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RE: [agile-usability] Usability, personas, use cases

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  • William Pietri
    ... Sorry if I was unclear. When I said that I felt formal methods should be used when you can t get informal, intuitive approaches to work, I didn t mean that
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 12, 2005
      On Thu, 2005-07-07 at 13:58 -0500, Larry Constantine wrote:
      > Musical analogies can carry us only so far, however. In the real world
      > where I work the need to ensure traceability for the FDA or guaranteed
      > performance for the owners of the electrical grid mitigate against
      > treating anything with casual informality.

      Sorry if I was unclear. When I said that I felt formal methods should be
      used when you can't get informal, intuitive approaches to work, I didn't
      mean that one should treat work casually.

      For example, writers I know are very serious about their craft. But I
      don't know any professional writer who follows a formal method to
      achieve good prose. If they need a powerful closing sentence, they write
      one, and may be completely unable to explain how they did it.

      If one doesn't have the knack for writing, then the methods in
      composition textbooks are a good place to start. Or if an organization
      wants to write something that's beyond the scope of what one writer or a
      small team can achieve, then coming up with a formal, process-driven
      approach can have good results.

      What I was trying to highlight, though, is that neither of those gets
      you the same value per effort of one talented, experienced writer fully
      engaged in the task itself. Thus, I always look first for ways to fit
      work within that envelope.

      > Use cases cannot be allowed to wither away, as they are part of the
      > engineering and legal audit trail that connects what is delivered to
      > how it was conceived. Which is another form of communication function
      > that such models can fulfill.

      Certainly there are environments where that sort of paperwork is the
      best way to fulfill a goal, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I
      was really only addressing the situation of Alistair's correspondent,
      who didn't mention the need for an audit trail.


      William Pietri <william@...>
    • Kevin Doyle
      ... I m not an agile guru, but I am a design and usability consultant - so, here s my take on it, however wrong it may be. ;) Personas are really more of a
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 15, 2005
        > Whilst both are new 'languages', personas are most
        > useful in communicating to the project team what the users (your
        > actors) actually desire in terms of their goals, however getting
        > empathy from the large majority of developers is an added challenge
        > often with fruitless results.

        I'm not an agile guru, but I am a design and usability consultant -
        so, here's my take on it, however wrong it may be. ;) Personas are
        really more of a tool for determining a product's requirements, and
        aren't really used by developers. Personas give a face and depth to
        the possible user that's impossible to create without having a product
        or prototype you can throw off a group of use-testers. Once you're at
        the testing stage of the game, personas really help in determining
        your tester base. They can even be a help to developers -- developers
        sometimes have a hard time seeing what they're making through the eyes
        of the user and personas can help with this - however, that implies
        that the developer wants to know more about the user.

        > Use-cases do not seem to bridge any communication gaps as they are a
        > language in their own right that needs to be learnt by rote and being
        > textual in nature are uninteresting and wordy. In fact I've never once
        > seen an effective use-case because they're so difficult to get 'right'
        > and even harder to communicate value. Also, the mere thought of asking
        > one of my customers to attempt to understand one is tantamount to
        > asking them to start coding for me. I can't see it and need
        > enlightenment!

        Use cases aren't one of my strengths, but they're HUGELY important if
        you want to determine a product's requirements -- especially if you're
        developing a completely new application or site. Yes, use cases have
        their own vocabulary you need to have translated if you're trying to
        explain them to a group of stakeholders or team members who have never
        used them. If you're someone responsible for presenting a series of
        use-cases to a group of stakeholders or team members, you are going to
        have to learn how to translate those use cases to your team and to the
        stakeholders. Use cases can reduce the amount of guesswork and can be
        a big help on determining each step of a complicated process. I can't
        imagine ~not~ using them -- I'm just not very good at creating them.

        > * Usability whilst useful in most contexts is just ' good design ' and
        > therefore a misnomer. When was anything 'well designed' unusable?

        Have you ever visited a web page that looked great visually, but had a
        hard time trying to figure out where the link to something important
        was? As you rolled your mouse over the page, perhaps lots of neat
        things happened - cool mouseover behaviors or other types of neat
        animations are triggered, but you still couldn't find that link you
        were looking for? Sure, the site looks AWESOME, but it's so cutting
        edge that the novice user can't even figure the page out. (Flash sites
        are SOOO guilty of this.)

        When something is considered "well designed" in my book, it has to be
        intuitive ~and~ visually appealing. The term "design" is a strange one
        in site and application development. Design, for me, has two parts -
        visual design and interface design; the two are very different. Sure,
        both require knowledge of how to layout a page, but interface design
        is where the "usability" happens. Perhaps visualize interface design
        as the skeleton and visual design as the skin. (The muscle could
        perhaps be called the backend and/or "programming".) Interface design
        includes detailing each part of the site -- menu placement, page
        behavior (mouseover or onClick), button vs. link usage and placement,
        radio button vs. checkbox vs. alt/shift menu selection, content
        placement, etc., etc. Visual design includes stylesheet creation,
        color guide creation and usage, branding, typography, etc., etc...
        Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "'Form follows function' - that has
        been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a
        spiritual union." I view "form" as the visual design and "function" as
        the interaction design.

        Okay. Babbling is over... Feel free to flame, correct, slap, or comment.

        Kevin Doyle
        Senior Consultant, CC Pace, Inc.
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