Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Connecting Cultures, Changing Organizations: The User Experience Practitioner As Change Agent

Effect of user-centered design on cultures such as product management and engineering ... vs. ...

"UXmatters probably know that user-centered design (UCD) and usability activities have the most positive impact when they’re carried out early in the ideation, design, and development cycle. Probably, many of you have worked in organizations that weren’t very experienced in UCD or usability engineering. You may have experienced something like the following the interchange with a development manager:

Manager: Say, we’re just about to release this [product/Web site/application]. Could you take a look at it for us?

You: Okay, when do you plan to release it?

Manager: In three weeks.

You: That’s really soon. Okay, I’ll look at it, but I have to tell you, it’s not going to do much good for me to look at it this late in the game. You should’ve come to me before you started working on it.

Manager: So, will you look at it anyway?

You: I want to ask a few more questions before I start. Do you know who your users are?

Manager: Yes, they’re computer-literate people who use the Internet between 10 and 20 hours a week and make about 10 online purchases a year.

You: No, I mean who are they as individuals? What are their goals?

Manager: You mean in life?

You: No, I mean what are they trying to accomplish?

Manager: Um, they’re trying to accomplish a successful transaction on our site.

You: Okay, never mind about that for now. Who designed the user interface?

Manager: Our lead developer designed the UI. He’s pretty good at it.

You: Sigh… (Banging your head against the wall.)

What’s going on in this fictional, yet familiar dialogue? This dialogue suggests a pattern that is indicative of a cultural divide—that barriers to integrating UCD techniques earlier in the product development lifecycle are cultural in nature. It suggests that gulfs exist between the cultures of product management and engineering and between both of them and user experience.

My experience working within various organizational cultures has taught me that two effective ways of bridging this gulf between us and them are:

• becoming liaisons between these disciplines—that is, across cultures
• considering ourselves change agents whose primary approaches are those relating to user experience"    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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