Perspective in Design – A Presentation by Jay Morgan, Information Architect

I had the chance to listen to Jay Morgan’s presentation on user-centered design at the World Congress of Business Analysts today in Boston.  Jay addressed three key areas:

  • Seeing the customer
  • Seeing the product
  • Seeing the total experience

Under Seeing the Customer, Jay examined three techniques:

  • Scenarios – Scenarios are short stories that describe a user’s behavior and interaction with a system.  Scenarios have a beginning, middle and end – and are written in the first person.
  • Mental Models –  Mental Models are maps of user goals to a product’s features and they describe how your users see the experience.  Indi Young from Adaptive Path has been one of the leading proponents of Mental Models.
  • Personas – Personas let you discover the archetypes or idealized models of your user population.  You can analyze reasearch data from qualitative studies to form the ideal personas for your application.  Alan Cooper has written extensively on Personas.

Under Seeing the Product, Jay discussed the three key techniques:

  • Heuristic Evaluation – The concept behind heuristic evaluation is to evaluate your product or website against a scorecard.  Forrester’s Web Site Review checklist provides a good list for evaluation.
  • Usability Testing – Usability testing involves having real users evaluate the product to achieve real goals.  Usabiltiy testing lets you explore, assess and validate.  Open and close card sorting are two methods to do some low-end usability testing
  • Prototyping + Simulation – Under prototyping and simulation, you build a functional, interactive model of the product.  Jay stated that “simulating changes the game in a big way, so you should expect significant returns”.

And under Seeing the Total Experience, Jay discussed:

  • User + Product Perspectives
  • Iterative Design

In summary, Jay made three key points:

  • You will bring a new perspective to work that will improve your products and your process.
  • UCD is a way of “Getting the right design” versus merely “Getting the design right”
  • Designing the total experience is based on an adaptive process of iterative design.

Jay is also one of the community leaders for Catalyze, so I know he will be posting more insights and will be available to answer any community questions on user-centered design.

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Bill Buxton on “Sketching and Experience Design”

Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, talked on “Why Design” and “Sketching and Experience Design” at the November 2006 BostonCHI meeting held at Sun Microsystems in Burlington, MA.  Bill Buxton is a designer and a researcher concerned with human aspects of technology.  His work reflects a particular interest in the use of technology to support creative activities such as design, film making and music.  Buxton’s research specialties include technologies, techniques and theories of input to computers,  technology mediated human-human collaboration, and ubiquitous computing.

In December 2005, he was appointed Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research. Prior to that, he was Principal of his own Toronto-based boutique design and consulting firm, Buxton Design, where his time was split between working  for clients, lecturing, and trying to finish a long-delayed book on sketching and interaction design. As well, he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, where he still works with graduate students.

Bill maintains his own website with more information on sketching and other links.

Bill explains design better than I can, so I recommend watching his presentation.

The Scott Adams Meltdown: Anatomy of a Usability Disaster

Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini is a principal with the Nielsen Norman Group, the “dream team” firm specializing in human-computer interaction. Tog was lead designer at WebMD, the super-vertical start-up founded in February, 1996 by Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape.

He write a semi-periodical free webzine called AskTog and this is his amusing and interesting “post accident” evaluation report of what happened when Dilbert comic strip author Scott Adams permanently deleted a number of comments to his popular blog.

Just like an aircraft accident, it is never just one factor – but a combination of factors that contribute to an accident.  Tag actually identified five errors in this ‘usability’ accident:

  1. User Model didn’t reflect the Design Model
  2. Misleading metaphor
  3. Confirmation Dialogs Ambiguous
  4. Confirmation Substituted for Undo
  5. No Usability Evaluation

Per Tog, “the first four errors, in this case, are pretty fundamental, and no human-computer interaction designer should have made any of them. Still, errors, particularly in failing to recognize ambiguity, are going to creep in. Our safety net is user testing, something obviously missing in this case.”

He also goes on to state “it is never, ever useful in the design of software to blame the user. We know that almost all users are not going to even start a tutorial, let alone finish it. We know that no one but users new to computers RTFM. If they did RTFM, we wouldn’t even have such an initialism. In fact, the more experienced the user, the less likely they are to read the manual. (Power users don’t even read the instructions on the screen, let alone seek on-line help or a manual.) Experienced users only seek help when they become aware of a problem, and, in this case, a highly-experienced user did not become aware of the problem until it was already too late.”

Read the entire analysis of the accident at this link.