A well-argued reply.

5 Sep 2004 - 6:43pm
10 years ago
5 replies
399 reads
Jef Raskin
2004

I wrote that quantitative design techniques are often of great utility,
and that to have only the skills in Andrei's list of desiderata is not
sufficient.

Andrei's admirably short reply:

>
> Yes it is.
>

I am getting the impression that Andrei has a tendency to think that
his strengths (presumably on the visual/conceptual side) are the only
essential elements in interface design and that where he does not have
skills (e.g. on the quantitative side) he just denigrates the utility
of those approaches.

Is there anybody else besides Andrei who thinks it is not best to have
both capabilities at hand?

Jef

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Comments

5 Sep 2004 - 7:36pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Sep 5, 2004, at 5:43 PM, Jef Raskin wrote:

> I am getting the impression that Andrei has a tendency to think that
> his strengths (presumably on the visual/conceptual side) are the only
> essential elements in interface design and that where he does not have
> skills (e.g. on the quantitative side) he just denigrates the utility
> of those approaches.

I first said having those skills was beneficial, but I claim they are
not a ***requirement*** in order to do the job, which is what your
phrasing indicated.

"It is not sufficient to have the skills he mentions..."

In fact, I know of few professional interface designers working on big
or high-profile projects that have that sort of specific scientific or
cognitive psych background. (I don't doubt they exist, but they don't
run in the groups I run in.) And I guess since I worked on projects
that tens of millions of people have used that have earned more than a
billion dollars in my career, I suppose that since I don't have the
academic background of cognitive psych, I guess I'm not really an
interface designer in your world because I lack the "sufficent skills."

I claim I am, *without* those specific skills.

Is that better?

Andrei

6 Sep 2004 - 2:03am
Jef Raskin
2004

> I know of few professional interface designers working on big or
> high-profile projects that have that sort of specific scientific or
> cognitive psych background. (I don't doubt they exist, but they don't
> run in the groups I run in.)

It is true that few have that background, which is unfortunate. That
few do doesn't mean that they shouldn't. Because of that lack of
background, many make elementary mistakes that a bit of study would
prevent. I, too, had thought that such study was unimportant until I
took the time to learn about it. It turned out to be very helpful.

I am working with a number of universities to see that this kind of
background material gets into the HCI curriculum, and I hope that
everybody on this list either has or will acquire a working knowledge
of applicable cog. psych. and quantitative methods. It is time to move
HCI from a seat-of-the pants craft to an engineering discipline. And if
someone objects that that removes creativity or art from the process,
it just means that they haven't done much engineering.

Lastly, that a person has "worked on projects that tens of millions of
people have used that have earned more than a billion dollars" could
say no more than they were a major drug kingpin. That doesn't mean that
the project was any good, just that it has had commercial success. The
two ideas should not be confused. I, too, have "worked on projects that
tens of millions of people have used that have earned more than a
billion dollars" and I can also say that I have created such projects,
but I would never use that as a reason to believe that the work was
good.

6 Sep 2004 - 12:29pm
Larry Tesler
2004

At 6:36 PM -0700 9/5/04, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:
>In fact, I know of few professional interface designers working on
>big or high-profile projects that have that sort of specific
>scientific or cognitive psych background. (I don't doubt they exist,
>but they don't run in the groups I run in.) And I guess since I
>worked on projects that tens of millions of people have used that
>have earned more than a billion dollars in my career, I suppose that
>since I don't have the academic background of cognitive psych, I
>guess I'm not really an interface designer in your world because I
>lack the "sufficent skills."
>
>I claim I am, *without* those specific skills.

It is not necessary for one person to possess every skill that may be
useful in carrying out a team endeavor.

Many interface designers today are supported by an experimental
psychologist who conducts usability studies. Add a cognitive
psychologist to the team and you win the benefit of another body of
knowledge as well as an additional perspective.

Some individuals possess two or all three of these skills. But there
are not enough of them to go around. Even if there were, a team of
one makes a poor brainstorming group and lacks critical review.

Larry Tesler

6 Sep 2004 - 12:41pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Sep 6, 2004, at 1:03 AM, Jef Raskin wrote:

> It is true that few have that background, which is unfortunate. That
> few do doesn't mean that they shouldn't. Because of that lack of
> background, many make elementary mistakes that a bit of study would
> prevent. I, too, had thought that such study was unimportant until I
> took the time to learn about it. It turned out to be very helpful.

I won't argue against anything being helpful. I would even say learning
how to play a musical instrument is helpful to an interface designer.
But the point was that I made a claim on what I think people who want
to do interface design needed to be able to do (visual, interaction and
information), and that set did not require cognitive psych skills. You
made a claim that I left out other skills, implying that those skills
were "required." Quotes because you didn't say required, but that's
what the implication was to me.

> Lastly, that a person has "worked on projects that tens of millions of
> people have used that have earned more than a billion dollars" could
> say no more than they were a major drug kingpin. That doesn't mean
> that the project was any good, just that it has had commercial
> success. The two ideas should not be confused. I, too, have "worked on
> projects that tens of millions of people have used that have earned
> more than a billion dollars" and I can also say that I have created
> such projects, but I would never use that as a reason to believe that
> the work was good.

A pointless thread in the discussion, so I'll let that one die for a
change. (I can hear everyone cheering through the DSL cable.)

Andrei

6 Sep 2004 - 12:53pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Sep 6, 2004, at 11:29 AM, Larry Tesler wrote:

> Many interface designers today are supported by an experimental
> psychologist who conducts usability studies. Add a cognitive
> psychologist to the team and you win the benefit of another body of
> knowledge as well as an additional perspective.

Agreed. Or even better, marry one, like I did.

> Some individuals possess two or all three of these skills. But there
> are not enough of them to go around. Even if there were, a team of one
> makes a poor brainstorming group and lacks critical review.

This is true, and I'm not sure I ever implied there should be teams of
one, just people who are skilled in all three areas. (And if I did,
then I retract it.) I find the lack of these kind of people largely an
educational issue. To be fair, the education system is changing.
Graphic design for a long time evolved through the 20th century as the
schools started teaching across multiple aspects of the field to
produce better graphic designers. The end result were students leaving
school who had been given enough background to really grow in it. The
same will happen with software design as the school offerings are now
moving towards a more multidisciplinary approach.

Too many of us in the field today have had to teach ourselves the
various aspects of the various aspect of interface design because many
of our higher education lacked programs that were broader and more
inclusive of visual, interaction and information design as a single
education program. Nothing wrong with that, but it does limit the
field. Given how long it took to get proper comp sci programs in
school, it seems interface design is lagging about a decade or two
behind our engineering counterparts. All in good time I imagine.

Andrei

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