Who does design engineering (Was: Thoughts on Alan Cooper's Keynote)

14 Feb 2008 - 12:56pm
6 years ago
9 replies
652 reads
Pankaj Chawla
2008

Hi

I finally get to hear (and see) Alan's keynote video. A lot of it made sense
expect for a few questions that came to mind:

1. If interaction designers understand the business and are supposedly
the post-industrial business facilitators for the programmers to do
their craftsmanship, what role do the business managers play?

2. Alan talked about design engineering and production engineering
along with interaction design. I could understand that interaction
designers do interaction design and programmers do production
engineering. I couldnt figure out who does the design engineeriing.
Also where does the software architect (who designs the interaction
between the pieces of software, the computer-computer interaction) fit
in all this. Is he the design engineering or is he also part of the
production engineering?

3. For the engineering community at large, including the business
managemnet teams that manage the engineering teams, interaction
designers are at best user interface designers who are needed to
design the user interface (more specfically look and feel). So if the
substantial majority of the people involved in the whole process of
software creation consider interaction designers to be a small part of
the total process, how are the interaction designers going to respond
to the call given by Alan to get up and take the control in their hand
from the business managers and tell and give the programmers their
freedom to do their craftsmanship. I am sure business managers are not
going to let go so easiliy as Alan has categorized them as industrial
era artifacts who are no longer needed in the post-industrial era.
Even if they do, the programmers may not be open to the idea because
just like interaction designers design human-computer interaction,
they design computer-computer interaction. Why wont they like to be
equal partners rather than in some way be sub-ordinates to interaction
designers (atleast the closing statement by Alan reinforced that
feeling of subordinating programmers and taking control from business
managers).

--
Cheers
Pankaj
---------------------------------------------
http://13degree.wordpress.com
Do your dreams!

Comments

14 Feb 2008 - 1:52pm
Charlie Kreitzberg
2008

Pankaj:

I think you have pointed out a critical issue for the IxD profession.
If, as you say, "people involved in the whole process of software
creation consider interaction designers to be a small part of the
total process," we will not achieve our potential as a profession.

I have always positioned myself with clients as the person
responsible for the "conceptual design" of the product. I take
input from both the business stakeholders and the technical team and
synthesize their requirements and constraints into a product that I
present to them for review -- typically as a model or design
prototype.

This allows me to play a strategic role in the product development
rather than being a support person as so often happens to technical
writers and business analysts.

At the end of the day, the issue is not about who is subordinate to
whom but who "owns" various aspects of the project. Clearly the
business people own the business strategy and the technical team own
the technical architecture. IMO, the Ix Designer should own the
conceptual design of the product and the elements that users view and
touch.

Best,

Charlie

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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15 Feb 2008 - 5:50am
Pankaj Chawla
2008

Hi Charlie,

On Thu, 14 Feb 2008 10:52:50, Charlie Kreitzberg <charlie at cognetics.com> wrote:
> I have always positioned myself with clients as the person
> responsible for the "conceptual design" of the product. I take
> input from both the business stakeholders and the technical team and
> synthesize their requirements and constraints into a product that I
> present to them for review -- typically as a model or design
> prototype.
>
> This allows me to play a strategic role in the product development
> rather than being a support person as so often happens to technical
> writers and business analysts.
>
> At the end of the day, the issue is not about who is subordinate to
> whom but who "owns" various aspects of the project. Clearly the
> business people own the business strategy and the technical team own
> the technical architecture. IMO, the Ix Designer should own the
> conceptual design of the product and the elements that users view and
> touch.
>

Where does that leave the solution architect. What claim does he have
to conceptual design of the product? Infact in the software houses
that produce highly technical software (say electronic design
software) aimed at businesses and not end consumers, a solutions
architect would be the one who will be conceptualizing and designing
behaviour of the product.

That leads to some after thought questions:
1. Dont the high tech softwares aimed at high tech businesses need
people with deep technical knowledge for conceptualizing the product.
Does an IxD designer with no or cursory domain knowledge be able to
conceptualize a product at all?

2. Will it make sense to equip the solutions architect himself with
the interaction design sense also so that he can create products that
are technically as cutting edge as is required by the businesses and
also have some sense of user happiness?

3. Even if the team in such a space does have an IxD designer, wont
the overall conceptualization still be owned by the solution architect
given the fact that functionality (computer-computer interaction) is
supreme in such scenarios and not human-computer interaction and the
IxD designer will most probably be there for the support role for
doing the look and feel design.

Your views?

Thanks
Pankaj

15 Feb 2008 - 9:37am
Dave Malouf
2005

Pankaj,

I think you are over-generalizing a bit much. First off, an
interactions of any type (computer < > computer and human < > human
and computer < > human) all can be handled by an IxDA at some level.
Usually in the enterprise situation is a mix of all the above that
needs to be facilitated within a single solution.

But because of the large technical constraints on these systems a
solution architect as you put it is definitely a partner here as
well.

To me the key is exactly that. Partnership. Even in consumer
solutions I would want to have a partner system/solution/technical
architect to work with. We own different pieces, but the pieces need
to work in tandem. However, the lead for visioning the total system
is still most closely tied to achieving goals of people and thus
belongs to the IxD/busisness analyst or other similar
human/business/actvity centered roles.

-- dave

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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15 Feb 2008 - 12:30pm
Pankaj Chawla
2008

On Fri, 15 Feb 2008 06:37:43, dave malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
> Pankaj,
>
> I think you are over-generalizing a bit much. First off, an
> interactions of any type (computer < > computer and human < > human
> and computer < > human) all can be handled by an IxDA at some level.

I agree 110% with you but just like each of these interactions came be
done to some level by IxD, they can also be done to the same some
level by non-IxD.
But solution creation needs competencies and I believe Human-Computer
interaction is the core competency of IxDA and Computer-Computer
interaction is the core competency of architects (software/hardware)
and since all digital solutions (or for that matter any solution for
the consumption of humans) have both H-C and C-C interactions designed
into them, I believe both are important and play their own individual
roles and in partnership. Now depending on which interaction is of
more importance, it will also decide who will lay claim to be the
owner of the conceptual design of that product. It would be foolish
for me as an IxD to lay claim to the conceptual design of a product
that is going to be 90% C-C interactions and only 10% H-C
interactions. My concern is with the over-generalization that all
conceptual design belongs to IxD because that really depends on the
needs of a product and a solutions architect can equally lay claim to
being the conceptual design owner.

> But because of the large technical constraints on these systems a
> solution architect as you put it is definitely a partner here as
> well.
>
> To me the key is exactly that. Partnership.

I couldnt agree more. Partnership is the key but if we make business
managers the artifacts of the industrial era not required anymore, and
the engineering teams as only the doers who have to follow what the
IxDers decide is good for the product, we arent exactly talking
partnership. (Please read my comments within the context of Alan's
keynote only as my original post was within that context only).

Thanks
Pankaj

15 Feb 2008 - 1:43pm
Charlie Kreitzberg
2008

Pankaj:

I think your question about the role of solutions architects is a
good one. I am not certain where the term comes from but Microsoft
defines it here:

http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/architect/specialties/default.mspx#solutions

As I read the definition, the solution architect is a person who
coordinates between the development group and the business side. Of
course, Microsoft's definition is biased toward technology skills
"solutions architects must demonstrate their skills as a
technologist and persuade the staff regarding the validity and
approach to the solution. The approach they take to creating
architecture is to gather business requirements, select the
technologies that provide the best solution, and then identify the
products available that will best fit the solution they are
proposing..."

It is also slanted, I think, to large organizations.

What is disturbing about the way they put it is that there is not one
word on the entire page about IxD, UCD, users, UI or anything like
that.

I have worked with people with similar responsibilities in various
organizations and typically I still take the lead in conceptualizing
the product from the user's view.

I think that the issue of ownership really relates to whether we are
talking about the technical model or the user model (which Cooper has
called the "manifest model").

What I think we need to keep pointing out is that there are two
different models which are part of every technical development
project. One model is around the technology solution and one around
the user interactions. These two models are, ultimately, two views
onto the same product but they deal with different constructs.

In the past, the technical model has had primacy. Now the user model
is being seen as increasingly important. It is not a problem for me
to think of owning the user model and someone else owning the
technical model as long as we are aligned and working together.

At the end of the day, though, the user model is the one that
customers see. And in my experience, every compromise to its
integrity for technical ease comes back to haunt you.

So at the end of the day, I think this is less an issue of definition
as to how decision-making will be performed and who will prevail if
there is an inability to resolve a conflict.

Charlie

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=25942

15 Feb 2008 - 2:11pm
Dave Malouf
2005

In the context of Alan's keynote, I totally agree with Alan. ;)

In the context of a more complex conversation, I'm not sure I agree
with your assertions and assumptions.

In the building world an architect is often partnered with a civil
engineer and both are responsible for different aspects of the vision
of the project. The segmentation you are making is concerned more with
ownership than with points of collaboration, or abilities to
contribute.

I also disagree with your assumption about computer | computer
interactions. To me a conversation is a conversation and the IxD is
best at creating conversations between any intelligent entities.
silicon or carbon.

-- dave

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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15 Feb 2008 - 2:25pm
Pankaj Chawla
2008

On Fri, 15 Feb 2008 11:11:16, dave malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:

> I also disagree with your assumption about computer | computer
> interactions. To me a conversation is a conversation and the IxD is
> best at creating conversations between any intelligent entities.
> silicon or carbon.
>

What kind of Computer-Computer interactions are you talking about? For
me Computer-Computer interaction is interaction of software objects,
interaction of application software with the OS across the APIs,
interaction of OS with the hardware drivers wrapping the hardware and
interaction of drivers to the processor and memory and interaction of
processor down to bits and bytes. Are you saying an IxDer will be
better off doing all these interactions because each interaction can
be a conversation. I agree each interaction is a conversation but then
to have a conversation one needs to understand the language also. Will
an IxDer be able to talk the language of the OS and applications on
top of it? Not unless you include the OS API designers to be also
IxDers and if that is true then who isnt an IxDer because everybody
ultimately is designing an interaction at some level??

Thanks
Pankaj

15 Feb 2008 - 2:52pm
dmitryn
2004

Dave/Pankaj,

I think you're both making valid points, and the answer is, as usual,
"it depends".

I would normally tend to side with Pankaj's side of the argument. I
have yet to meet many IxD's who are interested or experienced in
designing a device driver communications protocol or a data
interchange schema. To borrow a page from Stephen Covey, our Circle of
Influence is usually focused on human-technology interactions, though
interactions of the human-human and technology-technology kinds may
well lie within our Circle of Concern.

That being said, as our influence as a profession broadens and the
value of the methods we use is recognized, we may well be asked to
bring our skills to bear on human-technology interactions that
masquerade as technology-technology ones.

Pankaj's example, API design, is a prime example of this. Although an
API superficially documents the way one software module can interact
with another, it can also be seen as a means by which a developer
(human) interacts with the module providing the API (technology) to
achieve his or her goals. As such, it is very much fair game for IxD
practitioners and methods.

Just this morning, in a job interview, I was asked how I would go
about designing an API. I suspect that, in our world of mashups and
small pieces loosely joined, this will soon become a common question
for IxD's.

Dmitry

On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 11:25 AM, Pankaj Chawla <pankaj013 at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, 15 Feb 2008 11:11:16, dave malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
>
> > I also disagree with your assumption about computer | computer
> > interactions. To me a conversation is a conversation and the IxD is
> > best at creating conversations between any intelligent entities.
> > silicon or carbon.
> >
>
> What kind of Computer-Computer interactions are you talking about? For
> me Computer-Computer interaction is interaction of software objects,
> interaction of application software with the OS across the APIs,
> interaction of OS with the hardware drivers wrapping the hardware and
> interaction of drivers to the processor and memory and interaction of
> processor down to bits and bytes. Are you saying an IxDer will be
> better off doing all these interactions because each interaction can
> be a conversation. I agree each interaction is a conversation but then
> to have a conversation one needs to understand the language also. Will
> an IxDer be able to talk the language of the OS and applications on
> top of it? Not unless you include the OS API designers to be also
> IxDers and if that is true then who isnt an IxDer because everybody
> ultimately is designing an interaction at some level??
>
> Thanks
> Pankaj
>
>
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15 Feb 2008 - 3:31pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Eco-system design is the great next area of IxDers to explore. The
iPodiTunes example is the tip of the iceberg.

I wish I could go into more detail, but I'm treading on where the
work I'm doing is right now. But how does my iPod talk to my PC/Mac
is an interaction design problem, not a system engineer problem.

I challenge us all to THINK BIGGER.
computer to computer is more than SaaS.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=25942

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