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RE: [agile-usability] A case study in the making

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  • Desilets, Alain
    Sounds like you re definitely on the right track! ... I m an interaction designer on various development teams, each of which typically consists of a product
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
      Sounds like you're definitely on the right track!

      I have a point to make which does not pertain directly to your posting, but it has been an irritant for me and other fellow developpers. It pertains to your use of the word "design" in the following sentences, without prefacing it with a word like "interaction":

      ----
      I'm an interaction designer on various development teams, each of which typically consists of a "product owner" (expert user), ***designer**, db specialist and technical developer(s).

      <SNIP>

      The adoption of the agile process has helped a great deal in getting those of us in the ***design team*** in on the ground floor of application development
      ----

      When you use the standalone word "design" like this instead "interaction design", you (probably unintentionally) make it sound like interaction designers have a monopoly on design, or that THEIR design activities are somewhat more important. This is very annoying to developpers who also do a lot of design and whose design work has as much impact on the success or failure of the final product, and even on its usability (a product that connects to a slow database will be unusable no matter how good the UI).

      From reading the rest of your post, I know that this is not what you actually mean, but this is the message that is being carried across. You are not the only interaction designer who uses the word "design" in that way. I just came back from the UPA workshop on Agile Usability, and many of the interaction designers in that group used the term in that way too. Even gurus like Alan Cooper use the term that way. In fact, if you read the "Inmates" book, you can see that Cooper actually DOES mean that interaction designers have a monopoly on design... His book clearly states that "designers" (meaning interaction designers) design the product, developpers build it, and business people sell it. But design is an all-encompassing activity that needs to involve all three of those types of people throught the development cycle.

      Sorry if this looks like a trivial peeve, but it has been bothering me for a while.


      Alain Désilets, MASc
      Agent de recherches/Research Officer
      Institut de technologie de l'information du CNRC /
      NRC Institute for Information Technology

      alain.desilets@...
      Tél/Tel (613) 990-2813
      Facsimile/télécopieur: (613) 952-7151

      Conseil national de recherches Canada, M50, 1200 chemin Montréal,
      Ottawa (Ontario) K1A 0R6
      National Research Council Canada, M50, 1200 Montreal Rd., Ottawa, ON
      K1A 0R6

      Gouvernement du Canada | Government of Canada
    • Joshua Seiden
      Alain points to one of the difficult aspects of design--it takes place on so many levels. Designers tend to focus on one aspect, one element, one medium, one
      Message 2 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
        Alain points to one of the difficult aspects of design--it takes place
        on so many levels. "Designers" tend to focus on one aspect, one element,
        one medium, one problem type, etc. We often forget *or simply don't
        know* about the others.

        I think this second point is important--designers don't know that other
        kinds of design exists. If you're not a specialist, design is an opaque
        activity. I have a friend who designs microprocessors. I have NO IDEA
        what he does, despite my many cocktail party attempts to understand it.
        Does he have some special software that he uses? He told me once that he
        sometimes uses an oscilloscope (I think) but I don't know what that is,
        let alone know how it furthers the cause of design.

        Imagine someone trained in graphic arts (not to pick on anyone)--has he
        ever seen a source code editor? How does he relate to the design
        problems a programmer faces?

        One of the reasons that I like this group is because it brings different
        types of designers together.

        I will tell you too, Alain, that we interaction designers often feel a
        sense of being in the minority. We struggled for some time just to be
        allowed to call what we do design, so we may sometimes use the word in a
        chauvinistic sense. That is certainly what Cooper chose to do in
        Inmates, but for him it was a rhetorical strategy to put interaction
        design on the map.

        None of this should be read as a justification, by the way. I really
        believe in the UXnet (http://uxnet.org) principles--no-one group owns
        design. I'm just pointing out that it's easy to be unaware of the work
        that our cube-mates are doing. (Do I hear all the Agilists shouting,
        "Exactly..."?)

        JS

        -----Original Message-----
        From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Desilets, Alain
        Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 9:53 AM
        To: 'agile-usability@yahoogroups.com'
        Subject: RE: [agile-usability] A case study in the making


        Sounds like you're definitely on the right track!

        I have a point to make which does not pertain directly to your posting,
        but it has been an irritant for me and other fellow developpers. It
        pertains to your use of the word "design" in the following sentences,
        without prefacing it with a word like "interaction":
      • tmfspeck
        ... posting, but it has been an irritant for me and other fellow developpers. It pertains to your use of the word design in the following sentences, without
        Message 3 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
          > I have a point to make which does not pertain directly to your
          posting, but it has been an irritant for me and other fellow
          developpers. It pertains to your use of the word "design" in the
          following sentences, without prefacing it with a word
          like "interaction"

          Hi Alain,

          Point taken, and I'll actually take your quibble one step further to
          help illustrate my point: Several of us in the "design group" are
          actually designers on several levels: My title is "interaction
          designer" (literally architecting interaction), but I also do a fair
          amount of graphical design (UI) work as well - layouts, fonts,
          colors, etc. To further complicate matters, the entire development
          team has weekly "design meetings" at which code structure/flow,
          database issues, and ui concerns are hashed out. My apologies that
          the terms blur - they blur here as well, as we struggle to find job
          and task titles that are more descriptive and more specific.

          Far from giving the web developers short shrift, or claiming "DESIGN"
          as my domain, my teammates and I rely upon and support each other to
          truly "design" the finished product in every sense of the word.

          I realize, however, that such imprecision can be confusing when
          talking about our internal structure here in a more public forum, and
          I'll try to more clearly define my role(s), and those of my teammates
          when discussing specifics. I hope that by doing so, I can move
          quickly from academic definitional questions to those that will help
          me and my team successfully meld Usability and Agile.

          I meant no offense to web developers, especially those upon whom I
          rely <g>.

          Thanks for your thoughts,

          Kurt Morris
          Interaction Designer
          The Motley Fool
          http://www.fool.com
        • Kevin Narey
          ... It s right and fitting that you mention this Alain, because it really is a difficult problem and is anything but trivial. Unfortunately it is likely to be
          Message 4 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
            On 7/5/05, Desilets, Alain <alain.desilets@...> wrote:

            > Sorry if this looks like a trivial peeve, but it has been bothering me for a while.

            It's right and fitting that you mention this Alain, because it really
            is a difficult problem and is anything but trivial. Unfortunately it
            is likely to be around for some time to come, but we can console
            ourselves that we share a common goal (and this is often lost sight of
            in the melee): We want to help deliver great solutions.

            Kevin
          • Desilets, Alain
            I will tell you too, Alain, that we interaction designers often feel a sense of being in the minority. We struggled for some time just to be allowed to call
            Message 5 of 6 , Jul 6, 2005
              I will tell you too, Alain, that we interaction designers often feel a sense of being in the minority. We struggled for some time just to be allowed to call what we do design, so we may sometimes use the word in a chauvinistic sense. That is certainly what Cooper chose to do in Inmates, but for him it was a rhetorical strategy to put interaction design on the map.

              -- Alain:
              I hang around with and work closely with many interaction design people so I understand their pain. There are many developpers out there (few agilists I would hope) who even today, believe that usability is just a matter of slapping a GUI over a backend.

              But the solution to this impass is certainly not to turn things around and advocate that we should be designing the GUI and then just slap a backend underneath it. Yet this is exactly what Cooper proposes in "Inmates". Advocating such a process can only piss-off those "unenlightened" developpers and get them even more set in their ways. The solution, as you and I obviously agree, is for interaction designers and developpers to engage in continuous day-to-day cooperative problem solving.

              BTW: This is exactly what has happened with Agile and testing. QA people used to feel like their message didn't get across to developpers. There were all kinds of misconceptions on both sides of the fence. QA people felt that programmers didn't care about quality, whereas programmers felt that QA people didn't understand the pressures of code writing and meeting deadlines. But Agile methods (XP in particular) solved the issue by bringing testers into the trenches and having them collaborate on a day to day basis with developpers. As a result, developpers in an XP team tend to be much more sympathetic to quality issues, and in fact, they litterally live by unit testing. And yes, there is still room in XP teams for testing specialists, who can advise developpers on how to write good test and who do independent testing.

              I'm glad to see that many interaction designers are taking a similar approach and I trust that it will completely change the way developpers think about and react to issues of usability.
              ----
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