FW: The End of Usability Culture?

16 Nov 2004 - 12:31pm
481 reads
Ben Hunt
2004

<Dave>
If we allow ourselves to be relegated to the aesthetic we are missing
our biggest opportunity to make our greatest impact in the organizations
where we work. ... Yes! I read your piece about the spectrum of Design,
but you still obviously don't believe it, or at least haven't
internalized it because you want to move back to the "vernacular"
meaning of the term. ...I really don't want to give in to the false
notion that design is aesthetic pursuit. ...You say that there is
"design" as I described it and then there is "the design" which is the
product. I would say the definitive version of the term is a single
instance of use and outcome within a period of that process and nothing
more. So in essense it is still about the process. Don't confuse the
documentation for the result. </Dave>

Dave, I spy danger of placing ourselves in an ivory tower.

I'm in violent agreement with you on design in the definitive sense...
and yes I also employ the less correct street usage, as did Jennifer.
The reason I used this sense was because my audience is the web design
world at large, not the IxD elite. I apologise if that wasn't clear.

I just don't think we can refuse to engage with anyone on the basis of
not speaking the same language. My model is an effort to help us all
communicate about this very important subject. Let's not get too hung up
on the words.

<Ben, answering Andrei about the tension between beauty and usability>
> They *are* separate qualities, and there *is* tension between them.
>... You cannot have a piece of high-art online that is also a
>powerful, handy, clear web application. You can't have a
>super-functional and easy-to-use web application that also makes
>visitors stop in their tracks, filled with an emotional brand
>experience.

<Dave>
Uh-no ... In fact, beauty is an attribute that can add to the usability.
Also, what does high-art have to do with beauty? Some of the greatest
works of art build on dissonance and other startling attributes that
while amazing I would not call beautiful. </Dave>

Do you not accept that there is some tension between the two? I've
acknowledged that you can have rich function and beautiful aesthetic
elegance together. But you can't successfully load a high-function UI
with high-impact visuals, because they have opposing purposes.

A high-function UI should be smooth and easy to use. A high-impact /
high-art / visually intense / visually rich interface is consumed in a
fundamentally different manner. The aesthetics, whether they're balanced
or unbalanced, conventional or unconventional, soft or harsh, are meant
to be looked at and consumed passively.

The 'information product' may interrupt, shock, promote meditative
contemplation, or simply decorate for its own sake. Any way you look at
it, none of these objectives is in line with a great high-functionality,
high-usefulness, high-ease-of-use application interface.

Regards,

Ben

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