What makes a good IxD? (RE: A well-argued reply.)

6 Sep 2004 - 10:19am
9 years ago
4 replies
432 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

Hi Jef & Andrei,

I think the direction that you are both going in is one where He who has the
most expertise the better. To me this is a nonfunctional truism.

Of course if I have a BFA (industrial design) (minor in CS), MS (in HCI),
and an MBA then I would of course be an ideal candidate. Oh! And 10 years
practitioner experience 1/2 of which was done managing teams of various
sizes and projects of various sizes.

But I think we need to break this down a bit more as while there will be
amazing people who decide that career = life, I do not think that this is a
model of well-being that I want to expect from those I will be working with
nor of those whom I training to be my heirs.

I do believe that there is a balance achievable at the individual level that
can be enhanced through team participation.

I will concede to Andrei that having a lead with a vision is incredibly
important. Does that lead need to be expert in everything? This is where I
disagree. Is there one discipline or component of UX that makes a visionary
more effective than the others? I don't believe so. I think that we are
looking too much at the artifacts and not at the whole. Visual Design,
Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Usability (measure and
validate), etc. All these are about the solutions, the end products. What to
me is more vital in a visionary is problem definition and none of these have
the key to role more than the other. I do think that Usability is not about
problem deconstruction though, but about problem analysis, which to me is a
necessity towards the problem's eventual deconstruction.

To me the best lead is the person who has experience with, but not expertise
in, the disciplines most effecting the problem they are working on. E.g. a
desktop application requires less visual design than interaction design to
create the better solution. I do see how Andrei comes to his opinion to the
opposite. His statement that the visual design is the most criticized is an
interesting one. To me this is an education problem, and one of "red
herring" than to really understanding what is a better design. While
communicating the GUI is definitely important, if what you are communicating
is not useful, usable, or relevant you sorta miss the boat anyway. When
visual designs get ultra-critiqued, to me that is a sign that there is
something else wrong.

E.g. I jut came across a part of my application that we are releasing soon
that is using an icon. The icon looks fine, but people don't know what it
means. The validation for a "new icon" was not done very well, but people
felt that by changing the icon the problem would be solved. What it didn't
look at is that no icon would help because the flow itself (what the icon
was supposed to represent in the workflow) was just not the right solution
at all, so in that context the critique of the icon was just a red herring
preventing us from really deconstructing the problem to form a better
solution.

As to the "science" of interface ... There is much that we should all be
learning about this, but again science is not about problem solving. It is
about knowledge gaining. This is why CHI conferences just don't speak to me,
and why cognitive papers make me go to sleep. They are uncontextualized from
practice. They lack practical application. That isn't to say that there
shouldn't be people out there doing this work, but we need to figure out how
to better bridge these gaps between the academic/science and the practical.
We are NOT the only set of disciplines facing this issue so maybe there is
more to learn from other areas.

-- dave

Comments

6 Sep 2004 - 2:46pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> Of course if I have a BFA (industrial design) (minor in CS), MS (in HCI),
> and an MBA then I would of course be an ideal candidate. Oh! And 10 years
> practitioner experience 1/2 of which was done managing teams of various
> sizes and projects of various sizes.
>
> [...] Does that lead need to be expert in everything?

What is an "expert"?

The dictionary says "A person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of
a certain subject."

Would you consider the son of a Midwestern feed store owner with B.A.,
Masters, and Ph.D. in economics and a decade of stints as high-level
executive who then goes on to build the seventh largest public company in
the U.S. an "expert" CEO? Would you hire him? Even after he presides over
the largest corporate bankruptcy in the nation's history and becomes the
butt of jokes? Even when his defense remains, ironically: I didn't know?

We had pedigreed MBAs bestowing upon us the dotcom debacle. (Some of those
people are now business analysts and product development strategists, as
part of our "team".) I personally had to clean up after a highly-paid
UI/usability "expert" who thought changing a [dropdown list + Go button]
arrangement to a [dropdown list + onChange script] would be a reduction of
steps users had to perform, thus making the app function faster. Except that
every time users fiddled with the list (just to see what it contained
without meaning to select anything specific) it would fire off a fetch
through two terabytes of data.

I find it hard to dissociate expertise from (successful) results.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

7 Sep 2004 - 9:31am
Gerard Torenvliet
2004

Dave Heller wrote:

> As to the "science" of interface ... There is much that we should all be
> learning about this, but again science is not about problem solving. It is
> about knowledge gaining. This is why CHI conferences just don't speak to me,
> and why cognitive papers make me go to sleep. They are uncontextualized from
> practice. They lack practical application. That isn't to say that there
> shouldn't be people out there doing this work, but we need to figure out how
> to better bridge these gaps between the academic/science and the practical.

We are those people. CHI conferences can certainly be a showcase of the arcane, but (in my opinion) it can be a very good practice to drop practical considerations for a time to explore the more abstract. If you attend CHI (or read papers), the objective to get some practical knowledge out is slow, incremental, and long-term.

In the long-term, I'm convinced you'll find gold that easily exceeds the amount you invested.

As members of a practice oriented community (and not just as employees of company X) we need to take up the challenge to:

- understand what's going on in the 'science' of our field (read: academia)
- synthesize relevant findings
- apply them to our work
- publish our findings back to our community, and up into academia

It's hard work, but it is necessary for our field to advance.

Regards,
-Gerard

:: Gerard Torenvliet / gerard.torenvliet at cmcelectronics.ca
:: Human Factors Engineering Design Specialist
:: CMC Electronics Inc.
::
:: Ph - 613 592 7400 x 2613
:: Fx - 613 592 7432
::
:: 415 Legget Drive, P.O. Box 13330
:: Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA, K2K 2B2
:: http://www.cmcelectronics.ca

7 Sep 2004 - 9:47am
Dave Malouf
2005

Is there a "science" to practice outside the academic?

Is the academic really contextualized enough to be relevant?

I would much rather see a promotion of the case study process of the DUX
variety which is contextualized around the real world, but still
"measurable" than read academic findings that while informing are not
contextualized enough to be applied.

Of course there is most likely a balance here, but right now the pendulum as
I see it is that most of the science is done in an academic way, b/c that is
the primary space available for publication. The blog space, Boxes & Arrows,
and other newer spaces are altering this trend, but still has not created a
real balance in this regards.

-- dave

7 Sep 2004 - 10:02am
Gerard Torenvliet
2004

David Heller asked:

> Is there a "science" to practice outside the academic?

Yes.

> Is the academic really contextualized enough to be relevant?

Yes. Not at the journal-article level, but at a higher meta-level where you can begin to tie together the trends in research findings. Read Beyer & Holtzblatt's 'Contextual Design' - their very practical work was intimately informed by a merge of practice and academic findings.

> I would much rather see a promotion of the case study process of the DUX
> variety which is contextualized around the real world, but still
> "measurable" than read academic findings that while informing are not
> contextualized enough to be applied.

That's a great approach, too. CHI needs to be pressured to include this sort of stuff so that academics can learn from practitioners and vice-versa.

Like you said, we need to find a balance. Academic research won't provide you with a huge impact for tomorrow. Focusing on it more longterm will provide us as a discipline with more and better tools, and more respect.

Regards,
-Gerard

:: Gerard Torenvliet / gerard.torenvliet at cmcelectronics.ca
:: Human Factors Engineering Design Specialist
:: CMC Electronics Inc.
::
:: Ph - 613 592 7400 x 2613
:: Fx - 613 592 7432
::
:: 415 Legget Drive, P.O. Box 13330
:: Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA, K2K 2B2
:: http://www.cmcelectronics.ca

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