UCD vs Design Again? Really?!? [was: We don't blah blah blah]
29 Aug 2009 - 9:03pm
4 years ago
Jared, Andrei, Charlie, et al,
I'm writing as someone working full time in the software industry for over
10 years and a hobbyist/wannabe for most of my life. I came up through the
ranks with no formal computer, science, or design education. The only
degree I hold is in history and humanities. I was a developer and architect
for most of my career.
So why the heck am I presuming to speak up amidst you juggernauts of
usability and design?
Because I'm someone who really cares about making great software and making
the software industry in general better.
Look, I'm here because it seems pretty obvious to me that the best way to
make software better is through a focus on people *and* good design. The
last 8 years of my career have been a steady enlightenment in that direction
that all started with a rather silly incident involving some terribly
amateurish visual design. (I guess my humanities background predisposes me,
Anyways, the point is that from my perspective (i.e., not having much vested
interest in UCD, Usability, HCI, Design, IA, and so on), you're setting up
an unnecessary (and damaging) dichotomy. It's not understanding people OR
designing. It's both.
Even software devs (those arch nemeses!) have figured out that involving the
actual people who will use their software in the design process helps them
to make more successful software. They also have figured out that being
able to iterate and try different things helps them come to better
solutions. These two principles underly what is broadly known as Agile.
And if you want an amorphous term, man, Agile beats UCD any day!
The way I see it, the people advocating UCD/UX and the people advocating
Agile both see the light--they see the way to make this stuff better.
They're coming at it from different directions but essentially marching to
the same drum. In the last few years they've been sidling up to each other
and saying, hey, we can learn from and work with each other and achieve our
Now you got folks coming alongside, saying, "no, you silly people don't get
it, it's Design!" Well, of course it's design! It's never not been design.
You say, no Dee-sign, with a BIG D. We say, okay, what the heck do you
mean by that? And you (IMO) have slowly been articulating it in ever
Now, I have gone from more skeptical to almost a believer in Dee-sign, but
still, I don't see it as some magic or something antithetical to Agile or
UX. I see it as complimentary. Because all along we've known we gotta do
good design--that's what the frak we've been trying to do. So you have a
different background and discipline, and maybe it's better. Yeah, I think
So again, from my perspective, you have the UX folks coming in and helping
the somewhat floundering software developers do better in understanding
people and you have the Design folks coming in and helping the somewhat
floundering software developers do better in design.
Awesome! More, smart, educated, passionate, and talented people marching
together. Now what heck are we arguing about??