Friday, February 15, 2008

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Designing for usability ...

"Designing more aesthetic and easy-to-use products can prove your success—and intuition—as a design engineer

I had the opportunity to attend two major software conferences as of late—Autodesk World Press Days and SolidWorks World 2008. I can’t say it shocked me too much, but one of the recurring themes I noticed during the seminars and meetings was the issue of designing for usability, while still appealing to the consumer’s emotional needs and desires.

This is not even close to a new notion, but it made me wonder: When you’re designing a product, whom are you designing it for? Do you have a specific person or a targeted audience in mind? Or are you simply trying to fulfill project requirements and specifications while meeting deadlines? Even if you do design for a targeted audience, are you the majority or are you the minority?

If there’s one way you can differentiate your designs from any other, here’s the secret—make it easy, make it aesthetic.

Consumers don’t want to bother with products they can barely figure out or have to read a manual to understand, nor do they want to use a product that’s boring or emotionally unappealing. The products consumers buy are reflections of the consumers who buy them.

According to Dr. Don Norman, a captivating keynote speaker during SolidWorks World, “In the everyday world, we want to get on with the important things in life, not spend our time in deep thought attempting to open a can of food or dial a telephone number.”

Co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an executive consulting firm that helps companies produce human-centered products and services, Norman has written and co-authored 14 books, including his classic, “The Design of Everyday Things,” and his latest, “Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things.” Norman is a qualified expert in the field of usability and emotional design.

One critical point in Norman’s presentation was his complete and utter disdain for signs and/or warnings. Why? Because if you design it well enough, the consumer should need no explanations.

Although Norman’s rhetoric was humorous and hard-hitting on the topic, it was simply supplementary to the photos he brought that were broadcast behind him. I specifically recall an image of a paper sign taped to a gas station pump. It read: Push start to begin fueling. Mind you, this sign was posted next to the start button we’re all familiar with using when pumping gas. The most amusing thing was a large visible tear on the paper sign…"    (Continued via Product Design & Development, User Experience Network)    [Usability Resources]

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