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Re: Role of Interaction Designers/Usability Specialists

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  • Dave Churchville
    ... Speaking as someone who has been involved with many successful development projects, most of which didn t have any formal usability, or I.D. personnel, I
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 16, 2006
      --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Leina" <leina_elgohari@...>
      wrote:
      > I'm a recent member to this group. I was reading some of the earlier
      > postings and was interested in the following
      > "...software developers who have seen projects succeed without
      > specific involvement of interaciton designers may question their
      > roles.."
      >
      > I would like to ask why interaction designers were not heavily
      > involved in such projects. Is it because:

      Speaking as someone who has been involved with many successful
      development projects, most of which didn't have any formal usability,
      or I.D. personnel, I can say that the Interaction Designer role is
      still relatively unknown in development circles.

      While I personally see value in the role, some of my peers still think
      it's a glorified usability or graphic designer position. There is
      still much education needed around this area. It does seem to be
      gaining traction over time.

      This is in many ways similar to the debate about the value of a
      separate QA/testing role on a development team. Even though there is
      obvious value in the role, many teams have chosen to merge that
      function into the development team.

      Anyway, my 2 cents.

      --Dave

      David Churchville
      http://www.extremeplanner.com/blog
    • William Pietri
      Welcome, Leina. ... Hi, Leina. I can think of a few times I ve seen this happen happily. Factors include: * when the developers are target users * when the
      Message 2 of 4 , Mar 16, 2006
        Welcome, Leina.

        Leina wrote:
        I'm a recent member to this group. I was reading some of the earlier 
        postings and was interested in the following 
        "...software developers who have seen projects succeed without 
        specific involvement of interaciton designers may question their 
        roles.."
        
        I would like to ask why interaction designers were not heavily 
        involved in such projects.
          

        Hi, Leina. I can think of a few times I've seen this happen happily. Factors include:

        • when the developers are target users
        • when the developers work closely in short cycles with target users
        • when someone has the skill, but is in a different role

        An example of the first is Linux. There's a common but wrong-headed notion that Linux command-line tools are not very usable. That's wrong; like a race car or a commercial kitchen, they're very usable for experts.

        The second happens with a lot of in-house apps. When I worked for financial traders, we would sit just feet from the traders and give them new versions frequently, sometimes daily.

        For the third, I have seen product managers, UI designers, and UI developers all do excellent interaction design. All of those can work well on an agile team, as many of them intentionally eschew specific roles in favor of valuing contributions as they happen.


        Hoping that answers your question,

        William
      • Desilets, Alain
        I was reading some of the earlier postings and was interested in the following ...software developers who have seen projects succeed without specific
        Message 3 of 4 , Mar 17, 2006
          I was reading some of the earlier
          postings and was interested in the following
          "...software developers who have seen projects succeed without
          specific involvement of interaciton designers may question their
          roles.."

          -- Alain:
          This is probably true unfortunately.
          ----

          I would like to ask why interaction designers were not heavily
          involved in such projects. Is it because:
          - This was deliberate - to speed up development time with the
          rationale that the full continuum of users cannot be represented anyway
          - Because the speed of develpment time meant that their roles was
          reduced considerabley
          - Streamlining of teams ie their roles has become subsumed into other
          roles - the developer can assume the role of the usability specialist
          as such agile environments neccesitates that team members carry out
          muliple high level roles
          - The projects were very small scale
          - The projects were similar in nature to earlier projects carried out
          by the team so the user requirements were assumed to be the same
          - Sophisticated CASE tools has sidelined the role of the interaction
          Designer

          -- Alain:
          Most software projects I worked on did not have a usability specialist
          on the team. This was never a conscious well-reasoned decision. Nobody
          sat down and thought, nope, we don't need a usability person on this
          project. Most of the time it was just that managers on the project had
          no idea that usability was hard to achieve, and that usability
          professionals can help.
          ----

          One posting contends that "THE INTERACTION DESIGNER SHOULD REPRESENT
          THE USERS" . Hasn't this always been the case with user centred design
          methods. Or does that phrase mean that the interaction designer should
          assume the role of the user? I'm not altogether sure what is meant by
          this phrase. I'm sure there's a deep high level meaning that I'm just
          not getting.

          -- Alain:
          Not sure what the original author of this quote meant, but one way to
          interpret it is that while the usability specialist can and should
          represent the user, he might not be in a position to represent the
          customer, i.e. the person or organisation that comissioned the work and
          is ultimately paying for it. Customers want the software to be usable to
          its end users (in order to derive revenues from selling it, or, in the
          case of software to be used in-house, to make their own operation more
          efficient somehow). But that is but one of the criteria by which they
          will evaluate the success of the project (cost and time behing two of
          the obvious other ones).
          ----








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