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Re: [agile-usability] Re: Role of UCD in agile processes

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  • Gary F
    ... What you re saying it perfectly true, but not withstanding the horror stories that get all the attention, in reality the goals are in alignment. No
    Message 1 of 17 , Jan 27, 2005
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      --- Ron Vutpakdi <vutpakdi@...> wrote:

      > Possibly being a little nitpicky here, but I don't agree that a
      > "usability person" should have the role of being the "customer's
      > voice." The customer and the user aren't the same thing. The
      > customer is the fellow buying the system, but the user is the poor
      > sucker who has to use it, and the two often aren't the same person.

      What you're saying it perfectly true, but not withstanding the horror stories that get all the
      attention, in reality the goals are in alignment. No manager wants to be told that his employees
      have become less productive because they can't use the new software. Also, the division is often
      even more complex. A database system has to satisfy the manager funding it, the sysadmin
      installing it, the DBA managing it, the security person auditing it, the developers building
      systems that use it, and the ISVs building tools to help those developers.

      So rather than trying to be totally precise all the time, it's just easier to use whichever of the
      two terms feels right at the time, and only raise this distinction when necessary. I'm not sure
      whether it's necessary on a public forum; I think the concept is well known and doesn't need
      frequent repetition, but I can't back that up.

      >
      > Even if the customer and the user are the same person, being the
      > "user's voice" is a rather risky proposition. I see usability people
      > as user *advocates* who have a deep understanding of the users and

      "User advocate" and "voice of the user" mean the same thing. The term "voice of the user" is
      jargon; a real user on the team is called the user, not the voice of the user.

      > push for things on their behalf but also know that, in the end, the
      > only person who can speak for the user properly is the user himself.
      > Thus, the importance of having real users involved in the process if
      > possible.

      The conclusion is certainly correct, but I don't agree with the premise. Indeed, much of the
      motivation for contextual inquiry is that users aren't very good at observing their own behavior,
      they lack a certain objectivity, and they often lack the vocabulary to express all of their needs
      effectively.

      As far as usability is concerned, both are necessary to get a proper understanding.

      >
      > Whether or not they also need to be good interaction designers depends
      > on the person and team make up (more usability and design mature
      > organizations usually separate the interaction design and
      > usability/human factors roles (and then pair two+ people on the same
      > team). Whether or not a "usability person" can be a good interaction
      > designer is also in considerable doubt by some very vocal interaction
      > designers.

      This may be just semantics, but while many people make this distinction, many others don't.
      Another way of looking at it is that someone who can only do one or the other is a specialist in a
      particular aspect of usability, while someone who can do both is a usability expert. The
      usability team, whether one person or many, does best when both skills are present.

      The important points here are that one needs to be alert to the different usages of the terms when
      communicating with people outside your group, and in particular, one needs to examine specific
      skills when hiring a usability person. "Interaction designer" usually isn't ambiguous, but
      "usability person" usually is.

      Gary



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    • Jeff Patton
      ... news flash ... realized is ... require a ... I regret creating this list with the name agile-usability... I d just came back from the UPA conference last
      Message 2 of 17 , Jan 27, 2005
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        --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Hugh Beyer" <beyer@i...>
        wrote:
        > Hey guys -- I was reading old notes to this list and had a sudden
        news flash
        > which is maybe obvious to everyone else, but maybe not -- what I
        realized is
        > that being a usability person on an agile product is going to
        require a
        > total change in your thinking.
        ...
        > Now it's out
        > front--you aren't a usability person anymore, you're something else.
        >
        > Or am I out to lunch?

        I regret creating this list with the name agile-usability... I'd just
        came back from the UPA conference last year, and it seemed like most
        folks there were comfortable referring to themselves as usability
        people. I'm now seeing design - specifically user centered design,
        interaction design, and user interface design as the big hole to be
        plugged, and the activity that the usability people[?] are busy doing
        on agile projects.

        A few weeks ago I put out links to the stuff I'm working on. One big
        point I'm trying to make is the /when/ you do things on agile
        projects matters alot. Early discussions about UCD stuff on agile
        projects dealt with the concern that doing design work took too much
        time. That sort of thinking is wrong IMHO. I believe it operates
        under the assumption that /all or most of/ the work is done up front -
        so therefore our biggest challenge is figuring out how to do it
        faster. [I kinda bristled at the title "Rapid Contextual Design" for
        that reason.]

        It's my experience that UCD /stuff/ by stuff I mean researching,
        modeling, prototyping, testing, doesn't generally take too much
        time. The agile projects I've been on really do have the time...
        it's the _timing_ that's an issue. Some research and modeling needs
        to be done ahead of release planning. Some decisions about workflow
        and navigation structure should be made ahead of iteration planning.
        UI prototyping should be ahead of storywriting. UI prototyping
        doesn't need to be all completed before any code is written.
        Navigation and workflow can change a bit at each iteration as we
        learn more and functionality is added or changed. Models and
        features can change periodically during and after releases as we get
        feedback from using and testing the software we're building.

        Basically, do all the same UCD stuff - just synchronize it with your
        agile lifecycle.

        And, Hugh - to where your original comments were going, I see UCD
        people as designers working in step with development, coaching
        customers, developers, and business people. The usability thing is a
        part of that that usually comes a bit later. And as to your change
        in thinking comment - I find that whole projects become user
        centered. This sort of thinking permeates every activity. Does that
        square with your observations on your current projects?

        Thanks for your post!

        -Jeff
      • Ron Vutpakdi
        ... horror stories that get all the ... I disgree. The goals may be in alignment, but, there are often enough times ( which aren t edge case horror stories)
        Message 3 of 17 , Jan 27, 2005
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          --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Gary F <gfyho@y...> wrote:
          > > The customer and the user aren't the same thing. The
          > > customer is the fellow buying the system, but the user is the poor
          > > sucker who has to use it, and the two often aren't the same person.
          >
          > What you're saying it perfectly true, but not withstanding the
          horror stories that get all the
          > attention, in reality the goals are in alignment.

          I disgree. The goals may be in alignment, but, there are often enough
          times ( which aren't edge case horror stories) when the two groups'
          goals aren't in alignment that there are benefits to being precise
          about the terms (if only internally within the team).

          For example, one of our "customers" at one of our biggest clients is
          an expert user who has a marked tendency to demand lots of knobs to
          tweak algorithmic parameters and the inclusion of his
          algorithms/models in spite of the fact that those knobs and algorithms
          would only be of likely interest to him and the other 2-5% of the
          eventual users. The remaining 95-97% would be quite happy without the
          knobs if it meant a simpler, cleaner interface (since they wouldn't
          use the knobs anyway).

          Yes, there are times when the terms can be interchangeable, but also
          often enough times when doing so without consideration is unwise.

          >
          > The important points here are that one needs to be alert to the
          different usages of the terms when
          > communicating with people outside your group, and in particular, one
          needs to examine specific
          > skills when hiring a usability person. "Interaction designer"
          usually isn't ambiguous, but
          > "usability person" usually is.

          I agree that term usage has to take into consideration the audience
          (language usability? ;-). Tell a group of developers or typical
          management that you're bringing in a usability specialist and a
          usability person, no problem and quite appropriate. Address a meeting
          of visual designers or interaction designers as "usability
          specialists," and you've just started on the wrong foot.

          Part of the reason that I bring up this point is that I'm on an
          interaction design list where threads concerning usability folks come
          up every few months which quickly degenerate into "usability folks
          don't know design and shouldn't be allowed to do design" at best and
          "usability folks are completely useless idiots" at worst.

          Ron
        • Gary Macomber
          Hi, Was just reflecting on this after the past week. For the first time in my career I had to convince folks to let me do more than just design. It took me 2
          Message 4 of 17 , Jan 29, 2005
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            Hi,

            Was just reflecting on this after the past week. For
            the first time in my career I had to convince folks to
            let me do more than just design. It took me 2 days to
            get everyone to agree that usability testing was
            important! My prior experience is more like what Hugh
            describes though...

            gary

            --- Hugh Beyer <beyer@...> wrote:


            ---------------------------------
            Hey guys -- I was reading old notes to this list and
            had a sudden news flash
            which is maybe obvious to everyone else, but maybe not
            -- what I realized is
            that being a usability person on an agile product is
            going to require a
            total change in your thinking. Presumably, you're
            there to help implement
            the customer role--be the customer voice on the team.
            But that's going to
            require that you behave not as a usability person,
            looking at a completed
            design and searching for holes but that you operate as
            a
            designer--conceptualizing the work of the users,
            thinking about a design
            response and organizing that response into screens and
            interfaces.

            Usability people have known from just about day one
            that they had to do such
            things, of course. But the placement of usability
            after development produces
            something to test meant that the problem was somewhat
            hidden. Now it's out
            front--you aren't a usability person anymore, you're
            something else.

            Or am I out to lunch?

            Hugh



            Hugh R. Beyer
            CTO, InContext
            2352 Main St., suite 302
            Concord, MA 01742

            978-823-0105 x122
            beyer@...






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          • Hugh Beyer
            _____ From: Ron Vutpakdi [mailto:vutpakdi@acm.org] Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 3:54 PM To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com Subject: [agile-usability] Re:
            Message 5 of 17 , Jan 30, 2005
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              From: Ron Vutpakdi [mailto:vutpakdi@...]
              Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 3:54 PM
              To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: [agile-usability] Re: Role of UCD in agile processes

               


              --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Hugh Beyer <beyer@i...> wrote:
              >
              > What got me was realizing that as soon as you become part of an agile
              > customer team, you're really not a usability person at all anymore. Your
              > training may well give you a powerful mindset, but your role is to
              be the
              > customer voice.

              Possibly being a little nitpicky here, but I don't agree that a
              "usability person" should have the role of being the "customer's
              voice."  The customer and the user aren't the same thing.  The
              customer is the fellow buying the system, but the user is the poor
              sucker who has to use it, and the two often aren't the same person.
              The "usability person" has to know about the customer and her
              needs/position/motivation, but the user is the one the "usability
              person" represents.

               

              No argument on content. I’m using “customer” in the Total Quality sense of everyone who depends on the system—direct and indirect users, buyers, etc.

               

              Hugh

               

            • Hugh Beyer
              _____ From: Jeff Patton [mailto:jpatton@acm.org] Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2005 2:57 PM To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com Subject: [agile-usability] Re:
              Message 6 of 17 , Jan 30, 2005
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                From: Jeff Patton [mailto:jpatton@...]
                Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2005 2:57 PM
                To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [agile-usability] Re: Role of UCD in agile processes

                 

                ·        
                --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Hugh Beyer" <beyer@i...>
                wrote:
                > Hey guys -- I was reading old notes to this list and had a sudden
                news flash
                > which is maybe obvious to everyone else, but maybe not -- what I
                realized is
                > that being a usability person on an agile product is going to
                require a
                > total change in your thinking.
                ...
                > Now it's out
                > front--you aren't a usability person anymore, you're something else.
                >
                > Or am I out to lunch?

                I regret creating this list with the name agile-usability... I'd just
                came back from the UPA conference last year, and it seemed like most
                folks there were comfortable referring to themselves as usability
                people.  I'm now seeing design - specifically user centered design,
                interaction design, and user interface design as the big hole to be
                plugged, and the activity that the usability people[?] are busy doing
                on agile projects.

                A few weeks ago I put out links to the stuff I'm working on.  One big
                point I'm trying to make is the /when/ you do things on agile
                projects matters alot.  Early discussions about UCD stuff on agile
                projects dealt with the concern that doing design work took too much
                time.  That sort of thinking is wrong IMHO.  I believe it operates
                under the assumption that /all or most of/ the work is done up front -
                so therefore our biggest challenge is figuring out how to do it
                faster.  [I kinda bristled at the title "Rapid Contextual Design" for
                that reason.] 

                It's my experience that UCD /stuff/ by stuff I mean researching,
                modeling, prototyping, testing, doesn't generally take too much
                time.  The agile projects I've been on really do have the time...
                it's the _timing_ that's an issue.  Some research and modeling needs
                to be done ahead of release planning.  Some decisions about workflow
                and navigation structure should be made ahead of iteration planning. 
                UI prototyping should be ahead of storywriting.  UI prototyping
                doesn't need to be all completed before any code is written. 
                Navigation and workflow can change a bit at each iteration as we
                learn more and functionality is added or changed.  Models and
                features can change periodically during and after releases as we get
                feedback from using and testing the software we're building. 

                Basically, do all the same UCD stuff - just synchronize it with your
                agile lifecycle.

                And, Hugh - to where your original comments were going, I see UCD
                people as designers working in step with development, coaching
                customers, developers, and business people.  The usability thing is a
                part of that that usually comes a bit later.  And as to your change
                in thinking comment - I find that whole projects become user
                centered.  This sort of thinking permeates every activity.  Does that
                square with your observations on your current projects?

                My favorite story about this... on a project some years ago, we were working with a customer/UI design/user experience design team that interfaced with a development team in a very XP-ish kind of way, though it was not an XP project. After some time—enough time for everyone to get comfortable with the new roles—one of the developers on the user team came to us and said he was planning to go back to development. We were all worried and asked what was wrong and why he wasn’t happy. His response was, “I’m very happy but I like developing. Now that I’ve seen what you’re doing I know I can trust your process. So if you come and tell me to paint it purple, I’ll paint it purple because I’ll know you have a good reason for it.”

                Moral being that the whole team may become user-centered in attitude—but part of that is knowing when to listen to the parts of the team that are more in contact with the user than you are. This is being duplicated in teams we’re working with now—the developers are getting to the point where they prefer to come to our folks rather than make off-the-cuff design decisions because they know we’ve got the closer user contact. Which—to bring the conversation back to XP—is as it should be.

                            Hugh

              • Jeff Patton
                ... were working ... interfaced with a ... XP ... comfortable with ... said he ... asked what ... happy but I ... trust ... paint it ... attitude-but ... that
                Message 7 of 17 , Feb 1, 2005
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                  --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Hugh Beyer" <beyer@i...>
                  wrote:
                  > My favorite story about this... on a project some years ago, we
                  were working
                  > with a customer/UI design/user experience design team that
                  interfaced with a
                  > development team in a very XP-ish kind of way, though it was not an
                  XP
                  > project. After some time-enough time for everyone to get
                  comfortable with
                  > the new roles-one of the developers on the user team came to us and
                  said he
                  > was planning to go back to development. We were all worried and
                  asked what
                  > was wrong and why he wasn't happy. His response was, "I'm very
                  happy but I
                  > like developing. Now that I've seen what you're doing I know I can
                  trust
                  > your process. So if you come and tell me to paint it purple, I'll
                  paint it
                  > purple because I'll know you have a good reason for it."
                  >
                  > Moral being that the whole team may become user-centered in
                  attitude-but
                  > part of that is knowing when to listen to the parts of the team
                  that are
                  > more in contact with the user than you are. This is being
                  duplicated in
                  > teams we're working with now-the developers are getting to the
                  point where
                  > they prefer to come to our folks rather than make off-the-cuff
                  design
                  > decisions because they know we've got the closer user contact.
                  Which-to
                  > bring the conversation back to XP-is as it should be.
                  >

                  I've seen that play out as well - sort of. By injecting teams with
                  user profiles and task models - UCD artifacts and thinking, and
                  publicly using those to make design decisions developers [and
                  analysts and users] learn that design decisions aren't really made
                  off the cuff. They're informed decisions. I observe two resulting
                  behaviors: as you describe, developers and others trust the design
                  process more and seek out designers for specific advice; or,
                  alternatively, developers and others use the models to start making
                  some informed decisions on their own.

                  I've always been pushing for developers and others to gain that
                  understanding so they can make day to day decisions on their own -
                  and indeed some do. But more of them choose to defer to designers.
                  Possibly my hopes at everyone becoming a designer to some degree are
                  unrealistic.

                  Have you observed others learning UCD thinking and successfully
                  making decisions on their own? Has this helped or hindered things?

                  thanks,

                  -Jeff
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