Friday, April 18, 2008

User-Centred Design Is Dead?

Summary and presentation from IA Summit by Jared Spool on User Centered Design ...

"Jared Spool, the IA Summit 2008 keynote speaker, posited the idea that UCD was an out-dated methodology that should be retired by the UX community. Why? According to Spool , in the last 30 years, there has not been one website or other digital innovation that can point back to UCD as the defining factor for its success. He floated the idea that design dogma, methodology and formal process were inferior to a well understood shared vision, frequent user feedback and a robust tool box of design tricks & techniques.

Research conducted by User Interface Engineering revealed that successful design teams were those whose members could:

* Articulate the five to ten year vision of the product that was consistent with other team member
* Watch users with their or another product for at least 2 hours every six weeks
* Be embraced by and comfortable in a culture that rewarded major design failures
* Collect design tools, techniques and tricks and use them according to the design problem at hand instead of following a set methodology or process.

In fact, the UIE researchers found that design teams who tried to adhere to a set methodology and loyally followed a process often struggled and tended to blame the methodology for the failure of the design effort. ‘Finding a new methodology’ was often cited as a possible way of addressing this problem.

Spool placed heavy emphasis on the culture of the firm, suggesting that those firms that celebrated failures were most likely to see real innovation and impactful insights from research, betas and frequent ‘tweak, release & watch’ cycles.

He suggested a preference for ‘informed design’: design informed by a vision, research feedback and tricks & techniques.

Responses from the summit attendees were mixed:

* Some practitioners questioned Spool’s claim that UCD has no resultant success stories. They felt there was a body of evidence, even if anecdotal, which demonstrated UCD techniques that had enabled substantial product or site improvements, user acceptance and business.
* Others were relieved to hear this support for throwing away the formality of methodology and process because in their experience these ‘rules’ were never followed anyway. There was never enough time, expertise or need to take every step of the proscribed design journey.
* Many wondered whether UCD was being sandwiched into his recommendation for frequent user feedback. Wasn’t this just UCD in disguise?
* A few wondered whether a researcher, who did not practice user experience design, was qualified to state what really worked and what didn’t. Can a restaurant reviewer really know the steps a chef should follow to create the perfect dish?

So how do you design? Is there a recipe you follow where the end product turns out a little different each time? Are your techniques repeatable or are you making things up as you go along, reinventing the wheel regularly? Does a methodology guarantee a certain level of quality? Or is quality more likely to be generated from a shared long term vision as Spool suggests?"    (Continued via Putting people first, Digital Design Blog, Jared Spool)    [Usability Resources]

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