ACD/UCD Round Two

7 Oct 2008 - 6:18am
5 years ago
24 replies
22296 reads
Joshua Porter
2007

In an attempt to discover any real difference between ACD and UCD,
here's a concrete question:

Are there different methods/deliverables that we might label more of
an ACD practice or a UCD practice?

To determine this, we should look at what the primary object of the
method is. That is, what is being communicated or diagrammed in the
method?

Is it the User (or types of users) or is it the Activity (or set of
tasks)?

In the previous thread Dan Saffer started doing this.

Personas (Cooper, Adlin, etc) have a User as the primary object

Indi Young's Mental Models have activities as the primary object

I would also add three more that seem focused on the activity:

Hackos/Redish task analysis
Adlin's Reality Maps (ch. 10)
Zaki-Warfel's task analysis grid

Now, I understand that most of us do task-related methods and call it
UCD. That's fine. We can keep calling it UCD and we'll all get along
just fine. I don't really care what we call it...I'm just focused on
what we're doing...

So, what methods focus on the User and what methods focus on the
Activity?

Comments

7 Oct 2008 - 10:05am
Jarod Tang
2007

Could guys talk about the method by case instead of by abstract methods ?

Cheers,
-- Jarod

On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 7:18 PM, Joshua Porter <porter at bokardo.com> wrote:
> In an attempt to discover any real difference between ACD and UCD, here's a
> concrete question:
>
> Are there different methods/deliverables that we might label more of an ACD
> practice or a UCD practice?
>
> To determine this, we should look at what the primary object of the method
> is. That is, what is being communicated or diagrammed in the method?
>
> Is it the User (or types of users) or is it the Activity (or set of tasks)?
>
> In the previous thread Dan Saffer started doing this.
>
> Personas (Cooper, Adlin, etc) have a User as the primary object
>
> Indi Young's Mental Models have activities as the primary object
>
> I would also add three more that seem focused on the activity:
>
> Hackos/Redish task analysis
> Adlin's Reality Maps (ch. 10)
> Zaki-Warfel's task analysis grid
>
> Now, I understand that most of us do task-related methods and call it UCD.
> That's fine. We can keep calling it UCD and we'll all get along just fine. I
> don't really care what we call it...I'm just focused on what we're doing...
>
> So, what methods focus on the User and what methods focus on the Activity?
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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--
http://designforuse.blogspot.com/

7 Oct 2008 - 10:24am
SemanticWill
2007

Having been immersed in Shirky, VanderWal, Young, Constantine, Porter over
the past year and reading about identity/object while designing now my 7th
implementation of sociality/socialmedia/networking it would seem that (and
this is off the cuff):

User had Identity with a constalation of attributes (goals, context,
assumptions, reputation) that engages in activities (collaboration,
publishing, information seeking, connecting, sharing) mediated by the
scafolding of mediated space (privacy, openness, public and private squares)
over time. Think about Idenity as a 8/12/20 sides dice with facets -
rotating around a nucleus which is an object so that multiple Identities can
revolve around that same object, all within a closed universe - such that
the only metaphor that works for me is quantum physics where conversations
have gravity pulling identities back and forth around different objects, and
even switching state, over time. Just thinking out loud here.

This means that personas, task flows and scenarios, while valuable, don't
work hard enough to create the complete picture of the ecosystem, the
formalations and recursive creation of identity including the diadic and
symmalian ties to other nodes (people), or the activities required to
achieve goals into a rich holistic experience to inform the architecture of
the space. Further - 2D graphics can't compress the complexity of this into
any meaningful visualization that conveys this. We have seen enough
honeycomb's at this point to realize they don't get the job done, and we
need something richer. Not saying I have taken a stab at that yet, but
that's what I am thinking.

On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 7:18 AM, Joshua Porter <porter at bokardo.com> wrote:

> In an attempt to discover any real difference between ACD and UCD, here's a
> concrete question:
>
> Are there different methods/deliverables that we might label more of an ACD
> practice or a UCD practice?
>
> To determine this, we should look at what the primary object of the method
> is. That is, what is being communicated or diagrammed in the method?
>
> Is it the User (or types of users) or is it the Activity (or set of tasks)?
>
> In the previous thread Dan Saffer started doing this.
>
> Personas (Cooper, Adlin, etc) have a User as the primary object
>
> Indi Young's Mental Models have activities as the primary object
>
> I would also add three more that seem focused on the activity:
>
> Hackos/Redish task analysis
> Adlin's Reality Maps (ch. 10)
> Zaki-Warfel's task analysis grid
>
> Now, I understand that most of us do task-related methods and call it UCD.
> That's fine. We can keep calling it UCD and we'll all get along just fine. I
> don't really care what we call it...I'm just focused on what we're doing...
>
> So, what methods focus on the User and what methods focus on the Activity?
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | User Experience Architect
tel: +1.617.281.128 | will at semanticfoundry.com
aim: semanticwill | gtalk: wkevans4
twitter: semanticwill | skype: semanticwill
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7 Oct 2008 - 1:44pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

The main distinctions as I see them ...

1. UCD = persona descriptions; ACD = activity analysis (focused on users,
objects, and the activities themselves)
2. UCD = research focused on user goals, aimed at a niche audience; ACD =
focused on how people perform activities, abstracted to a wider audience
3. UCD = involves talking to users in (almost?) every case; ACD = designer
can sometimes/often become a SME on the activity with very little or no
outside research
4. UCD = users are unreliable, unstable, and often unpredictable; ACD =
activities are relatively stable, by comparison

Activities can't occur without both a user and an object or situation. ACD
concerns itself with both those elements and how they go together to form a
cohesive activity. Because of the co-evolutionary nature of people and
technology, a user's goals/mindset/behavior/etc can (and likely will) change
as a result of the technology, while the activity remains essentially the
same.

Again, yes, there's a lot of overlap between ACD and UCD, but the
distinctions are important.

Sadly, I have extremely little time to devote to this thread this month
(deadlines to meet!), but I'm very interested to see what others come up
with.

-r-

7 Oct 2008 - 1:50pm
Joshua Porter
2007

Will, you're absolutely right, it is more complicated than a single
facet. This is actually the insight that led to activity theory...

"Activity theory holds that the human mind is the product of our
interaction with people and artifacts in the context of everyday
activity."

In other words, activity theory is an attempt to reconcile the
complexity of the situation...

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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7 Oct 2008 - 2:09pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Robert, I really liked what you wrote. Made a lot of sense. Thanx!
-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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7 Oct 2008 - 2:23pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> Robert, I really liked what you wrote. Made a lot of sense. Thanx!

Excellent!

I think maybe all we really needed was the right question, and Josh was the
first to figure out what it was. :)

-r-

7 Oct 2008 - 2:31pm
Joshua Porter
2007

Wonderful insight, Robert. The key, I think, is #4...that activities
are often stable across multiple user groups.

This is why a single tool (Google) can support *countless*
goals...because the activity of keyword search is nearly identical
for everyone.

To triangulate with something Jared said on the first ACD/UCD
thread, if UCD came out of in-house software built for employees,
then the user base never changes (as you say...niche audience). When
the user base never changes, you always have to support them, no
matter what they're doing. So a UCD approach makes more sense in
that case.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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7 Oct 2008 - 2:35pm
SemanticWill
2007

Robert (or others),

What other types of research fit into one or the other?

Contextual Inquiry
Cognitive Walkthroughs
Competitive Analysis
Cultural Analysis

And - when we think about the engagement ladder in social media, there is a
lifecycle of activities that are not user (as in demographic), but certainly
user (as in contributor/collector/spectator) that informs activities - so
activities are not stable over time even for the same or different users in
this case.

On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 2:44 PM, Robert Hoekman Jr <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:

> The main distinctions as I see them ...
>
> 1. UCD = persona descriptions; ACD = activity analysis (focused on users,
> objects, and the activities themselves)
> 2. UCD = research focused on user goals, aimed at a niche audience; ACD =
> focused on how people perform activities, abstracted to a wider audience
> 3. UCD = involves talking to users in (almost?) every case; ACD = designer
> can sometimes/often become a SME on the activity with very little or no
> outside research
> 4. UCD = users are unreliable, unstable, and often unpredictable; ACD =
> activities are relatively stable, by comparison
>
> Activities can't occur without both a user and an object or situation. ACD
> concerns itself with both those elements and how they go together to form a
> cohesive activity. Because of the co-evolutionary nature of people and
> technology, a user's goals/mindset/behavior/etc can (and likely will)
> change
> as a result of the technology, while the activity remains essentially the
> same.
>
> Again, yes, there's a lot of overlap between ACD and UCD, but the
> distinctions are important.
>
> Sadly, I have extremely little time to devote to this thread this month
> (deadlines to meet!), but I'm very interested to see what others come up
> with.
>
> -r-
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | User Experience Architect
tel: +1.617.281.128 | will at semanticfoundry.com
aim: semanticwill | gtalk: wkevans4
twitter: semanticwill | skype: semanticwill
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7 Oct 2008 - 2:42pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> Wonderful insight, Robert. The key, I think, is #4...that activities
> are often stable across multiple user groups.

Absolutely agree.

This is why a single tool (Google) can support *countless*
> goals...because the activity of keyword search is nearly identical
> for everyone.

Exactly. Great example, too.

> When the user base never changes, you always have to support them, no
> matter what they're doing. So a UCD approach makes more sense in
> that case.
>

Indeed. However, niche-audience solutions can often be abstracted to work in
other situations as well by focusing more on the activity than the audience.
For example, an app for one company's HR dept could work very well for HR
depts in other companies if designed with activities in mind instead of a
specific HR company. This can be tricky, of course, but it's not usually
impossible.

-r-

7 Oct 2008 - 3:01pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> What other types of research fit into one or the other?
>
> Contextual Inquiry
> Cognitive Walkthroughs
> Competitive Analysis
> Cultural Analysis
>

Tricky question. The distinctions here, I think, are more about your
mindset. They can all be approached with a focus on user goals alone,
activities alone, a combination, or something else entirely. The information
you hope to attain will shape how you perform each type of research. For
example, when you evaluate how well a competitor's product enables Jenny to
complete specific activities, you'll get different information than
evaluating how well it supports Jenny's goal to become a nurse.

And - when we think about the engagement ladder in social media, there is a
> lifecycle of activities that are not user (as in demographic), but certainly
> user (as in contributor/collector/spectator) that informs activities - so
> activities are not stable over time even for the same or different users in
> this case.
>

Do you have a specific example to frame this question? I'm not sure the depth
of an activity necessarily relates to its stability.

An "engagement ladder" implies depth of involvement, not a fundamental shift
in activity. A guy can be a drummer who only plays once a year and only in
one style, and another guy can be one that plays every day in a variety of
styles. The guy who plays every day will do things very differently than the
once-a-year player, but the activity of drumming is fundamentally the same
for both.

(I'm assuming I'm misinterpreting your question, hence the return volley.)

-r-

7 Oct 2008 - 4:27pm
Steve Baty
2009

At the risk of stating the obvious (although that can be good sometimes)
it's important to remember that there's a business dimension to the design
activity which the methodology/tasks needs to address. This dimension
addresses questions such as "what users do we wish to target" or "what
activity do we wish to support" and "what user goal/activity are we capable
of supporting"; "what combination of user goals/activities can we address
*profitably*"; to name a few.

I know the original post was addressing the methodological
delineation/intersection between ACD and UCD, but ofttimes both of these
fall down (in application) in the area of business consideration and
strategy (thus the rise of Design Thinking).

Steve

2008/10/8 Robert Hoekman Jr <robert at rhjr.net>

> >
> > What other types of research fit into one or the other?
> >
> > Contextual Inquiry
> > Cognitive Walkthroughs
> > Competitive Analysis
> > Cultural Analysis
> >
>
>

------------------------------------------------
Steve 'Doc' Baty B.Sc (Maths), M.EC, MBA
Principal Consultant
Meld Consulting
M: +61 417 061 292
E: stevebaty at meld.com.au

7 Oct 2008 - 12:50pm
Bruce Randall
2008

I'll let the academics duke it out over the difference between ACD
and UCD. Personally, I find the definitions and distinctions made at
the broad/abstract level fairly useless.

In practice, users and activities cannot be separated, or for that
matter, prioritized, one over the other. They are two sides of the
same coin. Just as you can't have heads without tails, you cannot
have an activity without and actor (user). And while you can
theoritecally have a user without an activity, they wouldn't be
doing anything -- thus, no "interaction" could occur, thus such a
user is not relevant to an Interaction Designer.

So, call it what you want, but good design requires careful attention
to both users and activities, and it requires them in conjunction.
Cooper does place a lot of emphasis on Personas, but those personas'
activites are described via scenarios almost as early in the process.
Scenarios are "activity" based. Additionally, the personas are
generated based on behavioral patterns (along with goals). Again,
behavioral patterns are an ativity-based phenominon.

Mental models are activity-based, but they are based on the
activities of a specific user or user group. Basing a mental model on
an unknown or undefined user is not useful.

So again, from an academic standpoint, there may be different
artifacts defined, but in practice, I have found the tools provided
by both to be quite compatible.

As for language, I prefer UCD because it serves as a reminder to
always look back to the user. I find in the real world, little or no
reminder is needed to focus on activities (and even less so on
tasks). That seems to be the natural direction that development teams
and business stakeholders focus. It is the user's goals, motivations,
expectations, etc. that is so easily forgotten as projects progress.
The value of the user-centered objects is keeping those user
attributes in the forefront through-out the process and not getting
caught solely in the minutia of the tasks.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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8 Oct 2008 - 5:43am
Joshua Porter
2007

@Steve, great point about business needs at some level driving design
decisions.

In my fullday workshop at d.Construct I talked about this very
problem, and I argued that the question "what activity do we wish to
support" is a better question than "what users do we wish to
target". However, it's clear that if your audience does not change
(such as if you're building an intranet) then the opposite applies.

But in general, I think it's clear that the most successful software
is that which nails to the ground an activity. Even in very niche
world of professional web design, for example, each successful
application focuses on specific activities within that world. There
is no "software for web designers" that supports everything...there
are several pieces that fit different activities that all web
designers use piecemeal to get the job done. For example, I use a
text editor, ftp program, graphics program, diagramming program,
version control program, and communications tools to get it all
done...and I recognize each of these pieces of software for the
specific activity it supports.

And to your point...can you provide more examples where ACD or UCD
falls down in the area of business consideration and strategy?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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8 Oct 2008 - 6:11am
Steve Baty
2009

Joshua,

To be fair, my experience does not point to a failure of UCD or ACD.

However, I recently listened to a UCD case study at the ozIA 2008 conference
that demonstrated a clear lack of insight into the business consideration of
the project. The team had several options from which to choose and settled
on one which compromised a significant component of the client's brand, and
the experience they wished to give customers. The proposed solution was
tested - successfully - and the team then set about 'convincing the client'
for some hours (reportedly).

The alternate, and IMHO much more closely aligned, solutions were not
tested.

The project followed a UCD process to the letter. It was thorough,
innovative, and comprehensive. In terms of the original brief, it can only
be considered a success. However I can't but help feel like something
fundamental about the business was sacrificed without ceremony, regard, or
need. And I suspect that the business owners are nagged by the same
feelings.

To your first point, though, for all the discussion about the distinctions
between UCD, ACD, GDD etc, I'm yet to see any compelling evidence to suggest
that one is better - irrespective of the project, team makeup, team
capability etc - than any of the others. I would suggest, based on my own
experience, that it is impossible to separate the success of the method from
these other factors.

I hope that helps clarify my earlier comment.

Steve

2008/10/8 Joshua Porter <porter at bokardo.com>

> @Steve, great point about business needs at some level driving design
> decisions.
>
> In my fullday workshop at d.Construct I talked about this very
> problem, and I argued that the question "what activity do we wish to
> support" is a better question than "what users do we wish to
> target". However, it's clear that if your audience does not change
> (such as if you're building an intranet) then the opposite applies.
>
> But in general, I think it's clear that the most successful software
> is that which nails to the ground an activity. Even in very niche
> world of professional web design, for example, each successful
> application focuses on specific activities within that world. There
> is no "software for web designers" that supports everything...there
> are several pieces that fit different activities that all web
> designers use piecemeal to get the job done. For example, I use a
> text editor, ftp program, graphics program, diagramming program,
> version control program, and communications tools to get it all
> done...and I recognize each of these pieces of software for the
> specific activity it supports.
>
> And to your point...can you provide more examples where ACD or UCD
> falls down in the area of business consideration and strategy?
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=33980
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

--
----------------------------------------------
Steve 'Doc' Baty B.Sc (Maths), M.EC, MBA
Principal Consultant
Meld Consulting
M: +61 417 061 292
E: stevebaty at meld.com.au

UX Statistics: http://uxstats.blogspot.com

Member, UPA - www.upassoc.org
Member, IA Institute - www.iainstitute.org
Member, IxDA - www.ixda.org
Contributor - UXMatters - www.uxmatters.com

8 Oct 2008 - 6:32am
Itamar Medeiros
2006

I think Robert hit the nail on the head on at least two distinctions:

3. UCD = involves talking to users in (almost?) every case; ACD =
designer can sometimes/often become a SME on the activity with very
little or no outside research

4. UCD = users are unreliable, unstable, and often unpredictable; ACD
= activities are relatively stable, by comparison

Looking at specific industries (in my case, design software) and the
workflows that we're trying to support through our products, I see
myself most interested on the tasks users perform than on the
personas; or using the personas only as means to narrow down the
profile of users I want to recruit for concept validation test.

{ Itamar Medeiros } Information Designer
designing clear, understandable communication by
caring to structure, context, and presentation
of data and information

mobile ::: 86 13671503252
website ::: http://designative.info/
aim ::: itamarlmedeiros
skype ::: designative

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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8 Oct 2008 - 12:37pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> Looking at specific industries (in my case, design software) and the
> workflows that we're trying to support through our products, I see
> myself most interested on the tasks users perform than on the
> personas; or using the personas only as means to narrow down the
> profile of users I want to recruit for concept validation test.

Interestingly, training materials and events on design and design software
very often include advice on workflow. Adobe, for example, talks about it.
SXSW has offered panels on it as well (one very memorably bad one, but
that's a different story). I could go on.

People in many other professions, if not most or all, are also interested in
how to do things more efficiently. To that end, tasks that comprise core
activities are refined, simplified, sped up, and so on. Tips are passed
around from person to person. Managers make decrees about how things must be
done. Again, I could go on.

Within an organization, the goals are generally understood—for individuals,
and for the company as a whole. The job for people, then, is to do the
things that meet those goals. In fact, this serves as a good example of
where the mental split between UCD and ACD occurs for me. I'll explain.

You can't literally design things that support goals ("this system will help
Jenny become a nurse"). You can only design things that support activities
("this app facilitates distance learning courses"). Yes, the goals are
important, because they often(*) dictate the activities, but since the
system itself can only support an activity, and the activity is very likely
applicable to an audience wider than the one a UCD approach would focus on,
designing to support the activity enables designers to solve for wider
audiences. By focusing on the activity, you design something that still
operates effectively when separated from the goals that may have spawned it.

(*): Goals do not always dictate activities, as not all design is intended
to solve problems.

Josh has listed examples of successful apps in terms of their activities.
Amazon = purchase books, media, and other items. Blinksale = create, send,
and manage invoices. Ebay = buy and sell ... stuff. Each of these sites,
intended to be used by an audience of wide-ranging user types with a vast
array of goals, supports an activity first and foremost.

Amazon can't help me become a great drummer. Amazon can only enable me to
buy books and DVDs about drumming. It doesn't need to care about my goals,
and I don't need for it to care about my goals. What I need is for it to
enable me to complete the activities I need to complete, regardless of my
reasons for doing so.

Likewise, Blinksale can't help me build a more successful design firm. All
it can do is support the activity of invoicing. If Blinksale does a good job
of this (which it does, btw), I can focus more time on other things that
help me build a more successful design firm. In and of itself, Blinksale
can't help me achieve my goals. The best I can hope for, really, is that it
supports one activity really well, so that activity gets out of my way.

Sorry—that was a much longer riff than I intended. Commence hole-poking ...
now!

-r-

9 Oct 2008 - 5:03am
SemanticWill
2007

To further my position: I was thinking that, based on Deleuze (and
reacting to Kant), that a philosophical concept "posits itself and
its object at the same time as it is created." Which is exactly the
point I think Vander Wal et al were stating in discussions about
identity/object. What can Deleuze tell us about identity and object
within the ecosystem of social mediated networking sites - and
specifically - the IxDA list which is just such a consensual
hallucination (Gibson) of 'being' in space over time? The
philosophy of IxD is best understood as the manufacture of concepts
and more closely resembles practical or artistic production than it
does an adjunct to a definitive scientific description of a
pre-existing methodology (as in the tradition of Locke or Quine).
This has interesting implications for the IxD list in general and
DTDT discussions in particular. This explains, in part, the amount of
effort spent on meta-topics such as UCD/ACD.

I mean after reviewing the multifarious discussion here, I can't
help but wonder why it so reminded me of Kant's transcendental
idealism - experience (design) only makes sense when organized by
intellectual categories (such as method, tactics, and prototypes). By
the nature of what we do, we immediately fall into this trap, and
perhaps that is limiting. Taking such intellectual concepts out of
the context of experience, according to Kant, spawns seductive but
senseless metaphysical beliefs like ACD might somehow make us better
designers than some other method. Do we think this is really so?

Following Deleuze, I think we should consider inverting Kant's
arrangement: experience exceeds our concepts by presenting novelty,
and this raw experience of difference actualizes an idea, unfettered
by our prior categories, forcing us to invent new activities, new
ways of considering how we do things like sketch, brainstorm,
prototype as a fulcrum to force an entirely new gestalt on the
interface itself, and perhaps this is where innovation comes from. Or
perhaps not.

Just my thoughts.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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10 Oct 2008 - 4:42am
SemanticWill
2007

Nice post Bruce,

I was just thinking -there are things that are useful for marketing ixd and
things that are useful to people within the field which further praxis and
allow ideation. Selling methodologies is great. Creating an organizing
umbrella which houses a set of methods and practices which are easily
explained to people outside the field may gain traction and aid in getting
organizations to adopt us - defining UCD, and ACD or GCD or Agile makes a
great blog post, perhaps becomes a book and certainly a methodology you can
map out and sell to clients while boosting your rates - and I am all for
that.

Back to the danger - that those acronyms acting as signifyers to a set of
assumptions and methods become codified as the cognitive framing through
which we see, organize, interpret a given problem space. And, this cognitive
framing can become some calcified as to define our very outlook, and then we
are stuck with a hammer and everything looks like a nail, no? Those acronyms
are no panacea, they don't guarantee success (even if clients think they
do), and at the bottom of the bottle of jim beam, they aren't innovation.
Sure - define, refine, defend, make pretty 2x2 matrices and graphics to sell
it cause we all need to eat - but we'll just all wink wink and nudge because
if we want to be innovators and not imitators, we realize that only through
a practice of constant cognitive re-framing, challenging perceptions and
assumptions of our context when addressing a problem space that we are going
to create new experiences. Not by following some bisquick set of mix and
match methods pulled together a la carte, given a catchy acronym (Agile is a
great name - I'll give them that), illustrated in visio and presented in
powerpoint and sold to eager clients just looking for some guarantee when
none is possible and really - none can honestly be given cause if your any
good - you admit that this is a messy, nasty, risky business - "design."
There is no formula, and there are no guarantees and no marketing name or
acronym or formula will change that.

On Fri, Oct 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM, Bruce Esrig <esrig at alumni.princeton.edu>wrote:

> I think this is the essence of the contribution that designers make.
>
> There is a pre-verbal moment in cognition when an intention
> has been formed but has not yet been expressed.
> Conceptual design elaborates that intention
> into explicit concepts that can be communicated.
>
> The dance that we engage in is one of perceiving models,
> formulating their content, and attempting to validate the
> pre-verbal portion of the model without attracting distracting
> verbal feedback.
>
> Once words are applied to a subject, people use them in
> various incompatible idiosyncratic senses because of the
> associations the words have in their minds. But the productive
> portion of the debate lies in constructing an environment that
> is comfortable at a pre-verbal level: it enables people to meet
> their needs for many, most, or all of the situations that they
> turn to it for.
>
> The environment, once constructed, redefines concepts for
> those who use it, and builds a consensus though
> shared experience on what those concepts mean and
> how users must invoke them to achieve their goals.
> The expressed concepts become verbal, visual, and behavioral
> levers through which the desired result can be attained.
>
> As cognitive tool users, we use the environment denoted by
> the concepts, but if asked to talk about it, we resort to naming
> the concepts in words. This is why some of the most welcome
> words you can hear from a guide to a new environment are
> "Here, let me show you." The words only take on their intended
> meaning once you have experience with the environment.
>
> Best wishes,
>
> Bruce
>
>
> On Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 6:03 AM, Will Evans <will at semanticfoundry.com>wrote:
>
>> To further my position: I was thinking that, based on Deleuze (and
>> reacting to Kant), that a philosophical concept "posits itself and
>> its object at the same time as it is created." Which is exactly the
>> point I think Vander Wal et al were stating in discussions about
>> identity/object. What can Deleuze tell us about identity and object
>> within the ecosystem of social mediated networking sites - and
>> specifically - the IxDA list which is just such a consensual
>> hallucination (Gibson) of 'being' in space over time? The
>> philosophy of IxD is best understood as the manufacture of concepts
>> and more closely resembles practical or artistic production than it
>> does an adjunct to a definitive scientific description of a
>> pre-existing methodology (as in the tradition of Locke or Quine).
>> This has interesting implications for the IxD list in general and
>> DTDT discussions in particular. This explains, in part, the amount of
>> effort spent on meta-topics such as UCD/ACD.
>>
>> I mean after reviewing the multifarious discussion here, I can't
>> help but wonder why it so reminded me of Kant's transcendental
>> idealism - experience (design) only makes sense when organized by
>> intellectual categories (such as method, tactics, and prototypes). By
>> the nature of what we do, we immediately fall into this trap, and
>> perhaps that is limiting. Taking such intellectual concepts out of
>> the context of experience, according to Kant, spawns seductive but
>> senseless metaphysical beliefs like ACD might somehow make us better
>> designers than some other method. Do we think this is really so?
>>
>> Following Deleuze, I think we should consider inverting Kant's
>> arrangement: experience exceeds our concepts by presenting novelty,
>> and this raw experience of difference actualizes an idea, unfettered
>> by our prior categories, forcing us to invent new activities, new
>> ways of considering how we do things like sketch, brainstorm,
>> prototype as a fulcrum to force an entirely new gestalt on the
>> interface itself, and perhaps this is where innovation comes from. Or
>> perhaps not.
>>
>> Just my thoughts.
>>
>>
>> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
>> Posted from the new ixda.org
>> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=33980
>>
>>
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> 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
>>
>>
>

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | User Experience Architect
tel: +1.617.281.1281 | will at semanticfoundry.com
aim: semanticwill | gtalk: wkevans4
twitter: semanticwill | skype: semanticwill
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

12 Oct 2008 - 7:46am
Jared M. Spool
2003

Ok. I've unburied myself from conference preparations enough to begin
to seriously deal with this silliness. I'm working on my you-guys-are-
thinking-all-wrong rebuttal, but there's one clarification I need.

Robert wrote:

> 4. UCD = users are unreliable, unstable, and often unpredictable;
> ACD =
> activities are relatively stable, by comparison

I have a simple question: What the hell does this mean?

I don't know what you mean by stability. Can you give me an example of
unreliable/unstable/unpredictable users and a counter example of a
stable activity? An explanation as to why each one is stable/unstable
would help too.

I think, once I have that, I can put this to bed for once and for all.

:)

Jared

12 Oct 2008 - 7:58am
SemanticWill
2007

I'm sure you will. We all await with baited breath your razor sharp
intellect to cut though this issue like a hot knife through buttah.

On Sun, Oct 12, 2008 at 8:46 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

> Ok. I've unburied myself from conference preparations enough to begin to
> seriously deal with this silliness. I'm working on my
> you-guys-are-thinking-all-wrong rebuttal, but there's one clarification I
> need.
>
> Robert wrote:
>
> 4. UCD = users are unreliable, unstable, and often unpredictable; ACD =
>> activities are relatively stable, by comparison
>>
>
> I have a simple question: What the hell does this mean?
>
> I don't know what you mean by stability. Can you give me an example of
> unreliable/unstable/unpredictable users and a counter example of a stable
> activity? An explanation as to why each one is stable/unstable would help
> too.
>
> I think, once I have that, I can put this to bed for once and for all.
>
> :)
>
> Jared
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | User Experience Architect
tel: +1.617.281.1281 | will at semanticfoundry.com
aim: semanticwill | gtalk: wkevans4
twitter: semanticwill | skype: semanticwill
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

12 Oct 2008 - 8:38am
Mark Schraad
2006

This will not answer your questions directly Jared, but I think it is
at the heart of the issue. I read and hear people daily that question
the validity and worth of research. The link they distrust the most
is that interpretation. I heard an exec recently request process that
eliminates human interpretation and therefor error... I just had to
laugh. Decision makers are fooling themselves if they think research
will answer questions directly, or worse make design decision for
them. This is the sweet spot of opportunity and the hardest of steps.
Interpreting user research to make design decisions is hard work.

There is a trend in research and in the press towards implementing
solutions based on math and technology that promises to skip that
whole 'understanding' phase. Personally, I think this is bunk.

But back to the specific implementation of point 4. Of course users
are unreliable at times. You don't ask users direct questions. We
absolutely know that users do not know what they know (what a
horrible sentence). User research is not about asking users for the
answers. It is about discovering the answers by understanding the
user, the users needs and context.

There is not one single and simple route to understanding the user.
Its hard, it takes time, it requires interpretation and you will get
some things wrong. Be careful with shortcuts masquerading as efficiency.

Mark

On Oct 12, 2008, at 8:46 AM, Jared Spool wrote:

> Ok. I've unburied myself from conference preparations enough to
> begin to seriously deal with this silliness. I'm working on my you-
> guys-are-thinking-all-wrong rebuttal, but there's one clarification
> I need.
>
> Robert wrote:
>
>> 4. UCD = users are unreliable, unstable, and often unpredictable;
>> ACD =
>> activities are relatively stable, by comparison
>
> I have a simple question: What the hell does this mean?
>
> I don't know what you mean by stability. Can you give me an example
> of unreliable/unstable/unpredictable users and a counter example of
> a stable activity? An explanation as to why each one is stable/
> unstable would help too.
>
> I think, once I have that, I can put this to bed for once and for all.
>
> :)
>
> Jared
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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

12 Oct 2008 - 9:13am
DampeS8N
2008

I think we are getting hung up on terms here. In the end it all means
the same thing. You aren't are programmer designing for yourself a
thing that does what the users need.

As long as you aren't that, you'll do a decent job of making your
product usable.

Most of these methods are philosophical, they are useful tools to
teach the principals involved in IxD but they aren't meant to be a
map you can follow to reach a perfect result.

Mix and match as you please, just don't try to make a hammer screw
in a screw. In other words, what makes IxD work is not that the
methods on a grand scale are so great, it is that you are separating
someone out to think like the user and to advocate what they need in
a language that programmers and graphic designers can follow.

There are several methods to architecture, and they are all better
than letting the builder build a house without a plan. So is true
with IxD methods.

Will

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=33980

12 Oct 2008 - 9:38am
Cwodtke
2004

After listening to this debate (thank you all kindly) I suspect the urge to
discard the term is because many designers have been doing it "wrong."
Forms of that might be
* user centered design rather than users centered design-- making too many
decisions off of a small subset of users who may vary in taste and
personality.
* user directed design (see the homermobile) in whch teh user says what
features they want and it gets coded
* user-taste design, as in 99% of our users like blue... well, users always
prefer blue, but that doesn't help us stand out or be remembered
* personas as barbies for designers-- i.e. we get so caught up in creating a
backstory (because its' fun!) we forget what the personas are for.

I think the reason UCD vs ACD debate emerged because many good designers
observed humans very widely in taste, narrowly in behavior, so some they are
trying to narrow down the scope of design focus to what is generalizable.
Just like in testing, you test usability with 8 users, but you wouldn't want
to test what users thought impinged on their privacy with such a small
number. Even very smart folks make the mistake in discerning what you test
with large numbers, and what you test with small, and what design choices
are informed by testing and what has to be done by skill and taste.

In any case, I'm not certain renaming will do the trick here. UCD is
established and very comprehendable.

On Sun, Oct 12, 2008 at 7:13 AM, William Brall <dampee at earthlink.net> wrote:

> I think we are getting hung up on terms here. In the end it all means
> the same thing. You aren't are programmer designing for yourself a
> thing that does what the users need.
>
> As long as you aren't that, you'll do a decent job of making your
> product usable.
>
> Most of these methods are philosophical, they are useful tools to
> teach the principals involved in IxD but they aren't meant to be a
> map you can follow to reach a perfect result.
>
> Mix and match as you please, just don't try to make a hammer screw
> in a screw. In other words, what makes IxD work is not that the
> methods on a grand scale are so great, it is that you are separating
> someone out to think like the user and to advocate what they need in
> a language that programmers and graphic designers can follow.
>
> There are several methods to architecture, and they are all better
> than letting the builder build a house without a plan. So is true
> with IxD methods.
>
>
> Will
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=33980
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

12 Oct 2008 - 1:49pm
DampeS8N
2008

Christina,

This is why these methods are great for teaching. They show the young
people the core things to do in a framework that is something of a
road-map. Do this, you'll get here.

It will instill good practices:

Goal-mindset versus Task/Feature-mindset
Persona/Archetypes versus Panels of users
Designing as the Advocate for the User rather than Designing as the
advocate of the programmer.

There will always be hacks in any industry, and the companies that
hire them will suffer. The companies that hire well-trained,
intelligent IxDs will prosper.

In other words, I agree with you that renaming won't fix the
problem, because there isn't a problem. IxD, as discussed here, has
become academic and that is exactly the kind of thing we need to
happen, because that is what all the other fields are like.

Go to a typography summit and ask them about terminology, modes of
thought, and simple things like when it is cool to use sans-serif and
when you should use serif.

They'll break into the same arguments. The fact that our language is
fine-tuned enough for us to have this argument is something great for
us.

Sorry, I kinda went off topic some. I think everyone has at this
point.

Will

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=33980

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