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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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