Old School Usability Design: Gould and Lewis

We have a look at Gould and Lewis’ 1985 paper ‘Designing for Usability’ [1] in which the authors present and discuss three principles for user centered design:

  1. Early focus on users
  2. Empirical measurement using prototypes
  3. Iterative design

Goult and Lewis explicitly differentiate between understanding potential users, versus identifying/describing/stereotyping/ascertaining them. They also strike a crucial cord regarding the neccesity to separate the role of designers and developers for a simple reason: It is cognitively impossible for developers (and other stakeholders) to pretend to be a novice user. I wrote a separate blog post that proves this to you with an amusing example.

Gould and Lewis recommend that potential users become part of the design team from the very outset. Next to that, they emphasize the importance of iteration, a process that enables cycles of designing > testing > measuring > redesigning >. Wallach and Scholz [2] describe a more contemporary cycle of design activities, consisting of Scope > Analyse > Design > Validate > Deliver.

UCD_cycle Continue reading

Review: User-Centered Design – Why and How to Put Users First in Software Development

A chapter from the book ‘Software for People’ [1], this paper [2] provides an overview of the activities and artefacts of User-Centered Design (UCD) methodology. The paper is very broad in its focus, describing everything from 1985 usability literature to state-of-the-art design activities.

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In the introduction the authors take the iPhone as an example. I am reminded of Marc Hassenzahl’s theory [3] that it is necessary to think about the ‘Why’ before ‘How’ and ‘What’. What is described below represents a step forward from only focusing on features, however, it is not explained what the benefit is. Why was the new interaction design so good?

“It was not for providing new functionality that made the iPhone a huge success […]. Quite the contrary: the iPhone even offered less functionality compared to many smart phones at that time […], it’s interaction design being the primary innovative achievement.

In my own experience, the interaction design of the iPhone allows the user to intuitively interact with the device, almost without a learning curve. This is important because it gives the user a feeling of being competent and in control, instead of being overwhelmed as with so many interactive devices.

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While reading the rest of the chapter, I got so much inspiration and new ideas, I decided to review each section in a separate post to keep some clarity. Each post that refers to this paper is listed below, I will add the links gradually as I finish each section. Continue reading

Prove Me Wrong: You Are Not the User

I wrote about this statement before, but now I have something amusing for you to prove that it is cognitively impossible to pretend not to know something, or to act as if you are a novice user.

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Humans often have a strong belief in their perspective-taking abilities and especially designers are fast in replying that they themselves are users – so why would they not be able to put themselves in the shoes of the user? [1,2]

A question to you: What do you see in the picture above? At first, it might look like nothing. Look carefully. Then, check out the rest of this post >>>

Continue reading

Final Master’s Project: Inclusive Design Methods

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There are many user research methods available today. Many are developed in an academic context, and are well documented in literature. But in many companies, especially smaller ones, the idea of user research seems foreign, costly and difficult [1]. While that might not be such a big problem for the majority of the user groups, there are some groups of people that are left out.

When designing a new product, be it a tangible one or interactive, it is so easy just to think about yourself as a possible user and design for that. But while you may be a sufficiently accurate representation of the majority of your users, you are probably not for users with challenges to their physical or cognitive abilities [2]. To avoid developing stereotypes and cliche ideas about these groups, it is of vital importance that actual users are involved in the design of the entire user experience, not just the interface, and in the complete end-to-end development process. We call this Inclusive Design [3].

To make Inclusive Design as easy and accessible as possible for smaller companies, a product or service is needed to help them develop their own Inclusive Design process. It could give an overview of such a process, help choosing suitable methods and provide design guidelines for specific target groups. The existence of such a service will not only help improve the quality of products and services already available to user groups with challenges, but hopefully also increase the amount of new developments that are accessible to them.

There are currently some toolboxes available [4], but none that advises on suitable methods for specific (cognitive) characteristics of target groups. Furthermore I believe the concept of a toolbox is a confusing one, since it implies you know what tool to reach for, and that you know what each tool is for so you can make an educated choice. In the case of inclusive design, the user of a toolbox may need more guidance and less choice, depending of the level of experience and knowledge of their target user group.

The toolkit I have in mind would be an intelligent, advisory, interactive system. Perhaps it can use analysis of a brand to recommend particular methods or design patterns, or it could gauge the level of experience with user centered design and adapt the offered information to that. I am inspired by data visualization techniques to make using the toolkit a unique experience.

bolvorm Continue reading