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June 18, 2008

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Frank

Jason,

Perhaps I have...lol

Sorry you found it disparaging... Unfortunately it is an issue and needs to be discussed as much as a design that gets unintentionally 'mangled' by a developer because it was easier to code...etc.

I agree there are plenty of great designers that are aware of usability issues. Though being aware is not enough it seems. User experience is harder to create by gut feel or awareness then it is by gaining empirical insights from observation of user behavior, user needs analysis etc.

I agree with you that designers who are paying attention will have usability at the top of their radar, and I think designers are also expected these days to be savvy to usability. Though it's naive to expect a graphic designer to represent known usability issues or the 25 years or more of knowledge we have gained from the corporate application of Human Computer Interaction and User Centered Design.

Frank

Frank

Hi James,

Good points... Of course the points of design in software and web contexts is to create understanding with the information, features and functionality. And yes there are cases where designers are part of the usability research process both observing and/or digesting the user research results. There are also graphic designers who are savvy to usability and "get it" over a designer who uses the medium to express his or her creativity.

In the post, I mentioned the case where usability is absent- and it's this case that we saw the most fall-out from during the dot com (the Boo.com case study being the classic).

The cannon of Great Graphic Design you refer to falls outside the context to which I was referring. Those examples (Napoleon) or London Tubemap are art and information design (Tufte), not software and web user interfaces. And actually there are dozens of fantastic examples of usability and graphic design in harmony- Yahoo!; Google for example...these days it's not hard to find good examples, probably 30% of the Fortune 500 all have great examples of user experience and a balance of graphic design (based on the amount of usability that goes on). Another classic great example is the home page of lowermybills.com.

On your last point, perhaps I was not clear, it's not about dictating per say as much as communicating usability requirements clearly- and also protecting the blueprints as they are dressed up. Most usability people drop blueprints and back off- to become frustrated by a different interpretation of the underlying information architecture or user interface.

It's as important to "dictate" or communicate clearly to developers what the usability requirements are so they are not altered by the creative development process.

Frank

Jason

This is a very disparaging article. There plenty of very good designers working across several industries who are well aware of usability issues. In fact any designer worth his/her salt will put it at the top of their priority list when designing an interface.

Perhaps, Frank, you have been working with the wrong people.

JamesPage

Is not design meant to help the user understand the information.... Otherwise what the point of the design?

Great designers I have worked with have simplified the users understanding. Bad designers have hindered it... The great designers (and I have worked with many) have spent time trying to understand the users needs, they may have needed help.. but once they have been briefed well the design has created clarity.

In my experience so called heuristics have hindered, but well presented research has helped the designers come up with ideas.

Have you ever tried to include the designer in the research? Sometimes the results are outstanding. Nothing is lost in translation...

Maybe the HCI community needs to copy the advertising world where there is a team to explain the user behaviour to the creative, and help evaluate it, and not dictate it?

You state that "This problem can be compounded by an interface being dictated entirely by a designer", but there is a large cannon of great Graphic Design that helps people understand a complex picture.. From the Leonardo da Vinci showing how copulation happens to the London tube Map to Tuft's imagery of Napoleon's march to Moscow.

Off the top of my head I can not come up with a great cannon from the HCI community. Yes from PARC but that was many years ago!

If you where to argue that there are many designer that need a helping hand to understand the complexity of human behaviour - I would concur... But to argue that they need dictating to I would disagree strongly...

James

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