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RE: [agile-usability] FUBU

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  • Jared M. Spool
    ... Jeff: Brilliant post -- I ll be stealing ideas from it for months to come! Alain: I worked in the Software Engineering groups for DEC and Symbolics for
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 15, 2006
      At 03:54 PM 2/15/2006, Desilets, Alain wrote:
      >I think if you have written good FUBU software, you might be able to
      >write decent FOBU (For Others, By Us) software also, because you are
      >already in the right frame of mind. In other words, you paid a lot of
      >attention to yourself as an end user, so you will probably pay
      >atttention to those Others as end users. In my view, once your whole
      >team has assimilated the "pay attention to the end user" mentra, you are
      >80% of the way there.

      Jeff: Brilliant post -- I'll be stealing ideas from it for months to come!

      Alain: I worked in the Software Engineering groups for DEC and Symbolics
      for many years. I can speak volumes about the FUBU mentality, as that's how
      both of those organizations thrived and, ironically, died.

      These groups had some of the smartest people I've ever had the chance to
      work with. It was incredible.

      Yet, the FUBU mentality really ferments a mindset that makes it hard to
      step back and say, "Maybe we don't really know what makes sense here for
      the real users."

      I just finished reading this brilliant piece in this month's Harvard
      Business Review called "Defeating Feature Fatigue" which talks about how
      consumers choose products. In their study, consumers, when given the chance
      to design a custom digital video player, piled all sorts of features in,
      even though they were keenly aware it would hurt the usability of the design.

      In a FUBU space, where the act of design is part of the mental model
      development, little consideration is given to "how people are going to
      learn this." This makes the transition much harder, in my opinion.

      Both the DEC and Symbolics folks I worked with created some really
      innovative stuff. Stuff that was way ahead of what we still have today.
      But, it was packaged in such a complex environment that it was pretty much
      doomed to fail from the start.

      I don't think you can transition from FUBU to a FOBU environment without a
      major culture shift. (And probably an execution or two.)

      Jared


      Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
      4 Lookout Lane, Unit 4d, Middleton, MA 01949
      978 777-9123 jspool@... http://www.uie.com
      Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks
    • klancaster1957
      ... user ... the ... I have to relate a quick story here. I do QA/usability on a large project and also have an extensive background in development. I was
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 15, 2006
        --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain" <alain.desilets@...> wrote:

        >
        > Of course, a pitfall is that the developpers might not realise that
        > these Other users are not like them... That's the "you are not the user
        > (although you may be like them in many respects)" mentra. But I would
        > think that this second mentra comes easily once you have assimilated the
        > first one.
        > ----

        I have to relate a quick story here. I do QA/usability on a large project and also have an extensive background in development. I was talking to one of the developers about an error handling web page that they were using when severe (fatal) errors occurred. It had a somewhat understandable message, followed by the file name where the error occured, the name of the Java class that was the problem, and some trace statements. The conversation went something like the following:

        Me:  "The system already knows where the error occured and can alert the support or development staff to the problem via email."

        Developer: "We need this message for the end users."

        Me: "The end users? They are not going to understand this message, are they?"

        Developer: "Yes they are. I said its for the end users - the developers!"

        Me: "Sigh"

        BTW, the scheme here was that the real end users, policemen in this case, would call support and read the exception data to the support person, who would write it down and email it to the developer.

        Keith

      • Dave Churchville
        ... for ... pretty much ... without a ... Yes, I agree with this. One thing I ve been contemplating is that maybe it isn t as much a culture shift to get from
        Message 3 of 13 , Feb 15, 2006
          --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Jared M. Spool" <jspool@...>
          wrote:
          > Yet, the FUBU mentality really ferments a mindset that makes it hard to
          > step back and say, "Maybe we don't really know what makes sense here
          for
          > the real users."
          >
          >
          > Both the DEC and Symbolics folks I worked with created some really
          > innovative stuff. Stuff that was way ahead of what we still have today.
          > But, it was packaged in such a complex environment that it was
          pretty much
          > doomed to fail from the start.
          >
          > I don't think you can transition from FUBU to a FOBU environment
          without a
          > major culture shift. (And probably an execution or two.)

          Yes, I agree with this.

          One thing I've been contemplating is that maybe it isn't as much a
          culture shift to get from FUBU to FOBU (are we really using these
          acronyms?) as much as the presence or absence of "emotional intelligence".

          In other words, in my experience, it takes a certain kind of person to
          really empathize and therefore effective role-play what "The Users"
          are like and what they need.

          You can *intend* to empathize all day long and still not get there. I
          think it's part training, but also part brain-wiring.

          There are developers who understand "users", not just because of FUBU,
          but because they have that empathy wiring. Move them to another
          field, and they'll figure out how to ask the right questions to
          understand those users. The majority I've worked with, unfortunately,
          aren't that way.

          Bill Clinton might have been an excellent UX professional (I feel your
          pain).

          --Dave

          Dave Churchville
          http://www.extremeplanner.com
        • Desilets, Alain
          There are developers who understand users , not just because of FUBU, but because they have that empathy wiring. Move them to another field, and they ll
          Message 4 of 13 , Feb 16, 2006
            There are developers who understand "users", not just because of FUBU,
            but because they have that empathy wiring. Move them to another field,
            and they'll figure out how to ask the right questions to understand
            those users. The majority I've worked with, unfortunately, aren't that
            way.

            -- Alain:
            I think the reason why many developpers behave AS THOUGH they are
            incapable of empathising with the user, is that they are NEVER EXPOSED
            to them, and are given no information about them. How can you empathise
            with someone you have never met and of whom you know nothing?

            If I ask you to "empathise with Joe", will you be able to do it? Of
            course not! How about if I tell you that he just lost his wife in a car
            accident? It probably helps right? How about if I tell you that he has
            five kids under 10 to care for single handedly? I'm sure you feel the
            pain by now. How about if you meet Joe Bloe in person and hear his story
            directly from him? At that point, you will probably feel an urge to help
            him if you can.

            Most of the programmers I meet that work in an agile environment where
            they are directly exposed to the end user and the customer are pretty
            good at empathising with them and understanding user needs. So I think
            the reason why so many programmers behave differently is due to the
            environment they work in, not to an inherent inability to empathise.
            ----
          • Dave Churchville
            ... Well, I agree that the environment is a necessary condition, but I don t think it s sufficient. Again, this may be limited to my own experience, but having
            Message 5 of 13 , Feb 16, 2006
              --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
              <alain.desilets@...> wrote:
              > Most of the programmers I meet that work in an agile environment where
              > they are directly exposed to the end user and the customer are pretty
              > good at empathising with them and understanding user needs. So I think
              > the reason why so many programmers behave differently is due to the
              > environment they work in, not to an inherent inability to empathise.


              Well, I agree that the environment is a necessary condition, but I
              don't think it's sufficient. Again, this may be limited to my own
              experience, but having worked with many different types of developers
              in varied environments over 15 years or so, my perspective is that
              there's more to it than just default empathy. (Note: I am a developer
              myself, and notwithstanding some bright moments, I have suffered from
              this problem as well).

              In fact, what has happened is that many people *believe* they are
              empathizing, and they certainly do want to help the user - it's that
              for some reason they are unable to truly see the goals of the user.

              In other words, to take your example of Joe who has 10 kids, I might
              empathize with that, and say, I really want to help Joe, let's build
              an automatic diaper changer.

              In reality, Joe's main goal is to have some alone time once in a
              while, so he'd really like a babysitter.

              So empathy and understanding may not be equivalent here. I don't know
              how else to explain this, it's just my experience. Sounds like you've
              had more luck.

              --Dave

              Dave Churchville
              http://www.extremeplanner.com
            • Desilets, Alain
              In fact, what has happened is that many people *believe* they are empathizing, and they certainly do want to help the user - it s that for some reason they are
              Message 6 of 13 , Feb 16, 2006
                In fact, what has happened is that many people *believe* they are
                empathizing, and they certainly do want to help the user - it's that for
                some reason they are unable to truly see the goals of the user.

                In other words, to take your example of Joe who has 10 kids, I might
                empathize with that, and say, I really want to help Joe, let's build an
                automatic diaper changer.

                -- Alain:
                In an XP Environment, Joe would tell the developper that what he really
                needs someone to babysit his kids while he takes some time off. So the
                developper would never end up building an automatic diaper changer. He
                might think that building an automatic diaper changer would be more fun
                than babysitting, but by agreeing to work on an XP team he has accepted
                the customer's bill of rights that says the customer gets to decide
                exactly what gets built.

                Maybe what you mean by "ability to empathise" you really mean "ability
                to see the forest for the tree and interpret what the customer/user says
                and come up with innovative designs that address their core needs". If
                so, I would agree that this is a skill that UI types of people are more
                likely to possess. But even there, that stereotype is not as strong as
                you might think. I know LOTS of UI types who CAN'T see the forest for
                the trees and who get bogged down in details like wording of dialogs,
                colors, positioning etc... (and those guys aren't all "developper turned
                UI-guy by accident" types). And I also know LOTS of developpers
                (especially in the agile world) who are very good at seeing the forest
                and coming up with the
                SimplestThingThatCouldPossiblyAddressTheUser'sCoreNeeds.
                ----
              • Dave Churchville
                ... Yes, that s exactly what I mean :-) But I wasn t making a statement that UI people are better at this than developers as a rule. Or that developers are
                Message 7 of 13 , Feb 16, 2006
                  --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
                  <alain.desilets@...> wrote:
                  > Maybe what you mean by "ability to empathise" you really mean "ability
                  > to see the forest for the tree and interpret what the customer/user says
                  > and come up with innovative designs that address their core needs". If
                  > so, I would agree that this is a skill that UI types of people are more
                  > likely to possess.

                  Yes, that's exactly what I mean :-)

                  But I wasn't making a statement that "UI people" are better at this
                  than developers as a rule. Or that developers are universally bad at it.

                  Rather, I think this is a relatively rare skill, in any discipline.

                  Granted, an agile team is less likely to *overbuild* something
                  suboptimal, and with frequent iteration and feedback may come up with
                  a good solution over time. Again, I'm mainly talking about user
                  interfaces and interactions.

                  For example, as a long time agile practitioner, I think I've gotten
                  pretty good at "forest vision", and been able to come up with simple,
                  effective designs to solve core user needs.

                  But I'm still amazed when I run across someone who has a gift for this
                  kind of thinking, and can come up with a variety of alternatives, each
                  of which is easily as good as mine at solving the problem.

                  Again, I just think that's rare. Doesn't mean my solutions aren't
                  "good enough", but there's another level possible.

                  --Dave

                  Dave Churchville
                  http://www.extremeplanner.com
                • Desilets, Alain
                  But I wasn t making a statement that UI people are better at this than developers as a rule. Or that developers are universally bad at it. -- Alain: No
                  Message 8 of 13 , Feb 16, 2006
                    But I wasn't making a statement that "UI people" are better at this than
                    developers as a rule. Or that developers are universally bad at it.

                    -- Alain:
                    No worries. My buttons are pretty easy to push when it comes to
                    stereotypes about developpers.
                    ----
                  • Jon Kern
                    ... able to ... I am not so sure... (except for the might part) I would surmise the reason FUBU is easy for technical products is because of the intense
                    Message 9 of 13 , Feb 17, 2006
                      > I think if you have written good FUBU software, you might be
                      able to
                      >write decent FOBU (For Others, By Us) software also, because you are

                      I am not so sure... (except for the "might" part)

                      I would surmise the reason FUBU is easy for technical products is because of the intense familiarity with
                          - the domain
                          - the user tasks
                          - the end user needs

                      Having worked with the brilliant TogetherSoft development team, the tool was FUBU in the early days and very well done.

                      As the feature list expanded to strange things like EJBs, the usability began to wane. The developers read the J2EE specs and technically did things correctly. But, since they had no idea what a J2EE developer needed -- though they expected they knew what was needed, this part of the tool fell short.
                      -- jon
                      
                      


                      Desilets, Alain said the following on 2/15/2006 3:54 PM:
                      So, what's my point?  I have none - at least no big point.  Just
                      these observations: developers often design good software for
                      developers: FUBU.  Other often design pretty good software for their
                      own use: FUBU.  Doing so can lead one to the false sense of belief
                      that design is easy - and you can do it for anyone, or anyone else
                      can do it for themselves: self-centered design.

                      comments invited, and thanks for listening/reading. 
                      [I really should get a blog and stop using this list as one.  ;-) ]

                      -- Alain:
                      I think if you have written good FUBU software, you might be able to
                      write decent FOBU (For Others, By Us) software also, because you are
                      already in the right frame of mind. In other words, you paid a lot of
                      attention to yourself as an end user, so you will probably pay
                      atttention to those Others as end users. In my view, once your whole
                      team has assimilated the "pay attention to the end user" mentra, you are
                      80% of the way there.

                      Of course, a pitfall is that the developpers might not realise that
                      these Other users are not like them... That's the "you are not the user
                      (although you may be like them in many respects)" mentra. But I would
                      think that this second mentra comes easily once you have assimilated the
                      first one.
                      ----
                    • Jon Kern
                      ...and I thought I did a good job... http://blogs.compuware.com/cs/blogs/jkern/archive/2006/02/23/mastering_a_skill.aspx -- jon
                      Message 10 of 13 , Feb 24, 2006
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