The Umbrella

22 Apr 2004 - 8:17am
10 years ago
9 replies
436 reads
Jim Hoekema
2004

Jim Hoekema wrote:
> But if "Usability" is the word that gets us our jobs or gets our work
> noticed, maybe we should promote the term "Usability Design" as distinct
> from Usability Evaluation and Usability Testing. It's a buzzword, but it
> conveys just as much about what we do as any other term -- maybe more,
since
> it focus on the goal of the activity.

We've already got user-centered design to cover that one. ;-) So many terms.

Pabini Gabriel-Petit

---------------

To my ears, "user-centered design" describes the <process> rather than the
object of the design. There can be a user-centered design of something very
static -- this is essentially what happens in local government with public
hearings for, say, a zoning change, or an antenna tower, or creating a park,
etc. The process is very user-centered, but the result, once decided, is
fixed.

(Admittedly, you can say the same thing about usability -- the usability
design that goes into a building, for example, remains pretty fixed once
it's done.)

By contrast, "interactive" media by definition feature behaviors offering
choices to users, accepting their inputs, and responding to those inputs. To
me, this is what brings all these other definitions under a single
umbrella - the domain of interactive media.

- Jim

Comments

22 Apr 2004 - 11:12pm
pabini
2004

Hi Jim

Please see my responses to your comments below. As you can see from my
signature, I'm fully committed to the term "User Experience Design". ;-) In
my view, it's the only term that covers the breadth of my skills.

Pabini Gabriel-Petit
________________________________________

Pabini Gabriel-Petit
Principal & User Experience Architect
Spirit Softworks
www.spiritsoftworks.com

Jim Hoekema wrote:

> To my ears, "user-centered design" describes the <process> rather than the
> object of the design. There can be a user-centered design of something
very
> static -- this is essentially what happens in local government with public
> hearings for, say, a zoning change, or an antenna tower, or creating a
park,
> etc. The process is very user-centered, but the result, once decided, is
> fixed.

***[PGP] Yes, it certainly does describe the process, but I would say: as
well as the product of the process. As I see things, a good, user-centered
design serves users daily and eases their work, so always has the user at
its center. It's the spirit of the design.

> (Admittedly, you can say the same thing about usability -- the usability
> design that goes into a building, for example, remains pretty fixed once
> it's done.)

***[PGP] The same is generally true for most software. It's the user who
moves and works within the spaces we create. Of course, there are exceptions
like communications software, where another user initiates interactions.

> By contrast, "interactive" media by definition feature behaviors offering
> choices to users, accepting their inputs, and responding to those inputs.
To
> me, this is what brings all these other definitions under a single
> umbrella - the domain of interactive media.

***[PGP]
When I hear "interactive media", I think of entertainment or gaming
products, in which presentation overshadows interaction. What you've just
described is what, I think, most of us would call "interaction design". It's
interesting how we often perceive terms differently from one another. (It's
a good object lesson that illustrates how our users might do the same.)
Fortunately, we often get to choose our own titles. :-)

23 Apr 2004 - 7:58am
Dave Malouf
2005

Just a little fun into the thread:
http://www.ok-cancel.com/archives/week_2004_04_16.html

Now, I think this says volumes about "Usability".

-- dave

23 Apr 2004 - 8:07am
Beth Mazur
2003

Quoting David Heller <dave at interactiondesigners.com>:
> Just a little fun into the thread:
> http://www.ok-cancel.com/archives/week_2004_04_16.html
>
> Now, I think this says volumes about "Usability".

I'll play...in what sense?

Beth Mazur
IDblog: http://idblog.org

23 Apr 2004 - 8:22am
Narey, Kevin
2004

I can feel the 'Nielsen' thang about to rear it's pretty little head. :)

KN

-----Original Message-----
From: Beth Mazur [mailto:bowseat at bethmazur.com]
Sent: 23 April 2004 14:07
To: 'Interaction Discussion'
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] The Umbrella

Quoting David Heller <dave at interactiondesigners.com>:
> Just a little fun into the thread:
> http://www.ok-cancel.com/archives/week_2004_04_16.html
>
> Now, I think this says volumes about "Usability".

I'll play...in what sense?

Beth Mazur
IDblog: http://idblog.org
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23 Apr 2004 - 9:30am
Dave Malouf
2005

Quoting David Heller <dave at interactiondesigners.com>:
> Just a little fun into the thread:
> http://www.ok-cancel.com/archives/week_2004_04_16.html
>
> Now, I think this says volumes about "Usability".

Then Beth added:
> I'll play...in what sense?

Dave's reply to Beth:
Well the comic is suggesting that the word "usability" sounds too difficult
and techie and thus someone "stupid" such as the President (yes, I'm
politically motivated) just gets scared when they here the term. I'm not
saying that user experience wouldn't be any more scary a term or more
understandable, just saying that usability sounds complex and expensive.

-- dave

23 Apr 2004 - 3:10pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

I still think it's a tad pretentious to expect any person to design
someone else experience. (Please, no one take that harshly... It's not
meant to be.) That's why I've always fought the term "experinece."

I understand there exists a user's experience of a product, but to
attempt to dictate what that experience is for each person sounds like
the role of a movie director. They always attempt to manipulate your
emotions and feelings, punching the music up at a certain point,
performing a slow zoom in during an emotional monologue, use of color
and visuals.

ex·pe·ri·ence, n.

1. The apprehension of an object, thought, or emotion through the
senses or mind: a child's first experience of snow.
2. a. Active participation in events or activities, leading to the
accumulation of knowledge or skill: a lesson taught by experience; a
carpenter with experience in roof repair.
b. The knowledge or skill so derived.
3. a. An event or a series of events participated in or lived through.
b. The totality of such events in the past of an individual or group.

That's not what we design... At least that's never what I think I
design. Ultimately, what we design is a thing... a product. Whether its
an online bookstore or an embedded interface for a hardware product. A
desktop application or browser based enterprise application. It's a
real thing that people use.

We design things. We don't design the intangible result that is
absolutely unique from each person's point of view.

Andrei Herasimchuk
andrei at adobe.com

work: http://www.adobe.com
personal: http://www.designbyfire.com

24 Apr 2004 - 4:26pm
Jeff Howard
2004

I agree that we design things. But industrial designers also design
things. As do graphic designers. I think we're concerned with more than
just the object. Our designs exist as a means to an end. It's fair to
say that we don't create an experience. But we facilitate it.

Substitute the word 'interaction' for 'experience' and it's the same
thing. We design the frameworks that allow for successful interactions.
We don't build the interaction itself.

Take a shrinkwrapped desktop application. Sure, it's a product. And the
first few times it's used, it's the focus of the interaction. But as a
user becomes more familiar with it, the product moves to the periphery
and allows the user to focus on the task or goal. Sharing pics of the
kids with friends for instance.

Or take Google. When we use their search engine, our goal isn't to use a
search engine. Our focus is on what's on the other side. The interaction
designer's job is to let us find what we're looking for and get out of
there and on with surfing.

Looking again at Andrei's definition, 3a doesn't seem too far off the mark.

// jeff

Jeff Howard
M.Des Candidate
Interaction Design
CMU

25 Apr 2004 - 1:08pm
Ben Hunt
2004

Andrei wrote: I still think it's a tad pretentious to expect any person
to design someone else experience.
...We design things. We don't design the intangible result that is
absolutely unique from each person's point of view.

I agree, which is also why I'm personally warming to Tog's preference of
replacing design with 'architect(ure)'
(http://www.asktog.com/columns/057ItsTimeWeGotRespect.html).

Architects design spaces in which, and through which, different types of
goals can be realised, and different types of experiences had.

There are strong similarities with the process of designing for
interaction: in the conscious intent, and in the multi-faceded skillset
that crosses both left- and right-brain appreciation.

- Ben Hunt
www.webdesignfromscratch.com

25 Apr 2004 - 3:14pm
hans samuelson
2003

Hello all, my two cents on this;

To put things into perspective, as far as I have been able to
determine, there are two converging disciplines that meet around the
idea of interaction design; these are HCI (my apologies to the human
factors folk, but I'm locating them in this camp for the moment) and
Design (the capital letter referring to the discipline and profession
as opposed to the activity, process, verb, noun, etc.)

Simplifying brutally, graphic design plus HCI puts us into the world of
Web design and WIMP interfaces. This is relatively familiar- if
unstable and shifting- turf where aesthetics and usability duke it out
over widget design and typeface legibility.

Industrial design plus HCI puts us into 'physical interaction design',
which is a strange world (mostly academic and speculative research)
linked with ubiquitous computing, tangible interfaces, etc. Aside from
remote controls and appliances, not that much mass-market
commercialization has happened yet from this end. On the other hand,
almost all the new childrens' toys have computer chips in 'em.... and
cell phones/PDAs are being put to a good many unanticipated uses...

What these two areas of expertise and design activity have in common,
besides the 'there's chips in that there gadget,' is not always
obvious. There are themes of time, behavior, media, aesthetics, and
functionality. There are ideas of usability, but also of pleasure,
emotion, and need.

The invocation of design within 'interaction design' can be seen as
primarily rhetorical, which ties into, for example, Nielsen's call to
name the discipline 'interaction architecture,' using the more
prestigious/professional term 'architecture' instead of the fluid/
fashionable 'design.' From this point of view, calling it design is
mostly about branding. And, frankly, Nielsen is right; if it's just
about branding, you might as well invoke architecture (like the
'information architecture' people do; the 'real' architects may not yet
have noticed that their profession has been rhetorically co-opted....)

But note that said 'real' architects have succeeded in creating a
profession in the strong sense of the term: accreditation, training,
professional certification, liability insurance, and so on. The web
disciplines have been havens for self-taught outsiders. Are we willing
to take the idea of architecture as seriously as the architects do?
And in reality, architecture seems more appropriate at the systems
administrator/cyberspace/virtual reality juncture, not at the point
where humans put machines to use, which is where most of the people on
this list seem to fall; graphic and industrial design (and don't forget
interior design, which is actually about the way people inhabit and
populate spaces) are much closer to our level of intervention.
Architectural interventions are often as much about the site as the
space, a luxury and a constraint foreign to most of us pixel-pushin'
types. And architects are not necessarily the first people to ask
about 'user experience,' though I'm treading on dangerous ground here
and will now back away very slowly, with both hands in clear view.

I personally think that 'interaction design' is a pretty good title.
But taking the 'design' in interaction design more seriously means
actually looking at some of the history, knowledge, and methods of
designers, just as it would be rude (and foolish) to invoke the idea of
'architecture' abstractly - you might want to ask an architect or two
first. It's surprising how much Heidegger you might get thrown at you
though, so watch out.

During my recent experiences as a teacher and grad student at the
University of Montreal design school (and having no formal training in
design), I have been surprised to find that design actually does get
taught as a discipline, and has a very active community of researchers
and theorists. There are books on design methods and endless debates
about what design knowledge is. It takes a long time to figure out
what design means; I'm still working on it.

But it's surprisingly hard to discuss things when the terms are poorly
defined; one thing academics do well is to set up structures and
terminology - at the risk of pedantry, of course. So ask me sometime
what 'interaction' means - but bring a bottle of wine; that's part of
the experience....

Hans Samuelson
M.Sc.A. candidate,
Design and Complexity
University of Montreal

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