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RE: [agile-usability] Abuse of Usage

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  • Larry Constantine
    Thanks for the support over the years, Tim. I actually know Wellington well as a repository of smart people who get it and don t go around misrepresenting
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 7, 2006
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      Thanks for the support over the years, Tim. I actually know Wellington well
      as a repository of smart people who "get it" and don't go around
      misrepresenting things.

      Tim wrote:
      =====
      I am still a *big* advocate of user-testing, especially in organisations who
      are unwilling to change their design process - I have found that in my
      current organisation (large government department) it is the politics of
      process ownership that get in the way of any consistent methodology. Perhaps
      I'll write a paper about this one day.
      =====

      Very good point. Do write that paper--maybe sooner than someday. If a group
      does nothing else, they should at least do user testing. Ironically, I
      frequently find myself the strong advocate of testing with organizations
      that are unwilling to budget for it. I may be a great designer, but it gives
      me the willies to think of software being released without at least
      selective user testing.

      --Larry Constantine, IDSA
      Director, Lab-USE - The Laboratory for Usage-centered Software Engineering
      Professor, Department of Mathematics and Engineering
      University of Madeira, Funchal, Portugal
      Chief Scientist | Constantine & Lockwood Ltd | www.foruse.com
      58 Kathleen Circle | Rowley, MA 01969
      t: +1 978.948.5012 | f: +1 978.948.5036


      ________________________________________
      From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Tim Wright
      Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2006 1:13 PM
      To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [agile-usability] Abuse of Usage


      On behalf of the Wellingtonians in New Zealand (where Mike is based) who
      have met you and do understand Usage-Centered Design (I taught it at the
      University in Wellington for a couple of years), sorry. Some of us do
      understand Usage-Centered Design and think it is fantastic.

      I am still a *big* advocate of user-testing, especially in organisations who
      are unwilling to change their design process - I have found that in my
      current organisation (large government department) it is the politics of
      process ownership that get in the way of any consistent methodology. Perhaps
      I'll write a paper about this one day.

      Dr Tim Wright

      On 4/5/06, Larry Constantine <lconstantine@...> wrote:
      Toward the end of a screed misrepresenting then attacking my views and
      methods, Michael Andrews, a blogger in New Zealand adds:

      "I focus on Constantine's views in particular because for many people in the
      agile programming world, he is the face of usability. [Disclosure: I've
      never met Constantine or even know anyone who has. My criticisms of are the
      methods he advocates, not of him as a person.] Constantine is a major writer
      on the Yahoo agile usability list, a list more dominated by programmers than
      usability professionals. The people-free "usability solution" offered by
      usage centered design is no doubt appealing to some programmers. But if
      agile programmers are going to learn what usability is about, they need to
      get a representative presentation of usability, especially the importance of
      user testing."

      I doubt I am "the face of usability." As regulars on this forum know, I am
      actually only one occasional contributor to what is a broad and open
      community with diverse opinions. My posting here is to reiterate for the
      record so this community remains clear about what my opinions actually are.

      It is both unfair and incorrect to write that "Constantine fashions himself
      as a usability expert, but he dismisses what 99% of other usability experts
      consider the foundation of usability: usability testing." I do not dismiss
      it, nor am I a "critic of usability testing." I have questioned the
      over-reliance on testing, particularly when it is to the exclusion of better
      up-front design based on understanding of real user needs, and I have
      documented some of the little acknowledged downsides of usability testing,
      which might put me in a minority but does not make me wrong. Neither do I
      reject testing as "too expensive and inefficient."

      In a nutshell this has been and remains my position: Usability testing is
      always a good idea. The better your design is the less user testing will be
      needed to achieve a given degree of usability. Depending primarily on
      usability testing alone to find problems is more expensive and less
      efficient than combining it with other approaches, such as, collaborative
      usability inspections, which Andrew dismisses as "more people chatting while
      sitting around a conference table." (Those of you who have participated in
      one of our usability inspections know it is a highly structured review with
      assigned roles, formal definitions, and strict rules, one of which prohibits
      "chatting.")

      I suppose I should not take it too personally, since he misunderstands and
      slights agile methods and programmers too, but I do, particularly when he
      wrongly attacks and attributes to me individually the book co-authored with
      Lucy Lockwood. Yes, we did cite a lot of our own work, because at that time
      much of the most relevant work was ours, but then, too, we had far more
      citations to others. And, yes, we did not devote many pages to
      testing--because we were writing a book about DESIGN not testing. A check of
      any book about usability testing will reveal not a lot said about design.

      Which brings me to the subtext of my message. I contribute to this forum
      because it is a genuine dialogue, open and fair, with diverse views and
      strong opinions, but without malice and minimal misrepresentation, a place
      where misunderstandings are quickly countered and corrected. Unfortunately,
      the blogosphere is something different. 


      --Larry Constantine, IDSA
        Director, Lab-USE - The Laboratory for Usage-centered Software Engineering
        University of Madeira, Funchal, Portugal

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