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User centred design - is it working


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Industry keynote from OZCHI2006. Includes three parts - the current state of practitioner user-centred design (in my opinion), an overview of some of the things practitioners are interested in, and an examination of what we need to do to move forward

Published in: Technology, Business
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  • I recorded it and here it is in two parts - the first file combines the first two topics, the second file combines the last topic plus questions (if you were there, you'll hear some edits - I trimmed the questions we couldn't hear and deleted an example from the body of the talk):
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User centred design - is it working

  1. 1. User centred design in practice - is it working? Donna Maurer – Maadmob Interaction Design
  2. 2. Me – right now <ul><li>Freelance information architect/interaction designer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lead interaction designer – big government project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>this talk is not about my current team </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Chair for next year's IA Summit </li></ul><ul><li>Board member – Information Architecture Institute </li></ul><ul><li>Committee member – Web Industry Professionals’ Association </li></ul><ul><li>Writing a book about card sorting - due early 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Wife, mother, weaver, orchardist </li></ul>
  3. 3. Me - previously Usability testing Search implementation Website design Intranet design Information architecture Interaction design User research Web applications Card sorting Usability testing Expert reviews Usability testing Intranet design Information architecture Card sorting Accessibility User research Website design Mentoring Business strategy Web applications Information architecture Card sorting User research Website design Web applications Interaction design Mentoring Training Build websites Study Community
  4. 4. size
  5. 5. Today’s structure Challenges & opportunities Current state of practitioner UCD Interesting new approaches & tools Far out, that is a cheesy image
  6. 6. Today’s structure Challenges & opportunities Interesting new approaches & tools Current state of practitioner UCD
  7. 7. Current situation <ul><li>Usability is fairly well known </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Ease of use’ is well known </li></ul><ul><li>Many jobs for usability, user-centred design, interface design, information architecture </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web, business, mobile </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Severe skills shortage </li></ul>
  8. 8. But… <ul><li>Much work being done without UCD </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many of great sites and applications are done without a specific user-centred design role. Done by a team who knows something about it, or a team of generally smart people </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most government work still unaware of UCD </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Thousands of developers designing internal systems without considering needs of people on the end of them </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Poor work <ul><li>Dissatisfied clients </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clients unhappy with the work they get from UCD practitioners, primarily consultants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work is shallow </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Limited understanding of the domain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on users only, not a holistic examination of the problem </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expensive for limited return </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Yes, they’re just the shit-kickers, but you still need to talk to them” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Overheard from a usability consultant </li></ul></ul></ul>Who said that? I’ll buy her a beer – she’ll spill the beans
  10. 10. Who knows they do user-centred design <ul><li>User-centred designers </li></ul><ul><li>Usability specialists </li></ul><ul><li>Interaction designers </li></ul><ul><li>Information architects </li></ul><ul><li>User experience specialists </li></ul>
  11. 11. Many years <ul><li>Job: Consulting company </li></ul><ul><li>Length: 2 years in this job, many years in the field </li></ul><ul><li>Type of work: Design projects for clients. Usually hired to do strategy, user research, information architecture or interaction design. May get involved in usability tests </li></ul><ul><li>Well read on the basics – keeps up with blogs and magazine sites via RSS. </li></ul><ul><li>Buys books a couple of times a year. </li></ul><ul><li>Participates in discussion lists. </li></ul><ul><li>Attends one conference a year, speaks at local groups occasionally. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Some experience <ul><li>Job: interactive agency </li></ul><ul><li>Length: 2 years </li></ul><ul><li>Type of work: Website design for clients. Designing page layouts for websites. </li></ul><ul><li>Does user research on some projects, sometimes can do usability testing. </li></ul><ul><li>Has read a number of usability books and has IA book but hasn’t read it all. </li></ul><ul><li>Subscribes to Jakob Nielsen and Gerry McGovern. Reads other things sent by colleagues. </li></ul><ul><li>Attends one conference a year. </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly learns on the job </li></ul>
  13. 13. Into usability <ul><li>Job: independent usability consultant </li></ul><ul><li>Length: 2 years </li></ul><ul><li>Type of work: Usability testing for clients (makes design recommendations) </li></ul><ul><li>Occasional user research work. Design work for simple sites & applications. </li></ul><ul><li>No training – figure it out as she goes </li></ul><ul><li>Reads web articles, subscribes to a couple of lists, attends UPA </li></ul><ul><li>Finds it challenging to sell usability </li></ul>But who’s that dude in the background
  14. 14. On the sideline <ul><li>Job: webmaster of medium company </li></ul><ul><li>Length: 1 year </li></ul><ul><li>Type of work: Company website and intranet design and maintenance </li></ul><ul><li>Background in communications </li></ul><ul><li>No user research experience, once had a usability test by a consultant </li></ul><ul><li>Subscribes to Jakob Nielsen. </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly learns on the job </li></ul><ul><li>Sick of everyone criticising - just needs answers </li></ul>How do you feel being stereotyped like this?
  15. 15. Learning <ul><li>Books </li></ul><ul><li>Online articles </li></ul><ul><li>Conferences </li></ul><ul><li>On the job </li></ul><ul><li>Most practitioners have no knowledge of or access to academic research </li></ul><ul><li>And most don’t care </li></ul>Hmph…their loss
  16. 16. <ul><li>“ In the varied topography of professional practice, there is a high, hard ground overlooking a swamp. </li></ul><ul><li>On the high ground manageable problems lend themselves to solution through the application of research-based theory and technique. In the swampy lowland, messy, confusing problems defy technical solution. </li></ul><ul><li>The irony of this situation is that the problems of the high ground tend to be relatively unimportant to individuals or society at large, however great their technical interest may be, while in the swamp lie the greatest problems of human concern.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Donald A Schon – Educating the Reflective Practitioner </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>“ I am a sucker for presentations where standard user-centered design methods (stakeholder interviews, user research, interaction design, prototyping) are used in novel environments, such as the design of a web, kiosk, and mobile system for supporting art appreciation at the Getty Center in L.A. It continues to provide evidence that such design isn't special or otherworldly.” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Interesting tools and approaches
  19. 30. Tagging <ul><li>Tagging: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Users provide descriptive keywords to the resource. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No vocabulary, categories or master scheme –whatever authors or users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characterised by the long tail </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Folksonomy: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technically a taxonomy generated by the folks – the users of it. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The word usually applies to the use of tagging within a social network </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The two poster children of tagging are and flickr </li></ul><ul><li>Others </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gmail – tag messages, rather than filing them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extra tasty – tag drinks for refinding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Powerhouse museum – categories plus tags </li></ul></ul>
  20. 31. Tagging <ul><li>Advantages </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Flexible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Great for emerging domains </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reflects language of users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cognitively easy to manage </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Disadvantages </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not suitable for all the uses to which it has been put </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not suited for domains in which retrieval accuracy is key </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many decisions about maintenance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Still new and odd </li></ul></ul>
  21. 32. User-generated content <ul><li>Threadless – T-shirts designed by the community, voted on by the community, printed and sold to the community </li></ul><ul><li>Extra Tasty – all recipes provided by the community </li></ul><ul><li>Flickr </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia – the ultimate user-generated content site </li></ul><ul><li> – all content provided by the community </li></ul><ul><li>Digg – community diggs for articles and returns them to the top of the pile </li></ul><ul><li> – user-added events </li></ul>Does she ever stop talking about booze?
  22. 33. Mash-ups (link) <ul><li>Combining data from two different sources </li></ul><ul><li>Most commonly public data plus google maps </li></ul><ul><li>Most famous </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Housing maps : Craigslist + Google Maps ( avi ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chicago Crime : Chicago crime data + Google Maps ( avi ) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>My favourites </li></ul><ul><ul><li> (images/allcrazystyle.avi) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What’s interesting </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Showing available data in different ways </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Providing value beyond the original service </li></ul></ul>
  23. 34. Social & connections <ul><li>Flickr – connect with friends </li></ul><ul><li> – find bookmarks from others or from friends </li></ul><ul><li>Upcoming – see who is attending </li></ul><ul><li>Lastfm – listen to music from friends or similar interests </li></ul>My social group is the same everywhere, but I have to enter it from scratch
  24. 35. AJAX <ul><li>AJAX stands for asynchronous javascript over XML </li></ul><ul><li>Richer interface interactions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Part-page updates with no page reload </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct editing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drag & drop </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feedback, automatic saves </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Designer inexperience with rich interactions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Part-page updates break the user mental model of ‘pages’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visually communicating what can be done </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emerging interface conventions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul></ul>Big deal, we’ve been designing guis for years
  25. 36. Our challenges… OK, deep breath
  26. 37. New design challenges <ul><li>Designing for engagement, not basic usability </li></ul><ul><li>Designing shells to be filled with content </li></ul><ul><li>Designing for social networks & interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Non linear processes – closer to synchronous </li></ul><ul><li>Designing for reuse of data </li></ul><ul><li>Building and maintaining community </li></ul><ul><li>Traditional usability testing doesn’t work </li></ul>
  27. 38. Process changes <ul><li>Build for your own problem </li></ul><ul><li>Focus narrowly </li></ul><ul><li>Generalist teams </li></ul><ul><li>Get it out there </li></ul><ul><li>Build community </li></ul><ul><li>Listen to customers </li></ul><ul><li>Release often </li></ul><ul><li>Market virally </li></ul><ul><li>Less user research or usability testing </li></ul>
  28. 39. <ul><li>“ in the last 10 years, there has been no discernable relationship between corporate investment in user-centered design practices and the regular production of usable products from those corporations” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The best way we can collectively improve our opportunities is to stop drinking the Kool-Aid and start questioning our own practices and beliefs. It shouldn't be a matter of faith that our practices produce good designs. It should be a matter of fact.” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Jared Spool. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  29. 40. Where I think we need to head <ul><li>“ Design is one of the basic skills a person needs to function in modern society” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Kees Dorst. By Design, Radio National, 12 August </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus less on user-centred and more on design </li></ul><ul><li>Learn about our own context </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do development teams work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do developers think </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What do they need to know from us </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Totally eliminate design by testing </li></ul>
  30. 41. Selling our services <ul><li>Stop selling usability </li></ul><ul><li>Stop acting like you’re the centre of the universe </li></ul><ul><li>Start selling design </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate more clearly </li></ul><ul><li>Pay more attention to what you do - know your own value </li></ul>
  31. 42. Teach and mentor <ul><li>Mentoring is more useful than delivering </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Adopt design studio thinking </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work in teams </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Always analyse design outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Stop writing ‘what is’, start writing ‘how to’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How to think, not how to do </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Teach principles not rules </li></ul><ul><li>Provide tools not methods </li></ul><ul><li>Identify & share learning opportunities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most conferences are podcast </li></ul></ul>
  32. 43. <ul><li>“ This is that category with the asterisk that means ‘hard’, since I feel like I’m giving you advice that says, ‘to win a beauty pageant, (a) get beautiful, and (b) enter the pageant’.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Joel Spolsky ( </li></ul></ul>
  33. 44. Take it up a notch <ul><li>“We’ve evolved from a focus on features to focus on ease of use and now will have the opportunity to focus on quality of life” </li></ul><ul><li>“Good design is at the heart of quality of life. Designers today have an opportunity to design at a time when mass consciousness will really value great design” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Linda Stone, IDEA Conference </li></ul></ul>
  34. 45. Questions & thanks <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>0409-778-693 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>