Friday, December 22, 2006

On Beyond Tinkertoy

Web design is only in its' infancy. What does the future hold? ...

"Remember Tinkertoy — the classic wooden construction toy?

You probably had a set when you were young. Those dowels and connectors not only provided hours of fun, but also taught us the principles of structural design. We learned the strength of triangles, the need to support long spans and the value of a solid foundation. We also discovered the limits of dowel-and-connector construction.

In time, we outgrew Tinkertoy and moved to greater challenges like Lincoln Logs or Erector Sets. Most of us eventually gave up the building trade in favor of other pursuits—while a hardy few stayed the course and today engineer real bridges and skyscrapers.

I'm here today to say that usability is the Tinkertoy of Web design. It's a great (perhaps best) place to begin, but its dowels and connectors are inadequate for the now and future Web. It's time we outgrow our obsession with usability and user-centered design (UCD) and break new ground.

Please don't misunderstand, Dr. Nielsen. I'm not advocating the overthrow of UCD and usability; they are essential to the success of every site. So keep those personas, usability tests and card sorts coming in, folks.

I'm also not saying the battle is over. Too many sites still ignore even minimal usability heuristics to the detriment of users and sponsors. And even the most skilled practitioners will honestly admit that we still have a lot to learn about UCD. The Web is, after all, barely a decade old.

That's my point. We're just beginning this Web adventure, just like preschoolers beginning their construction skills with Tinkertoy sets. To assume that we've already found the Holy Grail of Web design in usability and UCD is premature."    (Continued via gotomedia)    [Usability Resources]


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