I just stumbled across this great piece from 1994 by usability guru Jacob Nielsen: Guerrilla HCI: Using Discount Usability Engineering to Penetrate the Intimidation Barrier. Bar some words that have gone out of fashion, the piece is still incredibly relevant today. A great insight was this list of the awareness-levels of software development companies about user experience.
- Usability does not matter. The main focus is to wring every last bit of performance from the iron. This is the attitude leading to the world-famous error message, “beep.”
- Usability is important, but good interfaces can surely be designed by the regular development staff as part of their general system design. This attitude is symbolized by the famous statement made by King Frederik VI of Denmark on February 26, 1835: “We alone know what serves the true welfare and benefit of the State and People.” At this stage, no attempt is made at user testing or at acquiring staff with usability expertise.
- The desire to have the interface blessed by the magic wand of a usability engineer. Developers recognize that they may not know everything about usability, so they call in a usability specialist to look over their design and comment on it. The involvement of the usability specialist is often too late to do much good in the project, and the usability specialist often has to provide advice on the interface without the benefit of access to real users. Continue reading