why the hate-on User-centered Design? (was practice vs. discipline & roles vs. people

5 Oct 2008 - 9:35pm
5 years ago
12 replies
2173 reads
Cwodtke
2004

Lately a lot of senior folks seem to be railing on user-centered design.
Now, I thought UCD was the idea of putting the users in the center of the
design choices. To do that, you can do it with a bunch of methodologies, or
visit the users in their native habitat then keep them in mind later, or
invite them to pick up a pencil and draw you some interfaces somewhere along
the way. And none of these seem like a particularly bad practice when done
in context of what you are trying to accomplish. With search, everyone is
your user and you do search log analysis and a-b testing, when you design an
internal ap you talk to your users, design for them and htey get to sign
off. Consumer internet for multiple user types can often benefit from
research, user segmentation and various sorts of testing. Sometimes personas
are usful, sometimes task analysis... sometimes self-gratification is the
right call when you and the user are the same. It's all UCD to me. So why
the backlash? It feels like a backlash against love songs, sandwiches or
democracy.

Or perhaps I'm merely semanticly sloppy, and the backlash is against the 32
step persona to particpatory prototype system(TM)?

On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 9:08 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
>
> We've started sharing some of it in our presentations (such as in my IA
> Summit keynote here: http://is.gd/3ynf).
>
>

Comments

5 Oct 2008 - 9:42pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

I think the problem is that UCD means whatever people want it to mean.
And that's often, "You're not doing things the way I think they should
be done, so you're not doing UCD."

Personally, my argument is that we've never been able to define it
with any rigor and, therefore, it quickly becomes useless when we try
to make sure we're all on the same page.

It's not so much *hate* for me as a desire to find a vocabulary that
means the same thing to everyone.

Jared

On Oct 5, 2008, at 10:35 PM, Christina Wodtke wrote:

> Lately a lot of senior folks seem to be railing on user-centered
> design.
> Now, I thought UCD was the idea of putting the users in the center
> of the
> design choices. To do that, you can do it with a bunch of
> methodologies, or
> visit the users in their native habitat then keep them in mind
> later, or
> invite them to pick up a pencil and draw you some interfaces
> somewhere along
> the way. And none of these seem like a particularly bad practice
> when done
> in context of what you are trying to accomplish. With search,
> everyone is
> your user and you do search log analysis and a-b testing, when you
> design an
> internal ap you talk to your users, design for them and htey get to
> sign
> off. Consumer internet for multiple user types can often benefit from
> research, user segmentation and various sorts of testing. Sometimes
> personas
> are usful, sometimes task analysis... sometimes self-gratification
> is the
> right call when you and the user are the same. It's all UCD to me.
> So why
> the backlash? It feels like a backlash against love songs,
> sandwiches or
> democracy.
>
> Or perhaps I'm merely semanticly sloppy, and the backlash is against
> the 32
> step persona to particpatory prototype system(TM)?
>
> On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 9:08 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
>
>>
>>
>> We've started sharing some of it in our presentations (such as in
>> my IA
>> Summit keynote here: http://is.gd/3ynf).
>>
>>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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5 Oct 2008 - 10:39pm
Kontra
2007

> So why the backlash?

Because there's more to design than just the user.

> It feels like a backlash against love songs, sandwiches or democracy.

There are horrible love songs, revolting sandwiches and atrocities committed
in the name of democracy.

--
Kontra
http://counternotions.com

6 Oct 2008 - 1:58am
Tim Wright
2008

From what I've read, there seems to a move away from having the *user* at
the center of the design process to having the *use* of the system (or the
interaction) at the center of the design process. To give credit to Larry
Constantine, I think his term "Usage Centered Design" sums up what most
interaction designers say that they do!

www.foruse.com is his website - although like many "senior folks" in the
field it is kinda crap.

Tim

Disclaimer: I taught Larry's method "usage centered design" for a final year
level university course for two consecutive years. Then I decided I should
use the skills I was teaching and entered industry :)

On Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 3:35 PM, Christina Wodtke <cwodtke at eleganthack.com>wrote:

> Lately a lot of senior folks seem to be railing on user-centered design.
> Now, I thought UCD was the idea of putting the users in the center of the
> design choices. To do that, you can do it with a bunch of methodologies, or
> visit the users in their native habitat then keep them in mind later, or
> invite them to pick up a pencil and draw you some interfaces somewhere
> along
> the way. And none of these seem like a particularly bad practice when done
> in context of what you are trying to accomplish. With search, everyone is
> your user and you do search log analysis and a-b testing, when you design
> an
> internal ap you talk to your users, design for them and htey get to sign
> off. Consumer internet for multiple user types can often benefit from
> research, user segmentation and various sorts of testing. Sometimes
> personas
> are usful, sometimes task analysis... sometimes self-gratification is the
> right call when you and the user are the same. It's all UCD to me. So why
> the backlash? It feels like a backlash against love songs, sandwiches or
> democracy.
>
> Or perhaps I'm merely semanticly sloppy, and the backlash is against the 32
> step persona to particpatory prototype system(TM)?
>
> On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 9:08 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
>
> >
> >
> > We've started sharing some of it in our presentations (such as in my IA
> > Summit keynote here: http://is.gd/3ynf).
> >
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Kei te kōrero tiki au. Kei te kōrero tiki koe. Ka kōrero tiki tāua. Kōrero
ai tiki tāua.

6 Oct 2008 - 7:47am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

How precisely do you have to define a general approach to product
development? In the early days of "Usability Engineering" we looked
at the key principles of stakeholder involvement, quantiative
usability goals, user involvement, iterations of design and
evaluation, and comparison against the goals (when you meet the goals,
you ship). Within this framework (and we used "framework" to avoid
debates about whether specific methods like contextual inquiry,
think-aloud testing, interviews, or surveys were the best methods
given the constraints).

Within this Usability Engineering framework, a multitude of methods
could be used (appropriately or inappropriately) so I think that we do
get into trouble when we start equating UCD to a small set of our
favorite methods.

Can we agree on the general approach to UCD?

Chauncey

On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 10:42 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
> I think the problem is that UCD means whatever people want it to mean. And
> that's often, "You're not doing things the way I think they should be done,
> so you're not doing UCD."
>
> Personally, my argument is that we've never been able to define it with any
> rigor and, therefore, it quickly becomes useless when we try to make sure
> we're all on the same page.
>
> It's not so much *hate* for me as a desire to find a vocabulary that means
> the same thing to everyone.
>
> Jared
>
> On Oct 5, 2008, at 10:35 PM, Christina Wodtke wrote:
>
>> Lately a lot of senior folks seem to be railing on user-centered design.
>> Now, I thought UCD was the idea of putting the users in the center of the
>> design choices. To do that, you can do it with a bunch of methodologies,
>> or
>> visit the users in their native habitat then keep them in mind later, or
>> invite them to pick up a pencil and draw you some interfaces somewhere
>> along
>> the way. And none of these seem like a particularly bad practice when done
>> in context of what you are trying to accomplish. With search, everyone is
>> your user and you do search log analysis and a-b testing, when you design
>> an
>> internal ap you talk to your users, design for them and htey get to sign
>> off. Consumer internet for multiple user types can often benefit from
>> research, user segmentation and various sorts of testing. Sometimes
>> personas
>> are usful, sometimes task analysis... sometimes self-gratification is the
>> right call when you and the user are the same. It's all UCD to me. So why
>> the backlash? It feels like a backlash against love songs, sandwiches or
>> democracy.
>>
>> Or perhaps I'm merely semanticly sloppy, and the backlash is against the
>> 32
>> step persona to particpatory prototype system(TM)?
>>
>> On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 9:08 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
>>
>>>
>>>
>>> We've started sharing some of it in our presentations (such as in my IA
>>> Summit keynote here: http://is.gd/3ynf).
>>>
>>>
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

6 Oct 2008 - 9:18am
Cwodtke
2004

> > It feels like a backlash against love songs, sandwiches or democracy.
>
>
> There are horrible love songs, revolting sandwiches and atrocities
> committed
> in the name of democracy.
>

that's why I chose those three. There are dreadful examples of each, yet are
we getting rid of them because of that?

As Churchill said "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of
government except all the others that have been tried."

6 Oct 2008 - 10:22am
Barbara Ballard
2005

I've come to two general conclusions:

1. I'm never quite doing what the current best practice/fad/terminology says
2. Whatever terminology I choose will become outmoded.

I remember back in '95 or so, Donald Norman came to a local chapter of
HFES, with folks from the various parts of that field. Including
design. And he asserted to our faces that what we were doing was crap,
that emotion was critical.

This lovely assertion that all HF folks are in the evaluative side of
things is just funny. And the assumption that we narrow the entire
range of human factors down to cognitive factors is insulting.

This obviously stuck in my mind. And now that he is asserting that the
lessons you learn in HF from the engineering side (Industrial
Engineering) are critical to management of design ... I just can't
take the whole thing seriously.

I have training in industrial design, engineering, manufacturing,
cognition, vision, human performance, social psychology, emotional
psychology, artificial intelligence, programming, and business. I
might not have training in fundamentals of typography and color, but I
can evaluate responses to these things and refine designs. And I'm
tired of people assuming that because I do one of these things, I fit
in some stereotype.

And this is what I think the backlash against "usability", "usability
engineering", and "user centered design" is.

And I look ahead to the backlash against interaction design. And other
backlashes. I plan to roll my eyes, figure out what the current
preferred methodology is, see what I am already doing of it, see what
I can learn from it, and see if I want to adopt it as a label. I
might, I might not.

I think I have graduated to codgerhood.

~~~~
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003

6 Oct 2008 - 11:04am
dmitryn
2004

Barbara, that was a great post! (Especially the first and penultimate
paragraphs.)

It seems to me that every term used to describe work done in our field
ascends, and then eventually descends, the Gartner hype curve. This
process ends with gurus and guru wannabes railing against that term.
In the meantime, practitioners shrug and adopt it if helps them get
their jobs done more effectively.

Dmitry

On Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 11:22 AM, Barbara Ballard
<barbara at littlespringsdesign.com> wrote:
> I've come to two general conclusions:
>
> 1. I'm never quite doing what the current best practice/fad/terminology says
> 2. Whatever terminology I choose will become outmoded.
>
> I remember back in '95 or so, Donald Norman came to a local chapter of
> HFES, with folks from the various parts of that field. Including
> design. And he asserted to our faces that what we were doing was crap,
> that emotion was critical.
>
> This lovely assertion that all HF folks are in the evaluative side of
> things is just funny. And the assumption that we narrow the entire
> range of human factors down to cognitive factors is insulting.
>
> This obviously stuck in my mind. And now that he is asserting that the
> lessons you learn in HF from the engineering side (Industrial
> Engineering) are critical to management of design ... I just can't
> take the whole thing seriously.
>
> I have training in industrial design, engineering, manufacturing,
> cognition, vision, human performance, social psychology, emotional
> psychology, artificial intelligence, programming, and business. I
> might not have training in fundamentals of typography and color, but I
> can evaluate responses to these things and refine designs. And I'm
> tired of people assuming that because I do one of these things, I fit
> in some stereotype.
>
> And this is what I think the backlash against "usability", "usability
> engineering", and "user centered design" is.
>
> And I look ahead to the backlash against interaction design. And other
> backlashes. I plan to roll my eyes, figure out what the current
> preferred methodology is, see what I am already doing of it, see what
> I can learn from it, and see if I want to adopt it as a label. I
> might, I might not.
>
>
> I think I have graduated to codgerhood.
>
> ~~~~
> Barbara Ballard
> barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

6 Oct 2008 - 11:27am
jgould
2008

If you work at an agency there is no such thing as "pure" UCD -- it is tainted, constrained, or, to put in more neutral terms, challenged, by, as David says quite aptly, "stakeholder-centered design".

And anyway, a UCD approach that does not include an elaboration of front-end activities would get a big red "INCOMPLETE" stamp from me (if I was evaluating high-school-teacher-style). Does it really matter whether the activities come before, say, user profiles, or after?

6 Oct 2008 - 1:52pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> It's all UCD to me. So why the backlash? It feels like a backlash against
> love songs, sandwiches or
> democracy.

The frequent arguments (which I'm frequently part of):

1) Many people (and it sounds like you're part of this group) view
"User-Centered Design" a sort of an all-encompassing, umbrella term that
includes any and all possible approaches, practices, and deliverables aimed
at providing useful, usable, and enjoyable solutions for users. But since
there are other approaches out there to accomplishing this goal, such as
ACD, GDD, etc., and there are distinctions between these approaches, and the
distinctions are important, much debate occurs that attempts to either
define UCD, define everything else as compared to UCD, or erase the
distinctions entirely in favor of the almighty term "UCD" so that the rest
of the world doesn't get confused about how they should be developing
products.

2) The arguments are not all about UCD as a whole—there is actually a lot of
overlap in the toolsets for each approach—but rather about certain tools
usually associated with UCD. Personas/scenarios, user research, and other
things can be seen as flawed, unstable, and ultimately a waste of time.
Donald Norman has come out against personas, for example, saying they're
essentially useless for informing design decisions.

3) There is a school of thought that to achieve the best solution, one is
better off focusing on an aspect of the problem/solution set other than the
blanket "user". In ACD, the activity is at the core. In GDD, the user's
personal goals are at the core. And so on.

An important note:

All the approaches involve paying attention to users and designing things
that support them. They all have the same underlying goal as what's
typically referred to as "UCD". Their focuses are different, their practices
and methods are different, their deliverables are often different, and their
outcomes may be different, but they all are an attempt to achieve the same
thing.

When it comes down to it, every designer has a slightly different way of
doing things, and if you can wrap it up in a pretty red bow and give it a
name, you can make a lot of money as a consultant by charging people to
apply your specific approach to a design project.

In the end, it doesn't matter one bit what process you use. What matters is
that you can prove it works and can repeat it.

The passion you've seen coming out on all sides of the debate, I believe,
stems from the Vulcan death-grip with which people tend to hold onto their
particular strain of design process or approach. For some, it's about
digging in and sticking to what they fully believe to be the right approach.
For others, it's about refusing to accept existing norms and looking for
alternatives. For some, it's about doing what they were taught was right by
a prior mentor (professor, team lead, etc.). For others, it's about
questioning that mentor.

Regardless, it's all very ... fun. It makes for some very lively and heated
debates. And one thing most people seem to agree on is that the debate
itself is good for the profession.

-r-

6 Oct 2008 - 2:56pm
netwiz
2010

On Sun, 5 Oct 2008 19:35:34 -0700, Christina wrote:

>Lately a lot of senior folks seem to be railing on user-centered design.

Just to chip in with my British 2p.

I don't care what it's called really. We're in business, we have a
website that needs to achieve some things. There are a number of
factors that need to come together for it to be successful in doing
these things.

There was certainly a historical time when 'user centered design'
performed a useful function as a term, to draw attention to aspects of
what made a site successful that (in many cases) had insufficient
attention and resources.

I'm finding that 'UX' for User Experience is often used now in
replacement.

Whatever actual methods, methodologies, techniques or philosphies are
used, between us we have some common expertise and knowledge that we
apply to cause software to be successful in a business context. It
certainly helps to have common language, and to be able to describe
and communicate what we do, and why some of it is an expert role, but
in the meanwhile I'll just keep plugging away with doing my job,
trying to make my website as successful as it can be, and describing
it internally in terms that help me do that.

* Nick Gassman - Usability and Standards Manager - http://ba.com *

6 Oct 2008 - 1:25pm
Robert Skrobe
2008

Jared wrote:
"I think the problem is that UCD means whatever people want it to mean. And
that's often, "You're not doing things the way I think they should be done,
so you're not doing UCD."

Personally, my argument is that we've never been able to define it with any
rigor and, therefore, it quickly becomes useless when we try to make sure
we're all on the same page.

It's not so much *hate* for me as a desire to find a vocabulary that means
the same thing to everyone."

Robert writes:
I think user-centered design is the measurement of subjective opinion at its
core.

Opinions, whether from the designer, user, or business stakeholder, color
the use and application of literally all physical and web design
techniques. The strength of one groups' influence over another will differ
from place to place, but UCD is particular in its ability to analyze this
for tactical and strategic use.

It's a powerful tool for the practitioner who knows how to use it
effectively. If it can ultimately inform stakeholders when making important
business decisions, and influence design direction with a unique facet of
customer insight.

In my experience, it falls out of favor when it lacks practical application
to process, or becomes a political liability. It becomes completely
irrelevant if timelines are short, or business goals require expediency in
the face of calculated risk.

Trying to find a shared vocabulary would be admirable. Finding cases of UCD
done well, or when combined with other design techniques, would be even
better.

- Robert

On Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 11:04 AM, Dmitry Nekrasovski
<mail.dmitry at gmail.com>wrote:

> Barbara, that was a great post! (Especially the first and penultimate
> paragraphs.)
>
> It seems to me that every term used to describe work done in our field
> ascends, and then eventually descends, the Gartner hype curve. This
> process ends with gurus and guru wannabes railing against that term.
> In the meantime, practitioners shrug and adopt it if helps them get
> their jobs done more effectively.
>
> Dmitry
>
> On Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 11:22 AM, Barbara Ballard
> <barbara at littlespringsdesign.com> wrote:
> > I've come to two general conclusions:
> >
> > 1. I'm never quite doing what the current best practice/fad/terminology
> says
> > 2. Whatever terminology I choose will become outmoded.
> >
> > I remember back in '95 or so, Donald Norman came to a local chapter of
> > HFES, with folks from the various parts of that field. Including
> > design. And he asserted to our faces that what we were doing was crap,
> > that emotion was critical.
> >
> > This lovely assertion that all HF folks are in the evaluative side of
> > things is just funny. And the assumption that we narrow the entire
> > range of human factors down to cognitive factors is insulting.
> >
> > This obviously stuck in my mind. And now that he is asserting that the
> > lessons you learn in HF from the engineering side (Industrial
> > Engineering) are critical to management of design ... I just can't
> > take the whole thing seriously.
> >
> > I have training in industrial design, engineering, manufacturing,
> > cognition, vision, human performance, social psychology, emotional
> > psychology, artificial intelligence, programming, and business. I
> > might not have training in fundamentals of typography and color, but I
> > can evaluate responses to these things and refine designs. And I'm
> > tired of people assuming that because I do one of these things, I fit
> > in some stereotype.
> >
> > And this is what I think the backlash against "usability", "usability
> > engineering", and "user centered design" is.
> >
> > And I look ahead to the backlash against interaction design. And other
> > backlashes. I plan to roll my eyes, figure out what the current
> > preferred methodology is, see what I am already doing of it, see what
> > I can learn from it, and see if I want to adopt it as a label. I
> > might, I might not.
> >
> >
> > I think I have graduated to codgerhood.
> >
> > ~~~~
> > Barbara Ballard
> > barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

6 Oct 2008 - 5:03pm
jgould
2008

Who, Christina, what a strange and in my opinion, ridiculous, article by Don Norman. He writes under "What Adapts? Technology or People?" that it's some kind of corollary that technology comes first, then humans adapt. He writes about the clock (and watch):

"An arbitrary division of the year and day into months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds, all according to physical principles that differ from psychological or biological ones, now rules our lives. We eat when our watches tell us it is meal time, not when we are hungry. We awake according to the harsh call of the alarm, not when we are rested. University classes are taught in one hour periods, three times a week, in 10 %u2013 15 week sessions, not because this is good for education, but because it makes for easier scheduling. The extreme reliance on time is an accidental outgrowth of the rise of the factory and the resulting technological society."

---

That's nice and all, but UX professionals aren't designing "time", they are designing *solutions*, whether they be online or offline. So, to use an example of industrial design, when a "time"-keeping product is launched without paying attention to the user, you end up with something as craptacular as this:

http://goodexperience.com/2008/08/broken-alarm-clock-de.php

But hey, it still tells time, right?

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