What are your principles for making digital products/services

15 Sep 2009 - 12:46am
4 years ago
38 replies
1596 reads
Thomas Petersen
2008

I would like to hear what principles different people use when making
digital products.

Here is a the most fundamental of mine:

1. Start simple, stay simple.

It cannot be said enough. Less is more – much more, and there is a
very good explanation that it pays to understand.

If you do less you can measure more. If you can measure more you can
better experiment with what works.

Most products are simple, based on simple insights. Make sure that
you stay true to that idea as you develop until you know you have
done everything possible to test it. Don’t add new features and think
that it will help, it wont, not yet. When Zyb was designed in 2005
they made sure to make their product as focused around the
administration of mobile data. They didn’t change until they had
tried out different possibilities to see what worked.

http://000fff.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/021.png

2. Build to integrate.

Think about whether your product could be a good extension to already
existing products/services. That way you are tapping into the already
existing digital ecosystems out there. This will make it easier for
people to adopt your product and provide you with a trust factor that
you have a very hard time obtaining on your own.

3. Don’t confuse change with improvement.

One of the biggest challenges when record artist produce their albums
is the fatigue from listening to the same riffs over and over. It’s
one of the reasons why many of them have a problem listening to the
album when it’s finally out. Startups as intense and time consuming
as they often are can be similar. It’s very tempting after a couple
of months of looking at the same interface over and over to want to
change it. Don’t submit to this whether you are a manager, designer,
& developer. stay on target.

You are making this for your customers not yourself and they, unlike
you haven’t seen anything before.

4. Don’t do everything that is possible only what is necessary.

Constrain yourself. A good product has limitations. It doesn’t just
succumb to every temptation that comes along. Focus on what makes the
product the product and only add features if you get clear signs that
it is needed. Most users will have to learn your product anyway so
don’t try to impress them with features that might be cool but that
is simply not elemental to your success. I-Tunes have many flaws,
Basecamp from 37Signals leaves a lot to be asked for, but when all is
said and done, their products are rock solid and there is no feature
like the solid feature.

5. Don’t do usability tests or focus groups.

I could write a whole book about why usability test and focus groups
are bad for you and your customers but I wont. Instead I will offer
the following few observations.

Most products are fairly simple and most of the testing can be done
in house.

Most usability tests are not even close to reflect any realistic
version of the environment your product will end up in.

The mistakes that you might find are not going to be those that will
determine the success of your company.

Many usability tests consist of max 10 people which is simply not a
significantly high enough number to make any decisions based on. The
single best solution is to start simple simple and make sure you can
measure how people use your product. If people are having problems
you will find out soon enough and you will find out where it
matters.

6. Think how, not what

The feature war is over, actually it’s been for a long time. So much
can be gained from thinking about how to make the features that you
have stand out and ad value. If you can solve it on the back-end then
do it. When I started working on the Nasdaq Market Replay application
I soon realized (as most people probably did) that market data is
kind of like a sound sample. Once that insight was made we approached
stock info like we would music. This meant that you could trim your
stock sample and replay it like a piece of music.

http://www.adobe.com/resources/business/rich_internet_apps/?ogn=EN_US-gntray_sol_ria#nasdaq

Comments

15 Sep 2009 - 7:17am
Thomas Petersen
2008

What established knowledge?

I am not against testing, just against certain types of testing. I
can expand on why.

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15 Sep 2009 - 7:13pm
Jeff Wright
2009

I agree with most of what you've said, but I wholeheartedly disagree
with #5. Usability testing is critical for those who are dealing with
large-scale web projects.

Everything gets "tested" at some point, even if it's at the point
it's released to the public. But at THAT point, you've invested a
large amount of time, money, and credibility. You should ascertain
your design's strengths and weaknesses BEFORE that investment takes
place. Even if you're only getting a few opinions in feedback, well
structured, repeated user testing will ultimately give you a window
into larger the whole of your user base. And, though it's not
perfect, that window should give you enough information to invest
your resources wisely, and mitigate the risks.

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15 Sep 2009 - 8:03pm
DPR67
2009

Thomas,

I have to make a comment about point #5. In my experience, it's
often best to take an iterative approach to testing. Many times I
have found myself in the cycle of leaving a particular nagging issue
because the design team believes it's ok to leave it until the end.
Well, 9 times out of 10, this little nag that was so innocent in the
dev cycle can be a real time presser towards the end of development.

That's my two cents....

David

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16 Sep 2009 - 4:08am
Thomas Petersen
2008

I am not against testing. I am against involving users in the middle
of a design process.

1. The feedback solves problems in the wireframe/prototype face,
it's self referentical there is no real transcendence into the
design of the actual finished product.

2. 99% of what we do is repetition of what we have done before. I can
understand involving the user if you are doing something truly new
(like a new mouse or a new type of keyboard) but most of the times
your experience should be enough.

3. It's much more useful to actually test after the product have
launched. Most often this get ignored. Instead of spending money on
something that leads to 1. then I would always suggest to my clients
they should figure out what the user needs in the beginning, then
design, then test to see actual usage. Testing in the middle give you
a false sense of the usability of the project. And it's my claim that
the reason why UCD have so much weight today is because there are a
lot of academics who don't know how to actually design (i.e. making
a decision) so they need to take it into a process where they use
user input to make decisions with. (yes it's an overgeneralization
since there are obvious great academic UX'ers out there, but the
rule of thumb is, if they don't know how to sit down and actually
co-produce themselves they are not worth whatever money you spend on
them.

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16 Sep 2009 - 7:23am
DPR67
2009

Thomas,

I have to agree with your point #3. It is very useful to continue
testing after the launch of a product. Very often, you can find
problems and or enhancements prior to real world feedback reaching
your desk. I agree with this.

Just to reiterate, I believe early testing is essential on garnishing
opinions of interface acceptance and appeal. I am speaking primarily
of software here. There have been times in my career where what
seems to be an incidental change made all the difference in user
perception. It's nice to get this feedback early on to build the
product to the standard of wide acceptance if possible.

The process of repetitive testing, whereby the tester is doing the
same tests each day, is in my opinion not that useful. In my
experience this can achieve little to no positive result. What
occurs is the dev team gets unnecessary reports that clog up the
development cycle.

Kind regards

David Roach
david at bbiggapps.com

DigiMagic
"Experience The Unknown"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3R-tVGeO11s

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16 Sep 2009 - 10:01am
Thomas Petersen
2008

"The process of repetitive testing, whereby the tester is doing the
same tests each day, is in my opinion not that useful. In my
experience this can achieve little to no positive result. What occurs
is the dev team gets unnecessary reports that clog up the development
cycle."

It's not the same tests every day. It's more of an agile approach
where you make sure your solution first of all is solid and launch,
then test.

If you have proper visual designers with UX background or UX
designers who actually know their way round in the various tools that
is used by designers, you really don't need much more.

I have yet to see a project using UCD approaches that actually gave
any specifically good results, where as when we didn't use it our
solutions where much better and needed much less change afterwards.
and that is both for large scale projects and small scale projecst.
That is at least my experience.

I have yet to see any valuable output coming out of a usability test
in those 99% of the projects that are not really trying to change any
new ground.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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16 Sep 2009 - 12:55pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 16, 2009, at 2:08 AM, Thomas Petersen wrote:

> And it's my claim that
> the reason why UCD have so much weight today is because there are a
> lot of academics who don't know how to actually design (i.e. making
> a decision) so they need to take it into a process where they use
> user input to make decisions with. (yes it's an overgeneralization
> since there are obvious great academic UX'ers out there, but the
> rule of thumb is, if they don't know how to sit down and actually
> co-produce themselves they are not worth whatever money you spend on
> them.

Interesting.

I wonder how much you charge for your work.

It would be interesting to compare value here.

Jared

16 Sep 2009 - 1:17pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 14, 2009, at 1:46 PM, Thomas Petersen wrote:

> I could write a whole book about why usability test and focus groups
> are bad for you and your customers but I wont.

Wow. Someone has been doubling up on their arrogance pills today,
haven't they?

16 Sep 2009 - 10:12pm
Gilberto Medrano
2008

@Jared: you mentioned "value" and "arrogance", and yet I don't find your
last 2 entries as adding much value or being less arrogant. How much Thomas
charges for his work shouldn't be a criteria to weigh the value of his
ideas, nor is it your business or mine.

What was your contribution in those two entries? Somebody has a different
opinion than yours, and that is fine, deal with it like a professional,
share your thoughts if you have the time and are willing, and avoid
pointless sarcasm. If you don't have anything better to say, don't say
anything at all and save us the time. It's been a fair, constructive
discussion so far. Let's allow the flow and exchange of ideas instead of
blocking it with our own egos.

Gilberto

On Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 11:17 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
> On Sep 14, 2009, at 1:46 PM, Thomas Petersen wrote:
>
> I could write a whole book about why usability test and focus groups
>> are bad for you and your customers but I wont.
>>
>
> Wow. Someone has been doubling up on their arrogance pills today, haven't
> they?
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
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>

16 Sep 2009 - 10:13pm
Gilberto Medrano
2008

Thomas: I think you are bringing up some interesting points. I don't agree
fully with all of them, but they are thoughtful. Being the design process a
subjective one, I consider Usability Testing a good way to evaluate the
design with people that will be using the product soon. I am pragmatic
about it though, and follow the RITE approach on functional prototypes
and/or iteratively test the product itself as it is being built (once enough
functionality is in place to test complete taskflows).

The design process never ends since there is always room to improve the
experience, so yes, we should keep embracing feedback after the app is in
Production, but to wait all the way till the product is released into
Production and leverage solely on that can be an expensive decision.

Regarding UCD, I partially agree with you in the sense that there is an
irrational focus on "analysis" and modeling, and some people seem incapable
to do it the right way or to produce good designs despite those efforts.
Even some aspects of Research can be broken down and executed iteratively.
But that is a topic for another discussion I guess.

Gilberto

On Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 1:01 AM, Thomas Petersen <tp at hellobrand.com> wrote:

> "The process of repetitive testing, whereby the tester is doing the
> same tests each day, is in my opinion not that useful. In my
> experience this can achieve little to no positive result. What occurs
> is the dev team gets unnecessary reports that clog up the development
> cycle."
>
> It's not the same tests every day. It's more of an agile approach
> where you make sure your solution first of all is solid and launch,
> then test.
>
> If you have proper visual designers with UX background or UX
> designers who actually know their way round in the various tools that
> is used by designers, you really don't need much more.
>
> I have yet to see a project using UCD approaches that actually gave
> any specifically good results, where as when we didn't use it our
> solutions where much better and needed much less change afterwards.
> and that is both for large scale projects and small scale projecst.
> That is at least my experience.
>
> I have yet to see any valuable output coming out of a usability test
> in those 99% of the projects that are not really trying to change any
> new ground.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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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>

16 Sep 2009 - 10:36pm
Charlie Kreitzberg
2008

Gilberto:

I know I should keep my mouth shut here but your comments are not fair and
(at least this late at night) rather infuriating.

If you cannot see the arrogance and ignorance of a comments like

"I could write a whole book about why usability test and focus groups are
bad for you and your customers but I wont"

or

"the reason why UCD have so much weight today is because there are a lot of
academics who don't know how to actually design (i.e. making a > decision)
so they need to take it into a process"

then there is no point in wasting time in trying to convince you.

I will let Jared defend himself if he chooses to but IMO for you to suggest
that he is unprofessional or that his contributions are without value is
ridiculous.

If these types of comments are your idea of a 'constructive discussion with
a flow and exchange of ideas' you are operating in a reality that is far
from the one I experience.

There are basic standards of critical thinking that professionals should
adhere to. The comments that Jared responded to are far below that level.

Don't bother replying to me because I am out of this conversation.

Best,

Charlie

============================
Charles B. Kreitzberg, Ph.D.
CEO, Cognetics Corporation
============================

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Gilberto Medrano
Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:13 PM
To: Jared Spool
Cc: Thomas Petersen; discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] What are your principles for making digital
products/services

@Jared: you mentioned "value" and "arrogance", and yet I don't find your
last 2 entries as adding much value or being less arrogant. How much Thomas
charges for his work shouldn't be a criteria to weigh the value of his
ideas, nor is it your business or mine.

What was your contribution in those two entries? Somebody has a different
opinion than yours, and that is fine, deal with it like a professional,
share your thoughts if you have the time and are willing, and avoid
pointless sarcasm. If you don't have anything better to say, don't say
anything at all and save us the time. It's been a fair, constructive
discussion so far. Let's allow the flow and exchange of ideas instead of
blocking it with our own egos.

Gilberto

On Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 11:17 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
> On Sep 14, 2009, at 1:46 PM, Thomas Petersen wrote:
>
> I could write a whole book about why usability test and focus groups
>> are bad for you and your customers but I wont.
>>
>
> Wow. Someone has been doubling up on their arrogance pills today, haven't
> they?
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>
________________________________________________________________
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 Sep 2009 - 12:04am
Manish Govind P...
2006

I dont see how moving out from a discussion after stating your opinion helps anyone.

I reckon, there are better ways to deal with perceived arrogance and ignorance than sarcasm. I, for one, certainly expect more on the list than one line retorts. If there was something incorrect about what was said, it would've been better to give an explanation on your point of view. It helps all of us on the group to hear matured/different views on the topic or why bother replying at all?

Regards
Manish Govind Pillewar

--- On Thu, 17/9/09, Charles B. Kreitzberg <charlie at cognetics.com> wrote:

From: Charles B. Kreitzberg <charlie at cognetics.com>
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] What are your principles for making digital products/services
To: "'Gilberto Medrano'" <gmedrano at gmail.com>, "'Jared Spool'" <jspool at uie.com>
Cc: "'Thomas Petersen'" <tp at hellobrand.com>, discuss at ixda.org
Date: Thursday, 17 September, 2009, 4:36 AM

Gilberto:

I know I should keep my mouth shut here but your comments are not fair and
(at least this late at night) rather infuriating.

If you cannot see the arrogance and ignorance of a comments like

"I could write a whole book about why usability test and focus groups are
bad for
you and your customers but I wont"

or

"the reason why UCD have so much weight today is because there are a lot of
academics who don't know how to actually design (i.e. making a > decision)
so they need to take it into a process"

then there is no point in wasting time in trying to convince you.

---snipped--

17 Sep 2009 - 1:20am
Thomas Petersen
2008

I am not trying to be arrogant if that is how it comes across then I
am sorry.

I am sure most people here could write a whole book (and some
probably have) about why usability testing is good. So why is it so
bad that I can write one about what is bad?

If it works for you then great.

I have done a lot of UCD my myself and I just realized that what is
being tested is not something that have transcendence into the actual
design of the product/service in any way that it is valuable for the
customer.

Furthermore I have observed that those most avid defenders of UCD are
people with an academic background and not a design background.

Yes I am generalizing of course that is not always the case, but
there is something there that I think should be addressed. When
people defend the UCD process.

But this was not really about my points I also wanted other people to
give their principles.

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17 Sep 2009 - 1:47am
Sharon Greenfield5
2008

Uh...those are one and the same. For most people who are fully
experienced.

On Sep 16, 2009, at 11:20 PM, Thomas Petersen wrote:

> Furthermore I have observed that those most avid defenders of UCD are
> people with an academic background and not a design background

17 Sep 2009 - 1:54am
Thomas Petersen
2008

When I am talking about designers I am those who do the pixel work to.

Are you saying that most people doing UCD are both visual designers
and Interaction Designers?

That is not my experience. I wonder what the statistics would be here
on IxDA

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17 Sep 2009 - 3:59am
Nick de Voil
2009

Thomas, I think you are basing your assessment of UCD on a version of
the process which involves users far too late, i.e. when the product
is already basically designed. Your solution to this is to involve
them even later, i.e. after the product is built. Why not involve
users during the early design stages, and the later ones too?

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17 Sep 2009 - 7:07am
Thomas Petersen
2008

Well it all of course depends on what type of project you are doing.

There are 4 main types of projects as far as I am concerned.

1. Redesigning an existing platform

2. Designing a new platform but something that there already exist
best practice and an audience for (i.e. a competitor to Flickr)

3. Designing something with no established best practice (i.e.
something new and unique, such as a keyboard controlled by your pinky
or a platform or an interface for a car that drives on electricity ala
Better Place.

4. Designing something with established practice but a new type of
audience (i.e. a platform for connecting refugees)

Normally your project falls into one of these 4 categories with
category 3. Being the very rare occasion.

My proposal normally is to get the user involved in the beginning to
figure out "what kind of tasks are the user trying to solve"

Not what do they want, how do the user want it to look like, what
kind of ideas do the user have.

Of course there are sometimes the possibility to find some gems from
users inputs, but that is hardly gems that will make the investment
worth while.

If their gem is so important it's a showstopper to the success of
whatever you are doing I would say that you got a whole different
type of problem.

It's like digging for gold but only finding plastic pearls.

No what you want is to get an understand about some of the problems
the user have on a more holistic level.

Cause that will help you inform your solution and not the actual
design decisions.

This in return makes sure that you have taken users into account i.e.
you are actually looking at what problems they have and NOT whether
they think you solved their problems, which is the most used process
for UCD from what I have gathered throughout the years.

Only the third type really warrants continuous user involvement IMHO,
but because you are really testing something different which is the
learning curve and not the actual solution.

I say this because I believe that in most cases, 99% of the time you
can't introduce something new without some sort of learning curve.

The real trick is to figure out whether this learning curve is worth
it or not. I.e. are you helping the users solve something they
couldn't solve any other way and is the time it will take for them
to solve it worth it.

But this will relate back to whether you are helping the user solves
tasks they are trying to accomplish.

I then propose that you do some in/house testing for stability of
your solution and to see whether your solution do as you intend it to
do. Again this goes back to my "how" not "what" principle.

Even slight changes in feedback from rollovers, transitions
placement, colors etc. can have huge impact. This impact is big
because that is where the solution comes alive really. That is where
people relate to it, that is what they might (if you are lucky)
create an emotional bond with.

They like to use your interface, not because how it looks, not
because of your design patterns, not because it\s coded in ruby, not
because it has a carrousell but because all these things play together
to create the experience.

How can anyone be so bold to claim that they test the experience by
making usability tests or focus groups is beyond my imagination. I
never understood it and probably never will. To me the advocate for
the users are those who actually look at the problems and tasks they
want to solve and design solutions for it, not those who claim to be
advocates beacause they value user input over a developer or
mangement.

By listening to what customers really want the middle section is not
necessary and you can involve the users where it really matters which
is in the launch of the product. Where all the excuses are gone, where
users don't have to imagine the real data, but where the data is
real, where everything they see is a companies attempt to help them
solve their problems.

Not solve the problems that testing in the middle of the process
creates for proper feedback.

That's just my five cent

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17 Sep 2009 - 7:12am
Thomas Petersen
2008

"By listening to what customers really want" should have been "By
listening to what customers really need"

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17 Sep 2009 - 8:56am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 16, 2009, at 8:12 PM, Gilberto Medrano wrote:

> @Jared: you mentioned "value" and "arrogance", and yet I don't find
> your last 2 entries as adding much value or being less arrogant.
> How much Thomas charges for his work shouldn't be a criteria to
> weigh the value of his ideas, nor is it your business or mine.
>
> What was your contribution in those two entries?

Hi Gilberto,

It's a good question. I guess my attempts at humor didn't work so
well. I was hoping to point out that statements like

> "the reason why UCD have so much weight today is because there are a
> lot of academics who don't know how to actually design (i.e. making
> a decision) so they need to take it into a process where they use
> user input to make decisions with. (yes it's an overgeneralization
> since there are obvious great academic UX'ers out there, but the
> rule of thumb is, if they don't know how to sit down and actually co-
> produce themselves they are not worth whatever money you spend on
> them."

in my opinion, are blatant, uninformed statements that show the
inexperience of the author while simultaneously offending many of us
who work hard to contribute to making better designs. I don't know
whose "rule of thumb" the author was speaking of, but I found it
pretty insulting. Since he talked about my value (not being worth
whatever money you spend on me), I was curious as to what he charged
to find out whether he was worth it.

If someone doesn't want to use a technique or method, so be it. I have
no problem with that. You just say, "I tried X and it didn't work for
me." But to then declare that nobody should do it is just plain
ignorance, in my view.

However, to claim that an entire group of hard working individuals
within our community "are not worth whatever money you spend on them"
is unfair, irresponsible, and disrespectful. Before one makes gross
generalizations like this in a public forum, they'd better find out
who their audience are, don't you think?

> It's been a fair, constructive discussion so far.

No, it really hasn't. It's been one person stating his opinions as if
they were fact. He's ignored much of the actual work and research
that's been done in the past 20 years that conclusively demonstrates
the benefits and contribution of usability testing. And he makes
recommendations to the community at large based on this personal
viewpoint. To me, that's arrogance.

You're probably right. Maybe I should've avoided the attempt at a
humorous, soft-handed touch and just informed the author that he was
being an asshole by making these statements. Do you think that would
have worked better?

Jared

17 Sep 2009 - 10:24am
fritzism
2009

Hear, hear Jared. Very well put. The post to me almost seemed like it
was made to raise ire or to purposefully be controversial for the
sake of being so. This is why (with real work to tend to) IMHO it
warranted no real response as it seemed discourse was never the true
goal of the author and his mind was quite made up.

Thanks for taking the time to write up what I think many of us felt
after reading the initial post. - Fritz

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640

17 Sep 2009 - 10:54am
Dave Malouf
2005

While I agree w/ Jared's assessment of point 5 and Fritz as well, I
do caution against throwing the baby out w/ the bat water.

The initial post was not so much, here's mine, fuck off, if don't
do it, but rather. here are my principles, what are yours and why are
they valuable to you based on your experience. There were 6 points
mentioned by Thomas and while #5 was a tad over stated, there is
definitely merit to questioning a) do you have articulated and used
principles that you evaluate your designs against? b) if so what are
they? c) if not, shouldn't you? and I'll throw in d) shouldn't
principles be flexible to the context of their use?

so I'd like to focus back on principles here by stating mine:

Holism over centrism - need to consider all aspects of the design

Context over theory - tools are great, theories are wonderful, use as
appropriate to the context

Clarity over simplicity - simple is as simple does. Be clear is
always required, simplicity is not always the goal, but simplicity
CAN aid in clarity

Inclusion over exclusion - include stakeholders as is appropriate in
the context of design

Multidisciplinary over silos - no 1 design discipline is gospel

Visualization over narration - show me, don't tell me

Emotion over logic - this one should be more balanced, but to keep my
structure, I believe that emotional engagement is more important than
functional logic.

Aesthetics over usability - Beauty is more powerful than
functionalism

Business over design - if it can't be sustained in "the market"
then what's the point? market is being used generally here, not just
commercial market, but also for attention or just organizational
utility.

When I say "over" it doesn't mean disregard, it means, through
consideration of both, I lean towards 1 in my decision making as
there will always be points that put them in irreconcilable
contention.

Enjoy! use or throw out, or re-assemble as you feel fit!

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640

18 Sep 2009 - 1:21am
Thomas Petersen
2008

Jarod

I am sorry you feel it is somehow disrespecting the work you and
others have been doing.

I don't think I am, it is not an all out attack on UCD proponents
but a critique of the practice of UCD in general.

You say that is has been proven that UCD delivers ROI but measured up
against what?

I for one am not talking about not involving users, I am just talking
about involving them differently than the normal UCD process do, for
reasons I have already outlined and that you are welcome to critique
if you find them to be wrong.

No one is talking about not having the user involved in the process
but simply that the user in the UCD in general is involved the wrong
places.

Places that don't IMO actually give any proper indications of what
is is testing for the final product because there is a disconnect
between the propotype (often paper and static) and the actual final
product.

Furthermore I do find it interesting and disturbing that most people
who are proponents of the UCD process are academic people who don't
actually do the final design themselves inhouse which no matter how
you turn it around obviously creates a problematic favoring of the
UCD process rather than a more holistic understanding (not just view)
of the design process in general.

UCD to often becomes a consultancy position rather than an actual
position of creation.

If you fell that is somehow disrespecting you then I am sorry, but
that is how I have come to see the UCD business with my only 14 years
of experience in this field.

But if the model is broken which I feel it is, I feel it's also my
obligation to raise the issues as I see them. If you or others can
show that it's not like what I am describing then by all means argue
for why I am wrong instead of fuming and questioning my experience in
the field.

Just because I don't write a thousand blogposts and have podcasts
does not mean I don't know what I am talking about. I just spend my
time on different things than you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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18 Sep 2009 - 11:07am
Chris Heckler
2007

I like this thread because it made me realize I do not have an
articulated list of principles that I can point to. While I'm
working on that here's a couple of thoughts:

Give a crap and remember that nice people will have to use your
design to accomplish something--don't ruin their day and remember
that they will not necessarily think like you the designer

Easy is more important than and does not always equate to "just one
click"

Fun, delightful and beautiful are business worthy goals

Edit--words, designs, process, graphics

Get outside feedback--other designers for critique, stakeholders for
business goals, subject matter experts for knowledge, users for
verification

Use the right tool (software, technology, process,approach) to solve
the design problem; Don't be limited to one solution for all problems

Sometimes your project success will be determined by whether or not
you choose to be the bigger person and make the effort to bridge the
conceptual/ideological gap--not your awesome design/coding

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640

18 Sep 2009 - 11:34pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 17, 2009, at 11:21 PM, Thomas Petersen wrote:

> Just because I don't write a thousand blogposts and have podcasts
> does not mean I don't know what I am talking about.

You're right.

That's not that reason that you don't know what you're talking about.

We can agree to disagree on this topic.

Jared

18 Sep 2009 - 11:41pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

Dave,

I like your list a lot, but I do wonder:

> Aesthetics over usability - Beauty is more powerful than
> functionalism

Why is this a dichotomy? Isn't it possible to have aesthetics and
usability? Beauty and functionalism? Why are you posing them as
mutually exclusive?

Jared

19 Sep 2009 - 2:02am
Gilberto Medrano
2008

Dave,

Most of your list truly represent the way I approach design. Coming from an
Architecture background, terms like "holistic", "contextual", "inclusive",
"viable" represent key values in an architect's endeavor. The same apply to
Industrial design and the like.

I wonder what is your perspective about aesthetics. Here is mine: I think
software provides the ideal, flexible canvas in which we can resolve the
classic "form vs function" dilemma. Aesthetics can be a functional asset
just as the mechanisms where it lays. It can be used to ensure and
reinforce usability decisions. Aesthetics, through its semiotic vehicles
(connotation and denotation) triggers cognitive functions in our minds
(mental models).

A "beautiful" interface that does not work becomes "ugly". I am with you
100% on giving aesthetics the relevance that some "usability gurus" try to
diminish. I just think that aesthetics can be a vehicle of usability.

Gilberto

On Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 1:54 AM, dave malouf <dave.ixd at gmail.com> wrote:

> While I agree w/ Jared's assessment of point 5 and Fritz as well, I
> do caution against throwing the baby out w/ the bat water.
>
> The initial post was not so much, here's mine, fuck off, if don't
> do it, but rather. here are my principles, what are yours and why are
> they valuable to you based on your experience. There were 6 points
> mentioned by Thomas and while #5 was a tad over stated, there is
> definitely merit to questioning a) do you have articulated and used
> principles that you evaluate your designs against? b) if so what are
> they? c) if not, shouldn't you? and I'll throw in d) shouldn't
> principles be flexible to the context of their use?
>
> so I'd like to focus back on principles here by stating mine:
>
> Holism over centrism - need to consider all aspects of the design
>
> Context over theory - tools are great, theories are wonderful, use as
> appropriate to the context
>
> Clarity over simplicity - simple is as simple does. Be clear is
> always required, simplicity is not always the goal, but simplicity
> CAN aid in clarity
>
> Inclusion over exclusion - include stakeholders as is appropriate in
> the context of design
>
> Multidisciplinary over silos - no 1 design discipline is gospel
>
> Visualization over narration - show me, don't tell me
>
> Emotion over logic - this one should be more balanced, but to keep my
> structure, I believe that emotional engagement is more important than
> functional logic.
>
> Aesthetics over usability - Beauty is more powerful than
> functionalism
>
> Business over design - if it can't be sustained in "the market"
> then what's the point? market is being used generally here, not just
> commercial market, but also for attention or just organizational
> utility.
>
> When I say "over" it doesn't mean disregard, it means, through
> consideration of both, I lean towards 1 in my decision making as
> there will always be points that put them in irreconcilable
> contention.
>
> Enjoy! use or throw out, or re-assemble as you feel fit!
>
> -- dave
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

19 Sep 2009 - 2:05am
Gilberto Medrano
2008

I would add:

- Pragmatism over Idealization: design is not liberal arts, we have a
commitment to craft products that solve people problems within a finite set
of resources and plenty of constrains. At certain point during our design
process, efforts should be taken to understand the medium in which our
concepts will find their shape to and discover business-viable solutions to
achieve user's goals.

Gilberto

On Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 12:02 AM, Gilberto Medrano <gmedrano at gmail.com>wrote:

> Dave,
>
> Most of your list truly represent the way I approach design. Coming from
> an Architecture background, terms like "holistic", "contextual",
> "inclusive", "viable" represent key values in an architect's endeavor. The
> same apply to Industrial design and the like.
>
> I wonder what is your perspective about aesthetics. Here is mine: I think
> software provides the ideal, flexible canvas in which we can resolve the
> classic "form vs function" dilemma. Aesthetics can be a functional asset
> just as the mechanisms where it lays. It can be used to ensure and
> reinforce usability decisions. Aesthetics, through its semiotic vehicles
> (connotation and denotation) triggers cognitive functions in our minds
> (mental models).
>
> A "beautiful" interface that does not work becomes "ugly". I am with you
> 100% on giving aesthetics the relevance that some "usability gurus" try to
> diminish. I just think that aesthetics can be a vehicle of usability.
>
> Gilberto
>
>
>
>
> On Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 1:54 AM, dave malouf <dave.ixd at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> While I agree w/ Jared's assessment of point 5 and Fritz as well, I
>> do caution against throwing the baby out w/ the bat water.
>>
>> The initial post was not so much, here's mine, fuck off, if don't
>> do it, but rather. here are my principles, what are yours and why are
>> they valuable to you based on your experience. There were 6 points
>> mentioned by Thomas and while #5 was a tad over stated, there is
>> definitely merit to questioning a) do you have articulated and used
>> principles that you evaluate your designs against? b) if so what are
>> they? c) if not, shouldn't you? and I'll throw in d) shouldn't
>> principles be flexible to the context of their use?
>>
>> so I'd like to focus back on principles here by stating mine:
>>
>> Holism over centrism - need to consider all aspects of the design
>>
>> Context over theory - tools are great, theories are wonderful, use as
>> appropriate to the context
>>
>> Clarity over simplicity - simple is as simple does. Be clear is
>> always required, simplicity is not always the goal, but simplicity
>> CAN aid in clarity
>>
>> Inclusion over exclusion - include stakeholders as is appropriate in
>> the context of design
>>
>> Multidisciplinary over silos - no 1 design discipline is gospel
>>
>> Visualization over narration - show me, don't tell me
>>
>> Emotion over logic - this one should be more balanced, but to keep my
>> structure, I believe that emotional engagement is more important than
>> functional logic.
>>
>> Aesthetics over usability - Beauty is more powerful than
>> functionalism
>>
>> Business over design - if it can't be sustained in "the market"
>> then what's the point? market is being used generally here, not just
>> commercial market, but also for attention or just organizational
>> utility.
>>
>> When I say "over" it doesn't mean disregard, it means, through
>> consideration of both, I lean towards 1 in my decision making as
>> there will always be points that put them in irreconcilable
>> contention.
>>
>> Enjoy! use or throw out, or re-assemble as you feel fit!
>>
>> -- dave
>>
>>
>> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
>> Posted from the new ixda.org
>> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640
>>
>>
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> 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
>>
>
>

19 Sep 2009 - 9:29am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 19, 2009, at 12:02 AM, Gilberto Medrano wrote:

> A "beautiful" interface that does not work becomes "ugly". I am
> with you
> 100% on giving aesthetics the relevance that some "usability gurus"
> try to
> diminish. I just think that aesthetics can be a vehicle of usability.

Good thing I'm not a "usability guru" because I agree with you 100%.
Nicely said.

Jared

19 Sep 2009 - 11:00am
Dave Malouf
2005

Gilberto, I totally agree w/ your take that aesthetics can lead to
usability and even the opposite, that usability can lead to
aesthetics.

Jared, it isn't absolutely a dichotomy and maybe, I'm using the
wrong terms.

While I agree that a beautiful interface that doesn't work (in some
ways) may become ugly, but I also agree with Norman's assertion that
something emotionally appealing can basically make up for its lack of
usability. Beauty and the positive emotional impact associated with
that creates a pain threshold that I'm not sure I have observed the
other way around. I have really seen a "usable" product really make
me feel more engaged.

For clarification and for the purposes of my post and I'd like to
suggest for this thread I am speaking usability quite narrowly
possibly. I'm considering usability the quality of a product related
to the efficiency and rate of success towards completing a desired
activity. Basically, whether a user can or with what level of
consistency and efficiency they can complete an intended task in the
product design.

So again, I do think that I would if the 2 areas became in contention
and I have many experiences where they have, learn towards the
aesthetic over the purely usable b/c aesthetics can be used to engage
in ways that pure usability does not seem to in my experience.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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19 Sep 2009 - 5:11pm
Gilberto Medrano
2008

Good point! Aesthetics is really powerful and its effect on people's
emotions is instantaneous. Therefore the need to use it as an integral
component of the design (IMHO).

I would like to argue that there is an important emotional charge coming
from usability too. Perhaps in a much slower fashion but as equally
critical. And that a potential mismatch of these two forces can ultimately
jeopardize the wow effect even if aesthetics helps make the users more
tolerant to other design issues.

I have seen marketing people bossing designers into improving the
look-and-feel aspect of a "broken" product to promote it out of Beta or
justify changes on pricing. That's the traditional "lipstick on the pig"
approach that encourages a misuse of aesthetics.

My fear is that aesthetics-over-usability could be interpreted by others in
that fashion, even though I know that's not what it means to you.

Usually the contention has its origin in the lack of proper planning or
one-sided vision from other departments, stakeholders or customers. I try
to address that early enough to make sure time is fairly allocated to
address usability and aesthetics as a whole and in an iterative approach,
allowing for gradual and integral improvements over time.

This is one of those rare situations where I become a bit draconian;
nowadays, I opt to not compromise one over the other (and I get in trouble
from time to time because of that). I would abide to your first principle
here (holism over centrism) ;)

Gilberto

p.s.: I celebrate Norman's approach on this subject; I'm just trying to
find a middle ground.

On Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 2:00 AM, dave malouf <dave.ixd at gmail.com> wrote:

> Gilberto, I totally agree w/ your take that aesthetics can lead to
> usability and even the opposite, that usability can lead to
> aesthetics.
>
> Jared, it isn't absolutely a dichotomy and maybe, I'm using the
> wrong terms.
>
> While I agree that a beautiful interface that doesn't work (in some
> ways) may become ugly, but I also agree with Norman's assertion that
> something emotionally appealing can basically make up for its lack of
> usability. Beauty and the positive emotional impact associated with
> that creates a pain threshold that I'm not sure I have observed the
> other way around. I have really seen a "usable" product really make
> me feel more engaged.
>
> For clarification and for the purposes of my post and I'd like to
> suggest for this thread I am speaking usability quite narrowly
> possibly. I'm considering usability the quality of a product related
> to the efficiency and rate of success towards completing a desired
> activity. Basically, whether a user can or with what level of
> consistency and efficiency they can complete an intended task in the
> product design.
>
> So again, I do think that I would if the 2 areas became in contention
> and I have many experiences where they have, learn towards the
> aesthetic over the purely usable b/c aesthetics can be used to engage
> in ways that pure usability does not seem to in my experience.
>
> -- dave
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

20 Sep 2009 - 9:34am
Thomas Petersen
2008

"My fear is that aesthetics-over-usability could be interpreted by
others in that fashion, even though I know that's not what it means
to you."

Yes I think you are right but I think it pays to understand what that
really means.

Function is as important a part of the form and it's hard to
separate the two when you really get down to it.

This is particularly true when it comes to RIA's where the
choreography of elements plays an ever increasing role.

As the staccato approach to GUI's disappear (click > refresh of
entire screen) the legato approach (click > new element on screen
transitions from it's former look) get's more and more important.

Legato transitions ad's to the usability factor because the user
don't have to re-orientate themselves but instead experience that
the interfaces react in the context the user thinks in. The elements
of the functionality becomes small screens in themselves.

It also helps to give the user a constant experience of success which
is how game developers often think (any large game is really "just"
a collection of many small games)

It is my view that usability increases dramatically when you apply
the legato approach to your design and that that is where the
"experience" comes in.

Improving the look and feel should mean improving the clarity of the
experience to give it character not just making it nicer to look at.

It doesn't hurt that it looks stunning but clarity can get lost in
looking good (for instance the tendency to flatten the color palette
or to put to much detail into the look of "system buttons")

The task of the UX person is therefore to balance content
(information), form (aestethics), function(tools that your site gives
the user) and choreography (how they work)

This is the idea behind my "how" not "what" principle.

Interface is brand.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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20 Sep 2009 - 11:41am
Chris Dame
2006

Hopefully I'm not dragging the conversation back into the mud, but I
understand where both sides are coming from regarding #5. I have seen
fundamental changes in products that took them from dying in the
market to a a leading example in the field thanks to user
observations and usability tests. I have also seen projects weighted
down by nonstop focus groups and groupthink, as well as poorly run
usability tests that led to inaccurate solutions.

That said, I think each of your points is valid, and addressable.
I've heard each of these from clients, and I wouldn't mind running
through the conversation here to make sure my thoughts are in order.

1. Most products are fairly simple and most of the testing can be
done in house.

- Fair enough. Though I have mostly been working with large systems
and evolving ecosystems of products and services lately, these can
usually be broken down into their simpler components.

It seems that doing testing in house (assuming this means only having
other people in the company look at it) would mean that the same
biases would be with everyone. Unless you are your own client, you
probably won't unveil any new revelations, aside from bug reports.
This is useful, but it's more QA than UX.

2. Most usability tests are not even close to reflect any realistic
version of the environment your product will end up in.

- Great point. Also easily solvable. Do your usability tests in the
environment your product will end up in. Go to your users and test on
their systems, in their environment. Have a conversation with them. It
does take a little more time, but you will get much more useful
information than pulling people into a little florescent
interrogation room and drilling them with questions about why they
clicked -there- while you stand over their shoulder. (No offense to
anyone who has really enjoyed doing this.)

3. The mistakes that you might find are not going to be those that
will determine the success of your company.

- I've seen very poorly run usability tests that prove this (One in
particular involved a woman who repeatedly asked "This makes you
feel like X, right?"). However, I think you may be looking at a
different question than I am.

Usability testing, for me, isn't about finding mistakes. It's about
uncovering opportunities for success you may not have thought of. I
start very early in the design process, when only the initial
concepts are thought through, and most likely sketched out on pen and
paper or modeled out of foamcore. This makes sure we are addressing
the right issues with the concepts. Finding mistakes is much later in
the process.

4. Many usability tests consist of max 10 people which is simply not
a significantly high enough number to make any decisions based on.
The single best solution is to start simple simple and make sure you
can measure how people use your product. If people are having
problems you will find out soon enough and you will find out where it
matters.

-I think this may be the biggest discrepancy. Qualitative research
(User observations, Usability testing) and Quantitative research
(Focus groups, QA) are very different things and serve very different
purposes.

Qual is not meant to have statistical significance. There is simply
too much information there, and it's only done until themes start
emerging. Usually 10 or so rounds and they become very obvious. This
is intended to be much earlier in the strategy phase and is much
deeper than Quant. You get inside people's lives and really figure
out what would be useful, how what you are developing will fit into
their lives. Yes, you ask questions about the product, but what they
say doesn't matter as much as how they say it.

At the risk of sounding trite by quoting Steve Jobs, "You can%u2019t
just ask a customer what they want and try to give that to them. By
the time you get it built, they%u2019ll want something new." This is
where the experience of a designer/researcher really shows. They know
what to listen for, how to ask questions that indirectly reveal the
customer's feelings, and they can convey it later.

Quant is a very different animal. This happens much later in the
process for me, when everything is nearly built. Everything is on
track, and you have very specific questions that you need answers to.
This is when you want statistical significance. People don't
typically look forward to surveys as a highlight of their day, and
they will only give you the quickest and most basic answers off the
top of their head. This is not a dialog or conversation, this is
feedback.

Doing Quant too early in the process tends to give useless feedback
on something that is changing anyway. Doing Qual too late in the
process tends to unearth major issues that will only frustrate
everyone who has invested so much in the product. Doing Qual early on
to make sure you build the right thing, then Quant later to make sure
the details are right, then QA at the end to bug test has been
successful for me.

I have seen many examples that prove your points, and typically they
really only show that the wrong kind of testing is being done, or it
is being done poorly. I have lost track of the number of companies
who, when I asked if they have done user interviews, replied "Of
course, we do focus groups all the time. Want to see the charts?"

At which point I smile and start a conversation about what they have
done so far, and the different methods we are going to use, as well
as what kinds of results they should get. So far, people seem to be
happy when we uncover new things, or put their findings in a new
light.

Chris Dame
http://theusabilityofthings.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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20 Sep 2009 - 11:54am
Jared M. Spool
2003

Not sure I see the contention between usability and aesthetics. Maybe
you could give an example from one of your experiences?

I see usability as a scalar attribute, measured from Extreme
Frustration to Extreme Delight. Efficiency and success rates really
only talk to the frustration portion of the scale. Engagement (both
with the design and their corresponding brands, thus expanding into
the 'experience' aspects) increases as you move past the neutral
center (neither frustrating nor delighting) and focus on design
elements that enhance delight.

Limiting usability to only deal with the frustration portion of the
scale would be equivalent, in my opinion, to limiting aesthetics to
color palettes.

I think we can agree that a very beautiful, yet extremely frustrating
design would be unacceptable. But, I'm not sure how you'd create an
extremely ugly, yet extremely delightful design.

At some point the aesthetics must become integrated into the design,
along with the functionality, to create the delight.

Also, I believe that at some point, aesthetics become personal and
contextual. Many users are delighted with Craigslist (surprisingly
so!). While its clear that an aesthetic makeover would be easy to do
with Craigslist current design, would it truly enhance the experience
of those users who are already delighted?

I believe that the only way a makeover could truly bring more value to
Craigslist's users would be if it was very carefully tuned by bringing
out capabilities currently hidden by the current (lack of) aesthetic
presentation. Yet, because of the simplicity of the overall functional
set, those capabilities would need be tailored to niche audiences for
their specific needs (enhancing interfaces for certain types of job
hunters, for example). The context of use and the needs of the
individual user is the critical challenge of the design space for
Craigslist.

So, in this example, I believe, the "ugly" veneer of the Craigslist
design contributes to its current level of delight. (For the same
reason that delighted Costco customers would not be happier if it took
on Neiman Marcus's aesthetic qualities.)

This is all a long way of saying that I think at a certain point,
beauty and usability converge and thus aren't in contention, instead
are synergistic. It's all about meeting needs and desires. Only when
working together, does the beauty and usability of the design reach
perfection.

But what do I know? I'm just an academic who has never designed
anything. My opinion isn't worth the money you've paid for it. :)

Jared

On Sep 19, 2009, at 9:00 AM, dave malouf wrote:

> While I agree that a beautiful interface that doesn't work (in some
> ways) may become ugly, but I also agree with Norman's assertion that
> something emotionally appealing can basically make up for its lack of
> usability. Beauty and the positive emotional impact associated with
> that creates a pain threshold that I'm not sure I have observed the
> other way around. I have really seen a "usable" product really make
> me feel more engaged.
>
> For clarification and for the purposes of my post and I'd like to
> suggest for this thread I am speaking usability quite narrowly
> possibly. I'm considering usability the quality of a product related
> to the efficiency and rate of success towards completing a desired
> activity. Basically, whether a user can or with what level of
> consistency and efficiency they can complete an intended task in the
> product design.
>
> So again, I do think that I would if the 2 areas became in contention
> and I have many experiences where they have, learn towards the
> aesthetic over the purely usable b/c aesthetics can be used to engage
> in ways that pure usability does not seem to in my experience.

20 Sep 2009 - 6:59pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Hi Jared,

re: "usability" I said how I'm thinking of it. It is rooted in my
pretty broad experience of practice, my reading of peers case studies
(the ones they make available to me) and my listening to
presentations. It's all I got. I do not see anyone practicing the kind
of usability practice or creating a qualitative measure of usability
as part of a usability practice the way you are describing, so despite
the source, which I respect, it just doesn't match anything I see,
read, or otherwise experience. So I'm sticking with my efficiency +
success (maybe + learnability) definition of usability.

As to the examples. The clearest one in my mind is well the iPhone.
The keyboard lacks all manner of efficiency, yet it is part of a
beautify system that increases pain tolerances for the pains of that
keyboard. The system's overall experiential aesthetics of engagement
trump the usability of the poor experience of the keyboard.

I can think of a host of systems where the experience of the content
(I.e. the value embedded in the aesthetics of the content system)
totally trumps the usability of that system.

As to Craigslist, the love is wearing off w/ that most heinous of ugly
and unusable sites. It has survived on the strength of approachability
+ critical mass of content b/c there was nothing like it for so long,
but so many other new services are making craigslist the secondary
choice for more and more people.

Again, I can define usability and aesthetics to be synonyms if i was
so inclined. This making the line item useless ... But the point is
not to re-define for the person putting out the principles, but to
analyze them within the boundaries of their use.

Further I have to say that I'm annoyed (this isn't personal to anyone)
by the tendency that people engage in just a point that spirals out of
control, and then loosing site of the whole message or the whole
thread. the concept of "principles" in your design is much more
important than a single line item in either mine or Thomas' list. a
better response would be here are mine and here's how they differ from
yours and why? If you don't design, but promote design education or
design theories, then what principles are important to your work?

-- dave

-- dave

On Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 12:54 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
> Not sure I see the contention between usability and aesthetics. Maybe you
> could give an example from one of your experiences?
>
> I see usability as a scalar attribute, measured from Extreme Frustration to
> Extreme Delight. Efficiency and success rates really only talk to the
> frustration portion of the scale. Engagement (both with the design and their
> corresponding brands, thus expanding into the 'experience' aspects)
> increases as you move past the neutral center (neither frustrating nor
> delighting) and focus on design elements that enhance delight.
>
> Limiting usability to only deal with the frustration portion of the scale
> would be equivalent, in my opinion, to limiting aesthetics to color
> palettes.
>
> I think we can agree that a very beautiful, yet extremely frustrating design
> would be unacceptable. But, I'm not sure how you'd create an extremely ugly,
> yet extremely delightful design.
>
> At some point the aesthetics must become integrated into the design, along
> with the functionality, to create the delight.
>
> Also, I believe that at some point, aesthetics become personal and
> contextual. Many users are delighted with Craigslist (surprisingly so!).
> While its clear that an aesthetic makeover would be easy to do with
> Craigslist current design, would it truly enhance the experience of those
> users who are already delighted?
>
> I believe that the only way a makeover could truly bring more value to
> Craigslist's users would be if it was very carefully tuned by bringing out
> capabilities currently hidden by the current (lack of) aesthetic
> presentation. Yet, because of the simplicity of the overall functional set,
> those capabilities would need be tailored to niche audiences for their
> specific needs (enhancing interfaces for certain types of job hunters, for
> example). The context of use and the needs of the individual user is the
> critical challenge of the design space for Craigslist.
>
> So, in this example, I believe, the "ugly" veneer of the Craigslist design
> contributes to its current level of delight. (For the same reason that
> delighted Costco customers would not be happier if it took on Neiman
> Marcus's aesthetic qualities.)
>
> This is all a long way of saying that I think at a certain point, beauty and
> usability converge and thus aren't in contention, instead are synergistic.
> It's all about meeting needs and desires. Only when working together, does
> the beauty and usability of the design reach perfection.
>
> But what do I know? I'm just an academic who has never designed anything. My
> opinion isn't worth the money you've paid for it. :)
>
> Jared
>
>
> On Sep 19, 2009, at 9:00 AM, dave malouf wrote:
>
>> While I agree that a beautiful interface that doesn't work (in some
>> ways) may become ugly, but I also agree with Norman's assertion that
>> something emotionally appealing can basically make up for its lack of
>> usability. Beauty and the positive emotional impact associated with
>> that creates a pain threshold that I'm not sure I have observed the
>> other way around. I have really seen a "usable" product really make
>> me feel more engaged.
>>
>> For clarification and for the purposes of my post and I'd like to
>> suggest for this thread I am speaking usability quite narrowly
>> possibly. I'm considering usability the quality of a product related
>> to the efficiency and rate of success towards completing a desired
>> activity. Basically, whether a user can or with what level of
>> consistency and efficiency they can complete an intended task in the
>> product design.
>>
>> So again, I do think that I would if the 2 areas became in contention
>> and I have many experiences where they have, learn towards the
>> aesthetic over the purely usable b/c aesthetics can be used to engage
>> in ways that pure usability does not seem to in my experience.
>
>

--
Dave Malouf
http://davemalouf.com/
http://twitter.com/daveixd
http://scad.edu/industrialdesign
http://ixda.org/

20 Sep 2009 - 8:46pm
Richard Dalton
2008

Dave - very glad you brought this thread back to the principles!

You said:
> Clarity over simplicity - simple is as simple does. Be clear is
> always required, simplicity is not always the goal, but
> simplicity CAN aid in clarity

Which I thought was interesting because when I first read Thomas'
first point and "Less is more %u2013 much more" comment, I thought
about digital products like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, where
less is definitely NOT more.

I don't think that a broad "stay simple" principle is useful
globally unless all you design for are novice or infrequent users. As
you say, however, you can (and should) always be "clear", regardless
of how simple/complex you need to make your experience for your
audience.

Regarding the aesthetics discussion and craigslist ... i've often
used craigslist as an example when discussing the principles and
characteristics i'm working on (charux.com).

I originally described the "aesthetic" principle in my model as
"aesthetically pleasing" - but that totally doesn't take into
account personal taste and doesn't cover things like craigslist or
the Hummer. I eventually changed the description to "aesthetically
appropriate".

Craigslist's aesthetic is appropriate for the expectations its users
have (garage sale, flea market, newspaper listing, etc). It would be
interesting to see if it was as successful if it looked as polished
as apple.com (for example).

- Richard

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640

20 Sep 2009 - 9:12pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 20, 2009, at 7:59 PM, Dave Malouf wrote:

> Hi Jared,
>
> re: "usability" I said how I'm thinking of it. It is rooted in my
> pretty broad experience of practice, my reading of peers case studies
> (the ones they make available to me) and my listening to
> presentations. It's all I got. I do not see anyone practicing the kind
> of usability practice or creating a qualitative measure of usability
> as part of a usability practice the way you are describing, so despite
> the source, which I respect, it just doesn't match anything I see,
> read, or otherwise experience. So I'm sticking with my efficiency +
> success (maybe + learnability) definition of usability.

I get that you're going with a traditional (circa early 2000's)
viewpoint of usability practice.

I think this is part of a larger problem though. If you're going to
restrict your definition of usability to the efficiency notion, then
you're really only dealing with a limited subset of what people are
dealing with. I'm not the only one looking at the delight side of the
spectrum -- there are lots of us tackling it from a variety of
perspectives, but you are correct that it is advanced thinking.

We've come upon it because, while usability practice started with
aiming towards the reduction of frustration, now that we're coming
close to it in lots of designs, we realized that once all frustration
is realized, you're left with something pretty dull. Usable, but dull.
So, pushing into the arena of delight was the natural extension. (A
lot of this thinking comes from some really great work in video game
design, where games have to be delightful to succeed.)

Amongst the usability professional community, I've been fighting a
battle to get people to think of aesthetics as something beyond color
palletes and font choices. Shouldn't we be pushing the design
community to think of usability as something beyond pure efficiency?
Wouldn't stretching those boundaries help us grow as a community?

> As to the examples. The clearest one in my mind is well the iPhone.
> The keyboard lacks all manner of efficiency, yet it is part of a
> beautify system that increases pain tolerances for the pains of that
> keyboard. The system's overall experiential aesthetics of engagement
> trump the usability of the poor experience of the keyboard.

I agree that Apple's done a great job of using aesthetics to
compensate for the various design compromises they had to make (such
as the keyboard). Interestingly, none of the non-keyboard competitors
(such as the BB Storm or the new LG) have managed to capture that
sense of aesthetics.

But, I wonder if there's a future design of the keyboard on the iPhone
(or its successors) that doesn't have today's constraints. I'm
assuming you'd still want the great aesthetics.

I'm also wondering about the alternative design. In your principle,
"Beauty over usability", you implied that the designers *could* have
gone in the direction of usability. What would that design have looked
like? Would it just be the keyboard of today without the nice
experiential aesthetics? I'm just not seeing the choices that the
iPhone designers made to follow your principle.

> I can think of a host of systems where the experience of the content
> (I.e. the value embedded in the aesthetics of the content system)
> totally trumps the usability of that system.

Again, if you improved the usability, would it take away from the
aesthetics?

> As to Craigslist, the love is wearing off w/ that most heinous of ugly
> and unusable sites. It has survived on the strength of approachability
> + critical mass of content b/c there was nothing like it for so long,
> but so many other new services are making craigslist the secondary
> choice for more and more people.

Craigslist usage numbers are higher than ever. In our studies, their
brand engagement and user satisfaction is also higher than we've ever
seen before. While there are niche services nipping at their heals,
we're not seeing any mass movement amongst their core users.

So, I can't say I agree with the love wearing off in any measurable
way. On the contrary, we're seeing more mainstream adoption than ever
before. If the love is wearing off, it's only with the bleading edge
folks.

> Again, I can define usability and aesthetics to be synonyms if i was
> so inclined. This making the line item useless ... But the point is
> not to re-define for the person putting out the principles, but to
> analyze them within the boundaries of their use.

Oh, well maybe I didn't understand the point. If that's the point, I
can't help you there, because I'm not seeing the tension between the
attributes, and thus can't grok what the boundaries might be.

> Further I have to say that I'm annoyed (this isn't personal to anyone)
> by the tendency that people engage in just a point that spirals out of
> control, and then loosing site of the whole message or the whole
> thread. the concept of "principles" in your design is much more
> important than a single line item in either mine or Thomas' list.

Sorry if I'm annoying you. I was just trying to understand where you
were going with this. And, to be fair, I did say from the beginning
that I agreed with all your other principles. I could repeat that in
each email, if it would make you happier. I still agree with them. I
think they rock.

> a
> better response would be here are mine and here's how they differ from
> yours and why? If you don't design, but promote design education or
> design theories, then what principles are important to your work?

That's just it -- I think you said them very elegantly, except I don't
see the choice to make of aesthetics over usability, but we can agree
to disagree on that one point and agree to agree on the rest.

I haven't really formulated principles this way, since my interest is
more in terms of critique and analysis of what's been done.

Jared

>
>
> On Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 12:54 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
>> Not sure I see the contention between usability and aesthetics.
>> Maybe you
>> could give an example from one of your experiences?
>>
>> I see usability as a scalar attribute, measured from Extreme
>> Frustration to
>> Extreme Delight. Efficiency and success rates really only talk to the
>> frustration portion of the scale. Engagement (both with the design
>> and their
>> corresponding brands, thus expanding into the 'experience' aspects)
>> increases as you move past the neutral center (neither frustrating
>> nor
>> delighting) and focus on design elements that enhance delight.
>>
>> Limiting usability to only deal with the frustration portion of the
>> scale
>> would be equivalent, in my opinion, to limiting aesthetics to color
>> palettes.
>>
>> I think we can agree that a very beautiful, yet extremely
>> frustrating design
>> would be unacceptable. But, I'm not sure how you'd create an
>> extremely ugly,
>> yet extremely delightful design.
>>
>> At some point the aesthetics must become integrated into the
>> design, along
>> with the functionality, to create the delight.
>>
>> Also, I believe that at some point, aesthetics become personal and
>> contextual. Many users are delighted with Craigslist (surprisingly
>> so!).
>> While its clear that an aesthetic makeover would be easy to do with
>> Craigslist current design, would it truly enhance the experience of
>> those
>> users who are already delighted?
>>
>> I believe that the only way a makeover could truly bring more value
>> to
>> Craigslist's users would be if it was very carefully tuned by
>> bringing out
>> capabilities currently hidden by the current (lack of) aesthetic
>> presentation. Yet, because of the simplicity of the overall
>> functional set,
>> those capabilities would need be tailored to niche audiences for
>> their
>> specific needs (enhancing interfaces for certain types of job
>> hunters, for
>> example). The context of use and the needs of the individual user
>> is the
>> critical challenge of the design space for Craigslist.
>>
>> So, in this example, I believe, the "ugly" veneer of the Craigslist
>> design
>> contributes to its current level of delight. (For the same reason
>> that
>> delighted Costco customers would not be happier if it took on Neiman
>> Marcus's aesthetic qualities.)
>>
>> This is all a long way of saying that I think at a certain point,
>> beauty and
>> usability converge and thus aren't in contention, instead are
>> synergistic.
>> It's all about meeting needs and desires. Only when working
>> together, does
>> the beauty and usability of the design reach perfection.
>>
>> But what do I know? I'm just an academic who has never designed
>> anything. My
>> opinion isn't worth the money you've paid for it. :)
>>
>> Jared
>>
>>
>> On Sep 19, 2009, at 9:00 AM, dave malouf wrote:
>>
>>> While I agree that a beautiful interface that doesn't work (in some
>>> ways) may become ugly, but I also agree with Norman's assertion that
>>> something emotionally appealing can basically make up for its lack
>>> of
>>> usability. Beauty and the positive emotional impact associated with
>>> that creates a pain threshold that I'm not sure I have observed the
>>> other way around. I have really seen a "usable" product really make
>>> me feel more engaged.
>>>
>>> For clarification and for the purposes of my post and I'd like to
>>> suggest for this thread I am speaking usability quite narrowly
>>> possibly. I'm considering usability the quality of a product related
>>> to the efficiency and rate of success towards completing a desired
>>> activity. Basically, whether a user can or with what level of
>>> consistency and efficiency they can complete an intended task in the
>>> product design.
>>>
>>> So again, I do think that I would if the 2 areas became in
>>> contention
>>> and I have many experiences where they have, learn towards the
>>> aesthetic over the purely usable b/c aesthetics can be used to
>>> engage
>>> in ways that pure usability does not seem to in my experience.
>>
>>
>
>
>
> --
> Dave Malouf
> http://davemalouf.com/
> http://twitter.com/daveixd
> http://scad.edu/industrialdesign
> http://ixda.org/
> ________________________________________________________________
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20 Sep 2009 - 10:26pm
Dave Malouf
2005

On Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 10:12 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
> I haven't really formulated principles this way, since my interest is more
> in terms of critique and analysis of what's been done.

Now this is interesting to me ...
If critique & analysis have different criteria for "success" or
description of "success" we have a big problem. So firstly, I'd be
interested in what are your criteria for success? How do you critique?
how do you go about analysis? What are these criteria.

In other areas of aesthetic criticism such as pop culture, art,
design, etc. the language derived while more syllables and academic
map against those of the creators around them. I'd be interested in
hearing from your point of view what are your principles for critique
and analysis and if you don't have any, how can we go about creating a
language around critique that speaks to both sides of the equation.

<deleted not useful historical critique of UCD, hoping to have a long
drink with Jared in Savannah in Feb />

What I want to say about the usability definition discussion is that,
YES it is important to evolve the measurement and analysis of design
the way Jared has suggested. But that should not be the same as
evolving the definition of individual words. Let me be clear.
"usability" as a word b/c of its roots not just in practice, but well
in its linguistic semantics, is a hard word to expand from. how
"usable" something is, is so easily tied to the question, "Can I and
how well can I "use" something?"

I am not in the "usability" practice world, except as a designer and
educator who makes use of core practice. But as an outside consumer, i
suggest that a strategic evolution of the language should take place
if people like Jared really want us to engage with the contemporary
and advanced practice of usability as he is speaking. I'm still
lookin' at Jakob and seeing my previous understanding of the term well
founded and that is not going back to 2000 but to recent Alert Box
articles of the last 2 years.

Now, to indict myself even more, I feel often stuck behind the term
"interaction design" in much the same way, as should be apparent by
many on this list and others. There is often a dichotomy of those who
define IxD in ways that feel limiting to my own practice, education,
and experience. Yet, for them, that is what it is and will always be.
When Fiona Rabe goes on a stage at the IxDA conference and too many in
my community don't understand what what she is doing has to do with
IxD, or further what the heck Robert Fabricant means when he says that
Behavior is our Medium, I have to ask myself if there is really an IxD
community of practice at all. (and whether or not i can do better than
write such a run-on sentence like that one!)

My point being is that the best we can do is do what i did. I stated
my assumptions and moved from there. Language is doing more than
shifting, it is converging and diverging from so many sources and
influences and tides and turns that it is impossible to know what
anyone is saying. We have to for clear communication state our
assumptions.

This means, longer posts, longer blog entries and requires more
diligent and detailed engagement of discourse with long thoughtful
pauses.

-- dave

--
Dave Malouf
http://davemalouf.com/
http://twitter.com/daveixd
http://scad.edu/industrialdesign
http://ixda.org/

20 Sep 2009 - 10:30pm
Dave Malouf
2005

richard, re: Craigslist
I would buy that appropriate aesthetics, if someone told me it was a
designed decision versus the outcome of lack of attention.

I think that historical context has done more to sway the success of
stuff like craigslist and MySpace (the example that demonstrates the
open flank of lack of design direction can leave you with) than
"design" success.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45640

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