Pragmatic language theory and usability theory... same same or what?

10 Aug 2009 - 4:38am
7 years ago
3 replies
1962 reads
Soren Weimann

Being a product of the school of pragmatic language theory it have
always puzzled me that (some) usability folk are very eager to
distinguish their field from language and semiotic theory.

Honstly I don't see a big difference. By removing themselves from
language theory, they are cuting themselves of from several hundreds
of years of research on which they could be building their branch of
communicative theory.

- it's all about communicating
- it's all about receivers
- it's all about context

What am I missing?


10 Aug 2009 - 9:12am
Paul Bryan

I agree with you about the importance of language in user experience
design. An understanding of semiotics and related aspects of
information theory support the creation of interactive access points
that most closely mirror the intentions of the largest or more most
valuable segments of users of a given web site.

Some aspects of user experience design that are better supported by
sciences such as ethnography, market research, web analytics, etc.,
include such things as task modeling, competitive differentiation,
and perceived utility. If the words are optimal, but we have users
step through processes that don't mirror the mental image they have
of those processes, or are not intuitive in terms of a mental leap to
a new process, then in studies we've conducted they clearly get
confused and abandon the experience.

Also, we can create a system with optimum words and images, but if
users don't perceive that they will benefit more from using this
system than other available options (like calling HR or stopping at
the mall after work), then they will not even start the experience.

For this reason, user experience designers need to rely on many
branches of social science, including semiotics, to achieve optimal,
measurable results.

Paul Bryan
Principal Consultant, Usography Corporation

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10 Aug 2009 - 8:06am
Kopano Ramaphoi

Could anybody explain the relationship between Human Computer
Interaction and Interacton Design?

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10 Aug 2009 - 1:40pm
Soren Weimann

What's going on? I may be dumb, but the best usability test subjects
are. Is the interaction design of this forum an experiment?
I posted a reply to William. It's gone. I received a reply in my
mail-box I cannot see in the thread???
Sorry, it just blows my mind to see something like that in a forum
like this!

As I hope you have already guessed, I'm trying to provoke a
No doubt that these two disciplines are each relevant in their own
right. But they have much more in common than usability people (I use
the term very broadly) tend to acknoledge. And the discipline of
usability being so young, it would bebenefit greatly by looking more
closely at some of the language/communication theory classics. No
reason to invent the wheel all over again.

Paul, Just like usability (again very broadly defined) language
theory have been assisted and developed by all kinds of disciplines
dealing with the human being (mind and body).

You will of course need to fit it to your branch of communication,
but I can recommend Grice's co-operative principle and four maxims
to introduce some very basic, but important understandings of
pragmatics, and Sperber and Wilson "Relevance" (the later got me an
"A" in the usability exam at Copenhagen IT University - my only
formal usability credentials).

- Grice, Paul H 1967: Logic and Conversation. i Cole & Morgan 1975
- Sperber, Dan & Wilson, Deidre 2. udgave 1995: Relevance -
Communication and Cognition. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford

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