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517RE: [agile-usability] Re: Could UI Engineering have lead to Wiki?

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  • Hugh Beyer
    Sep 2, 2004
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      From: Jeff Patton [mailto:jpatton@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2004 9:00 PM
      To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [agile-usability] Re: Could UI Engineering have lead to Wiki?
      --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Ron Jeffries
      <ronjeffries@X...> wrote: 
      . . . 
      > As far as I know, there are no "steps" for invention. I would work
      > intimately with people who had the problem, talking, doing paper
      > prototypes, and showing them running tested software throughout.

      I think there _are_ steps - sort of.  Not N steps that when followed
      always work, but rather lots of dependent techniques that when
      applied allow you to circle closer to solutions.  User centered
      design stuff like roles and role models, personas, task models,
      protoypes, collaboration, and conversation.  When in doubt, I pack my
      head full of interesting information gleamed from these techniques
      about the people the product serves and what I /really/ believe their
      goals to be, then I sleep on it.  Invention often occurrs at some
      later time, accidentally.  But, it's not so accidental when you
      consider the fertile ground you gave it to grow in. 

      I think there are lots of other ways to create fertile ground ground
      for invention, and I'm confident you know lots yourself.  [if anyone
      knows something about fertalizer creation it's Ron... ;-)]  I kinda
      like this UCD stuff because it acknowledges there is something you
      can do and provides some techniques that seem to be working - at
      least for me.   
      Right. What's key, is to bring the understanding of the technology and the user together. How you do that is up to you. Ron does it by getting out there and having lots of interaction with actual users. Jeff is using techniques such as roles and personas to articulate his understanding.
       
      It's fine to work off an unarticulated understanding of your users if you're alone or in a small team where everyone's working closely with each other and with the users. The more formal and explicit representations are useful as ways to talk to each other about what you're finding out; to record what you discover so you can come back to it later; and to explain to other stakeholders why you're doing what you're doing. A not inconsiderable advantage of having a room full of representations of the user is that it's real easy to show a skeptical manager why your design makes sense.
       
      I think you're like most "level 3" people - I think that's what
      Alistair would call you.  You're smart enough, you listen well
      enough, and think clearly enough that you do what seems to be the
      most appropriate thing, and it often works out right.  If it doesn't
      you learn and adjust.  I just don't think most folks are like you -
      at least not yet.  Just as XP gives some "wax-on-wax-off" sorts of
      guidelines for developers that ultimately help them evolve past the
      practices into thinking more clearly about their craft, I belive UCD
      provides a similar mental framework for designers to invent best
      solutions to user's problems.  I don't belive it's the only way -
      just as I don't believe it's necessary to develop good software test-
      first.  But, just as I wouldn't write code without using a unit
      testing framework, I wouldn't design without out applying at least
      rudimentary UCD approaches. 
      I would call what Ron describes user-centered design. UCD isn't about any particular technique, it's about designing the system from an intimate understanding of how the user works. Ron's describing a low-overhead way to do that involving lots of back-and-forth conversations and rapid iterations.
       
          Hugh
       
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