one thing people can criticize and toss around opinions about all the
time. So evaluation tends to make our lives even more stressful than
it already is. To the degree that most of us have a really hard time
learning to dealing with it.

Let me put it this way: When I was working InDesign ten years ago
(wow.. its been that long), I was managing the next versions of
Photoshop and Illustrator at the same I was doing the design work on
InDesign. The team was in Seattle, so I had to literally wake up at
5am every Tuesday, drive to San Jose Int'l Airport, catch a 6:30am
flight to Seattle, drive to the office in downtown Seattle and get to
work at around 9:30am. I worked all day, caught the evening 8:30pm
flight back home and got back home around 11pm, only to have to do
more work on stuff I missed that day. I did this every week for
almost nine months straight.

When I was there, we'd often have a 3pm review meeting, where... I
kid you not... there were 9 to 12 people in a room to review the
design work. Product managers, QA, engineers, even tech support
folks. The purpose of the meeting was to do nothing but provide
"feedback" on the design work I was doing. So basically, it was 9 to
12 people all giving me their opinions and I had to sit there and
listen to them. Week after week. Needless to say, it got a little
much for me to deal with, especially when their opinions or ideas
went counter to the longer term design strategy I was implementing to
make the Creative Suite possible.

I don't care if people have opinions or evaluations of my work.
Everyone has an opinion and part of the job being a designer is to
deal with it, but it doesn't make us happy campers when its not done
in a way that supports designers and their work. What I need are
people who can not only give me feedback, but feedback I can actually
do something with, or ideas that can be implemented or meet the same
design constraints I have to use in designing the solution. Feedback
that I can't do anything with comes across as complaints, and
listening to complaints day in and day out can make one about as
likable as the folks who sit at the DMV processing paperwork.

So in order to get feedback from evaluations that a designer can
actually do something with, the person providing the evaluation needs
as much understanding about the problem as the designer. And I don't
mean just the "user" understanding. I mean the business, the
technology, visual, interaction, project deadlines, etc. I've worked
with plenty of researchers and usability folks who get this. The ones
who don't generally don't like me.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

19 Dec 2007 - 6:12pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Dec 19, 2007, at 4:11 PM, Joseph Selbie wrote:

> I appear to have touched a nerve.

Yes. You have. I read what you've written and think your promoting a
design approach that is based on an outdated understanding of what
modern usability practice is.

It comes from two assertions in your responses:

1) Your assertion that the "something magical" component of design is
relegated only to people with the role of designer on the team and
that other people can't contribute equally. (“If a designer isn't
more enlightened about good design than a usability
practitioner, than I would have to say they probably shouldn't be
designers.")

2) Your assertion that somehow the work of some members of the team
is naturally harder than the work of others. ("I just said design was
harder because it has to include the awareness of usability along
with creativity.")

Statements like "It is harder to make a movie than to write a movie
review" implies that you have a very narrow view of what good
usability practice can provide the design process. As someone who
works very hard (and it *is* hard) to provide good information into
the design process, this is akin to having someone describe the
design process as "making things pretty". "Awareness of usability" is
a 1992 notion of usability practice, not a modern one.

It seems only fair, if you're going to preach a position of how
design should be approached, that it should take into account modern
practices.

We can agree to disagree on these points, if this is what you truly
believe. I have no further need to argue here. I think I've made my
points.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

19 Dec 2007 - 6:18pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Dec 19, 2007, at 4:40 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> What I need are
> people who can not only give me feedback, but feedback I can actually
> do something with, or ideas that can be implemented or meet the same
> design constraints I have to use in designing the solution. Feedback
> that I can't do anything with comes across as complaints, and
> listening to complaints day in and day out can make one about as
> likable as the folks who sit at the DMV processing paperwork.
>
> So in order to get feedback from evaluations that a designer can
> actually do something with, the person providing the evaluation needs
> as much understanding about the problem as the designer. And I don't
> mean just the "user" understanding. I mean the business, the
> technology, visual, interaction, project deadlines, etc. I've worked
> with plenty of researchers and usability folks who get this. The ones
> who don't generally don't like me.

Brilliantly put.

This is what I've been trying to say all along. I should just have
you write my responses from now on. :)

Jared

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