I've been following the frequent allusions to Google, 37signals, Facebook,
et al (including Jared Spool's presentation) as evidence that UCD is somehow
broken with interest. There's no debating that these products have been
successful, but it is also worth considering that they are the exception,
not the rule. As such, they can't be the basis for guidance
towards repeatable results.
I could be wrong (*no really*!), but it seems to me that the goal of UCD is
not so much to be innovative and groundbreaking but to add some degree of
reliability in terms of actually creating something that meets folks'
needs. I would suggest, FWIW, that innovation is nice and sometimes quite
lucrative, but you can't bank on it. You have a great, innovative idea or
you don't, and UCD won't deeply affect that, but that doesn't make UCD
something that should be tossed out. For the *vast majority* of apps that
are, I hope we all agree, not terribly innovative and yet at least have the
potential to serve the needs for which they were conceived, UCD is about the
most promising approach to building the right thing, the right way. Agile
is a close second for those who don't have the skills/knowledge for UCD.
Can you over invest? Absolutely, but abusus non tollit usum.
[I tend to think that some blend of UCD with Agile is the sweet spot for
As for innovation and the dreamy potential of advancing the industry towards
some fanciful new future, well, most businesses can't bank on that, and even
most who aspire to that will fail regardless of process or lack of process.
I don't think it's wise to base an entire discipline like IxD upon such
aspirations, nor is it wise to toss out process--the point of which is to
provide some repeatable consistency, even if imperfect and not particularly
sexy. By nature, process is not geared towards innovation but rather
towards producing *reliable, repeatable* results, which is what most
businesses need and want, and any sustainable profession should have the
concerns, needs, and wants of business stakeholders close to heart over and
above laudable, if unrealistic, dreams about the future.