Tuesday, July 01, 2008

User-Centered Design is not a philosophy

Hummm, something to think about ...

"Some designers think User-Centered Design (UCD) is a “philosophy”—one to be developed and nurtured throughout an organization, from the ground up.

It’s not.

First, a little perspective on UCD and its friends. UCD, Activity-Centered Design (ACD), Goal-Directed Design (GDD), the unfortunately named “Genius Design” (GD), and others have many things in common, but they also have very real differences. These approaches are defined through their goals and their deliverables. Through their pros and cons. Through their areas of overlap (of which there are many). And through the ways they fit into typical development processes (Agile, for example).

All of these approaches have a common goal—to create valuable, useful, and usable (and hopefully even enjoyable) products and services for customers.

But beyond this commonality, practitioners of each approach take a different path to achieving that goal. With UCD, the design effort is, obviously, centered on users (what they need, what they want, etc). With ACD, the design effort is centered around a user’s whole activity. In GDD, the design effort is centered around a user’s goals. While these approaches have a lot of overlap, the differences are mainly in the practices and deliverables.

With UCD, a practice is to perform user research and a deliverable is a set of persona descriptions. With ACD, a practice is activity research, and a deliverable is a breakdown of the activity’s tasks, actions, and operations. And so on.

On any given project, we can mix and match practices and deliverables quite a bit, and ultimately, it really doesn’t matter to managers how success is achieved or what the approach is used or what it’s called, as long as it is successful and repeatable.

But other departments within a company have different purposes, different methods, different processes and practices and deliverables. Yes, they should still be focused on customers, but they achieve this in very different ways than a designer. The Accounting department, for example, should be very focused on customers, but it would defy logic to use UCD practices in an Accounting department.

Hence, User-Centered Design is not a philosophy. It’s an action. It’s an approach."    (Continued via rhjr.net, Robert Hoekman)    [Usability Resources]

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