Monday, October 08, 2007

5 Questions to Peter Boersma

Discussing UX and IA ...

"Peter Boersma has recently been elected on the IAI Board of Directors. He is well known in the IA and UX Scene and though he is very busy, he was so kind to answer the following questions.

Interview auf Deutsch
1. Peter, you are Senior Interaction Designer at the Dutch full-service internet agency Info.nl. You have been working in the user experience (UX) field since 1995, you speak at UX conferences and are hosting the infamous Amsterdam UX Cocktail Hours. When you look back, what were the most valuable lessons you have learned practicing UXD and IA?

1. Peter, you are Senior Interaction Designer at the Dutch full-service internet agency Info.nl. You have been working in the user experience (UX) field since 1995, you speak at UX conferences and are hosting the infamous Amsterdam UX Cocktail Hours. When you look back, what were the most valuable lessons you have learned practicing UXD and IA?

I have two important lessons:

Lesson 1: School does not prepare you for client work. At my university I followed 60 classes and only 2 helped me function in a team and only 1 of those involved reading client requirements. In the real world of projects for clients, I have to use skills that I never learned in school. Workshop moderating skills are the most important ones, and I wish those would be taught in school. As a designer you have to be able to ask the right questions about requirements, ask what design direction would be right, present designs, defend decisions, criticize other solutions, negotiate compromises, summarize discussions, distribute tasks, and much, much more.

Lesson 2: Everyone benefits from a review. I used the review process as an example of a process pattern in my presentation at EuroIA 2007 partly because I think reviews, of any kind, are very important. There are many steps that go with a full-blown review: prepare the review, invite reviewers, distribute the deliverable, perform the project review, technical review, team review or client review, distribute review-notes and re-distribute the deliverable. But the most important aspect is that the maker of a deliverable hears what someone else sees in his or her work, what is missing or unclear and hopefully what could be done about it. And the second most important aspect is that someone else (but hopefully more) in the team knows what you have done and what the status is. I have learned that both aspects are crucial to deliver good work consistently.

2. UX as I understand it, is related to the field of ergonomics (which emerged as a discipline in the 19th century). I think Information Architecture on the other hand leans more toward the form follows function principle Louis Sullivan was talking about. How would you describe the relation between UX and IA?

My definition of ergonomics is that a designer creates or adapts an artefact (based on knowledge about humans) so that a human user doesn't have to adapt him/herself. This can be applied to anything from heavy machinery to information workspaces. When I combined computer science with ergonomics into information ergonomics, I studied the human body and the human mind, as well as how computer technology can help people and organizations become better users and suppliers of information. Information Architects, especially those who design information structures for end users, can become better IAs when they empathize with their users and know about their possibilities and limitations. When they consider all aspects that deal with usage of the information they structure, they consider humans and their needs, wants, quirks and oddities.

User Experience practitioners define situations where end users can have experiences. At the highest level of design, the designer needs to know all kinds of things about the users: what are their goals and expectations and why, what have they done elsewhere with the brand, who do they talk to and what words do they use,etcetera . How users use the information that a company supplies is just part of the problem but it is a good idea to have someone with an ergonomics background on the user experience team to focus on those aspects."    (Continued via The Hot Strudel)    [Usability Resources]

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