Romantic notions of UCD rant

29 Nov 2005 - 10:56pm
8 years ago
5 replies
684 reads
Wendy Fischer
2004

Odd, I had this romantic notion of UCD. One
researches users and then designs a specific user
experience that is created and crafted for the
specific set of users.

I've noticed two sets of evil people in the world that
like to break me of this notion.

The first set of evil people in the world like to
think that all UCD should do is Cut and Paste or do
Find/Replace (replacing the customer's name) rather
than customize something to a specific user audience
in order to save time and resources.

And then there's the other group of really evil people
who'd like to just bypass UCD all together, and just
have the visual designer "reskin" something that we
already did for another customer, even though the
customer probably has legal protections over their UX
(so one would think) there's massive usability
problems on the site, there are enough business
requirements that are different to make the UX
completely different and it's going to take the visual
designer 3 times as long to do the visual design
without any wireframes and specs.

Let's move all the evil people in the world to Idaho
or North Dakota.

Comments

29 Nov 2005 - 11:52pm
leo.frishberg a...
2005

Nice rant Wendy... It reminds me of several things...

Once, while trying to improve an application, the team was informed that
none of the infrastructure could be touched ::and:: we had to create a
compelling experience. Given that the existing underlying models,
protocols and development environment was so highly constrained that
there wasn't a chance in hell we would succeed, I complained to my boss
that it was like writing "War and Peace", but we could only use 3 letter
words, and only ten of them. His response: "that's what differentiates a
professional from a hacker - making a silk purse from a sow's ear."
Little solace.

In my current position, I have absolutely no complaints (odd, given my
usual demeanor, but frankly, it's a dream job). Yet, even here, I
overhear individuals (who should know better), state that we shouldn't
be creating anything "new;" that if Microsoft had created it, we should
just use it. When I suggest that there are certainly elements in our
experience Microsoft hadn't accounted for, they fall back on the
argument that innovation is very risky, time consuming and costly and we
should avoid it whenever possible. Thankfully, I am not beholden to
their opinions and innovate when the need calls for it (in this case,
most of the time).

Regarding North Dakota or Idaho - while I'm sure the denizens of those
states would welcome whomever you shipped their way, certainly we can
find other places with even less appeal.

Leo

30 Nov 2005 - 12:13am
penguinstorm
2005

On Nov-29-2005, at 7:56 PM, Wendy Fischer wrote:

> And then there's the other group of really evil people
> who'd like to just bypass UCD all together, and just
> have the visual designer "reskin"

It's astonishing to me, 10 years into the web revolution, that people
don't understand that difference between "Visual Design" and
"Interaction Design".

I'm talking business people here; people who formulate strategy and
plans; people who do good solid work themselves. Not just end users.

Marketing people who hire copywriters, copy editors, graphic
designers and focus groups to produce a brochure hire a "web
designer" to do their online work.

It's just shocking. We're building complicated software for a huge
variety of businesses, and yet they often expect a single person to
handle huge aspects of it - the rest is "just something IT gets done."

Umm...no. I take every opportunity I have to speak to business people
about this, and try to explain to them why they should be paying
attention to an entire skillset, not just a single aspect of it.
--
Scott Nelson
skot (at) penguinstorm (dot) com
http://www.penguinstorm.com/

skype. skot.nelson

30 Nov 2005 - 1:38am
Lyle Kantrovich
2005

On 11/29/05, Wendy Fischer <erpdesigner at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
> The first set of evil people in the world like to
> think that all UCD should do is Cut and Paste or do
> Find/Replace (replacing the customer's name) rather
> than customize something to a specific user audience
> in order to save time and resources.
>
> And then there's the other group of really evil people
> who'd like to just bypass UCD all together, and just
> have the visual designer "reskin" something that we
> already did for another customer, even though the
> customer probably has legal protections over their UX
> (so one would think) there's massive usability
> problems on the site, there are enough business
> requirements that are different to make the UX
> completely different and it's going to take the visual
> designer 3 times as long to do the visual design
> without any wireframes and specs.

To the naive, the whole world looks evil. You might consider that (as a
good UCDer) you are advocating empathy for users, and you might need to have
some empathy (and respect) for your clients and teammates before you'll win
them over. Evil and ignorance are two very different things.

Let's move all the evil people in the world to Idaho
> or North Dakota.

This suggestion is a good example of ignorance...(I know you're not
evil)...you've probably never lived in either of these states. :-)

No one ever said life would be easy or fair. That's why you get paid the
"big bucks." :-)

--
Lyle

--------------------------
Lyle Kantrovich
Blog: Croc O' Lyle
http://crocolyle.blogspot.com

30 Nov 2005 - 7:59am
Dan Brown
2004

> Odd, I had this romantic notion of UCD. One
> researches users and then designs a specific user
> experience that is created and crafted for the
> specific set of users.

This is hardly odd, but it is a textbook model that doesn't account
for the nuances of real situations. Unfortunately, all our books on
methdology and technique seem to leave this wrinkle out. Maybe it's
just the government contractor in me, but there's politics and agendas
and budgets and timeframes that constantly challenge the ideal
approach. And though it feels confined to the designer on the team,
working on information technology projects, *everyone* on the team
makes sacrifices.

So (and this is especially true of my work for the Feds in the last
several years -- YMMV) I try to take it where I can get it. Giving me
a couple days to do a little user research? That's great! Want to try
a usability test or two? Fantastic! Going to build in some time to do
some flow charts before we start screen design? Excellent! Once I
prove value on a small scale, it's much easier for me to gain a little
more ground each time.

Whenever I feel like ranting, I try to re-set my own expectations, my
own metrics for success. I didn't have enough time to do a full set of
wireframes for a project, but that I got to do them at all is a step
in the right direction, especially on a team that hadn't ever heard
the word "wireframe" before.

-- Dan "Small Victories" Brown
--
www.greenonions.com ~ brownorama at gmail.com ~ (301) 801-4850
Shop: www.cafepress.com/greenonions ~ www.cosmicbeagle.com

30 Nov 2005 - 9:51am
jbellis
2005

----- Original Message -----
>>there's politics and agendas
> and budgets and timeframes that constantly challenge the ideal approach.
>> *everyone* on the team makes sacrifices.
> -- Dan "Small Victories" Brown

Wendy,
My recent work engagement (continuing the romance theme) has me, too,
lamenting the honeymoon-is-over frustrations... big time... so I thought I'd
join the intervention.
We feel your pain.
Dan's assessment, above, addresses what we might lump together as the
"conflicting interests" component [time, money, backstabbing willful or
unwitting], and I agree with him 100%. But the "conflicting interests"
component is present in many or most workplaces and jobs. And it is
reasonably well answered by the explanation, "that's why they call it work."
The reason most employers hire workers is to fill in the parts of the
process that don't fit neatly together. If the business process were in fact
a well-oiled machine, the job wouldn't exist. Which gets us to the point I
want to add to the mix, a component that I feel is somewhat more unique to
IA, UX, etc.

We are engaged in a highly inventive process, to say the least. Picture that
its ilk exists only in the last thousandth-of-a-percent of human time.
Witness a recent study mentioned at
http://www.humanfactors.com/downloads/feb05.asp (I am not paid or related to
HFI) that demonstrated almost no commonality among usability testers.
Consider an analogy to shoemaking and try to decide which role is closest to
the dynamics of IA work:
The sole proprieter shoemaker: he lives and dies every day by his
craftsmanship AND sales skill.
The worker at a shoemaking production line: boring, back-whipped.
The person who conceives and designs a machine to automatically make shoes:
this is where IA fits. Don't confuse it with the much easier job of
producing the machine once a genius conceives, sells, designs, and debugs
it.

This is why our work-except in very special employers-is so foreign. Despite
our wealth of only-recently-accumulated science, every project is closer to
the outright invention of the printing press than to printing an individual
newspaper. (You'll notice there's never any references to the Guttenberg
Company at which Mr. G. got his benefits and supportive bosses rallying
around him.) The flip side is that when IA work becomes well-entrenched in
the average mid-level corporate mentality and org chart, IA will have been
relegated to little more than, for instance, the obscure job title of
"Professional Indexer" not that there's anything wrong with that. Arguing
about "Jobs" vs. "Careers" or secondary windows vs. new pages shouldn't
constitute a job category forever.

With any luck I've bought us both some time of blank-stare bliss by neatly
compartmentalizing these frustrations and rationalizing our work as nearly
mythical. Of course sermons, however cathartic, are only good for one week,
eh?

www.jackbellis.com, www.usabilityInstitute.com

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