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Re: [agile-usability] The user is always right

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  • Ron Jeffries
    Hello, Nick. On Sunday, September 14, 2008, at 3:18:03 PM, you ... Courtesy isn t tiptoeing, you irritating little twit! :) But seriously, it seems to me that
    Message 1 of 28 , Sep 14, 2008
      Hello, Nick. On Sunday, September 14, 2008, at 3:18:03 PM, you
      wrote:

      > Now you're just being fluffy!

      > Sigh. Oh all right then, fair point. But it just doesn't help to have
      > to tiptoe around it.

      Courtesy isn't tiptoeing, you irritating little twit! :)

      But seriously, it seems to me that if we're good at saying things
      that can be heard, we'll do better. I just wish I were ...

      Ron Jeffries
      www.XProgramming.com
      www.xprogramming.com/blog
      Accept your conditions, but not your fate. -- Rod Walsh & Dan Carrison
    • Ron Jeffries
      Hello, Nick. On Sunday, September 14, 2008, at 3:18:03 PM, you ... Ron Jeffries www.XProgramming.com www.xprogramming.com/blog Inigo Montoya: You are
      Message 2 of 28 , Sep 14, 2008
        Hello, Nick. On Sunday, September 14, 2008, at 3:18:03 PM, you
        wrote:

        > Now you're just being fluffy!

        > Sigh. Oh all right then, fair point. But it just doesn't help to have
        > to tiptoe around it.



        Ron Jeffries
        www.XProgramming.com
        www.xprogramming.com/blog
        Inigo Montoya: You are wonderful!
        Man in Black: Thank you. I have worked hard to become so.
      • George Dinwiddie
        ... Don t forget that the very same Henry Ford said, They can have any color they want so long as it is black. - George -- ... * George Dinwiddie *
        Message 3 of 28 , Sep 14, 2008
          Dan Harrelson wrote:
          > Users can rarely tell you accurately what they want from a product. They
          > don't know the possibilities and limitations. They have a hard time even
          > expressing their frustrations in ways that you can act upon. The now
          > trite anecdote is Henry Ford stating that had he asked what people
          > wanted, they would have said a faster horse, not the automobile.

          Don't forget that the very same Henry Ford said, "They can have any
          color they want so long as it is black."

          - George

          --
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
          * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
          Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
          Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        • Dan Harrelson
          Yeah, I personally think that both quotes demonstrate that Ford was not user-centered. ...Dan
          Message 4 of 28 , Sep 14, 2008
            Yeah, I personally think that both quotes demonstrate that Ford was
            not user-centered.

            ...Dan

            On Sep 14, 2008, at 7:12 PM, George Dinwiddie wrote:
            >
            > Don't forget that the very same Henry Ford said, "They can have any
            > color they want so long as it is black."
            >
            > - George
          • James Page
            So the user did not want cheap cars? I think the point is that Ford knew that the user primary goal was. They wanted a fast means of communication, and didn t
            Message 5 of 28 , Sep 14, 2008
              So the user did not want cheap cars? I think the point is that Ford knew that the user primary goal was. They wanted a fast means of communication, and didn't mind that the colour was black. 
               
              Yeah, I personally think that both quotes demonstrate that Ford was 
              not user-centered

               

              On Mon, Sep 15, 2008 at 3:19 AM, Dan Harrelson <danh@...> wrote:

              Yeah, I personally think that both quotes demonstrate that Ford was
              not user-centered.

              ...Dan



              On Sep 14, 2008, at 7:12 PM, George Dinwiddie wrote:
              >
              > Don't forget that the very same Henry Ford said, "They can have any
              > color they want so long as it is black."
              >
              > - George


            • Jon Kern
              even talking to Ron may not matter to the car makers... as a product development business, you pick and choose what to build from all of the conversations.
              Message 6 of 28 , Sep 15, 2008
                even talking to "Ron" may not matter to the car makers... as a "product
                development" business, you pick and choose what to build from all of the
                conversations. you can't always please everybody :-)

                i had plenty of well-thought out feature requests that I simply would
                add to the issue tracker so i could record my rejection of said feature
                as being too "narrow" or having poor ROI -- recorded for "corporate memory."

                jon


                blog: TechnicalDebt.com <http://technicaldebt.com>
                View Jon Kern's profile <http://www.linkedin.com/in/jonkern>


                Nick Gassman said the following on 9/14/08 3:15 PM:
                >
                > On Sun, 14 Sep 2008 13:42:47 -0400, Ron wrote:
                >
                > >Yes. Experts don't know what I want. All the auto manufacturers have
                > >experts. Very few of them manage to build a car that I want.
                > >
                > >[William]
                > >> I think the solution to that isn't more or better experts. It's
                > more and
                > >> better collaboration. And more and better opportunities for all
                > involved
                > >> to learn how what they think will work differs from what ends up
                > working.
                > >
                > Hmm. It doesn't seem like more collaboration on the part of the car
                > makers would help Ron. More talking to Ron as the user would help.
                >
                > * Nick Gassman - Usability and Standards Manager - http://ba.com *
                >
                >
              • Jon Kern
                if you really think a feature is boneheaded and narrow, sometimes you can have the boss of that business person to ask How does that feature improve our
                Message 7 of 28 , Sep 15, 2008
                  if you really think a feature is boneheaded and narrow, sometimes you
                  can have the "boss" of that business person to ask "How does that
                  feature improve our business?"

                  jon


                  blog: TechnicalDebt.com <http://technicaldebt.com>
                  View Jon Kern's profile <http://www.linkedin.com/in/jonkern>


                  Nick Gassman said the following on 9/14/08 3:18 PM:
                  >
                  > On Sun, 14 Sep 2008 13:41:09 -0400, Ron wrote:
                  >
                  > >> Agreed. What becomes frustrating is when someone in the business
                  > >> believes they know what the right answer is to their business need,
                  > >> and objects to being asked 'why do you want that feature?'.
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >I'll bet fewer would object to questions like
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >Could you tell me more about that feature and how it fits in to
                  > >what we're doing?
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >What does that feature give you?
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >How is that being done now?
                  >
                  > Now you're just being fluffy!
                  >
                  > Sigh. Oh all right then, fair point. But it just doesn't help to have
                  > to tiptoe around it.
                  >
                  > * Nick Gassman - Usability and Standards Manager - http://ba.com *
                  >
                  >
                • Robert Biddle
                  So a few comments from me on this thread. Firstly, I would like to point out the difference between and end-user and an XP customer (or Scrum PO). They might
                  Message 8 of 28 , Sep 16, 2008
                    So a few comments from me on this thread.

                    Firstly, I would like to point out the difference between and end-user
                    and an XP customer (or Scrum PO). They might in some cases be the
                    same, but in many they are very different. It certainly makes sense
                    for a Customer to consider and work with end users, but they do not
                    always want the same thing, even when they are partially aligned.


                    Secondly, I want to highlight the issue of design. Agile processes do
                    not say much about design. Much of this thread has related to better
                    understanding of the needs of the end user, and also the customer, and
                    I do agree these are important. But they don't say much at all
                    relating to how the needs might or should be met. Agile processes are
                    not alone here: this is also true in User-Centred Design. Moreover, I
                    don't even think this is necessarily a bad thing. I don't think agile
                    processes or UCD need to suggest an approach to design: I think it's
                    fine for them to leave that out. But I still think that it is an
                    important element that will come from somewhere, and I think we should
                    acknowledge it more, lest people assume it does not exist.
                    Moreover, there could be many many approaches to design, and many
                    might succeed. There does not have to be a single best answer. And it
                    might change over time.

                    Lastly, I think we should be very cautious about the nature of user
                    and business "problems" and our desire to provide "solutions".
                    Several people have mentioned the story of Henry Ford suggesting that,
                    if asked, people would have said they wanted better horses, rather
                    than cars. The story seems to carry weight because it is accepted that
                    cars were and are better than horses. It's not really clear to me that is
                    true. And I'm not arguing for or against cars, or for or against
                    horses. But it was not a case of a problem and a solution. It was a
                    case of how the world played out. For a while, anyway.

                    Paul Dourish (UC Irvine) has been talking about this lately. In
                    particularly, he has been urging caution in seeing ethnography as a
                    means to design. He is addressing UI design, but this is important
                    in agile processes more generally as well. See:

                    www.ics.uci.edu/~jpd/classes/readings/Dourish-Implications.pdf

                    Cheers
                    Robt


                    spbroi@... wrote:
                    >
                    > There appears to be a recurring theme in this list. To most questions
                    > asked, at least on reply will be some variation of “what does the user
                    > want?”
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > It got me to thinking about whether the user has or should have such
                    > absolute power over what we create and deploy.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > Forty years ago there was no input from the users except to identify
                    > what they wanted on reports. Formatting was up to us as programmers,
                    > and input definitions (on punch cards) was also up to us. Users
                    > certainly didn’t specify how they’d like their punch cards to look.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > When the users were introduced to monitors, they still didn’t have
                    > much to say about the appearance. It was green-gray scroll mode only.
                    > Ask a question, input an answer.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > From the mid-70s on, or about the time we started doing prototyping on
                    > minicomputers and the like, the users held sway. Even if the
                    > interface didn’t appear logical to us, if the users said they wanted
                    > it a certain way, they got it. Of course, we didn’t have much in the
                    > way of user interface to play with: fixed input or display screens of
                    > black and white separated by menus. However, the final and ultimate
                    > word was always that of the user who would be staring at that screen
                    > day in and day out.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > Nowadays, of course, it’s all different. The user, however, still
                    > appears to control the interface. This leads me to wonder whether the
                    > user experience analysts and experts, the information architects and
                    > the human factors analysts should control the interface instead.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > Is there a line between a user’s power to dictate his/her own
                    > interface and the knowledge and skill that a specialist has to make
                    > the interface more efficient and the users of that interface more
                    > productive? Where is that line drawn?
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > Who draws the line when two (or more) users agitate for different
                    > interfaces to perform the same activity? It could be a simple color
                    > difference or a different way of viewing the flow of entry. Certainly
                    > code could be written to accommodate all users’ peccadilloes. Where
                    > then is the line between the extra code written and subsequent cost of
                    > maintenance to accommodate all the users? Does one user get
                    > preference over others? Majority wins? All users are created equal,
                    > just some users are more equal?
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > Finally, and it’s a shame to bring this up but that is the reality of
                    > business today, there is the misalignment of process and product. A
                    > user, in this case perhaps one with authority, specifies changes or a
                    > new feature that might benefit him or her personally, or perhaps his
                    > or her department, and it isn’t within the overall corporate strategy.
                    > Since upper level management does not always have checks and balances
                    > in place to coordinate tactical projects and strategic initiatives,
                    > who draws the line when the user’s request isn’t in line with
                    > corporate stragy or mission? I developed a slick system for a Vice
                    > President that did everything he wanted and more, and was delivered on
                    > time and under budget. Before we could even commence the celebratory
                    > party the VP was sacked and the system shelved because it didn’t fit
                    > in with the corporate strategy. We also built a neat system for a
                    > telecom company hitting all the early release dates and preparing for
                    > another five releases to improve the system based on user feedback,
                    > only to have the company sell off the entire system and division to
                    > another company, something that was in the works from before we
                    > started. We were then told the system wasn’t right because the
                    > purchaser didn’t like it.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > So where is the line between finding out what the user wants and
                    > delivering something that may be better than what the user requested,
                    > and aligned with the corporate strategy?
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > Just some random weekend thought
                    >
                    > =Steve
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    > Psssst...Have you heard the news? There's a new fashion blog, plus the
                    > latest fall trends and hair styles at StyleList.com
                    > <http://www.stylelist.com/trends?ncid=aolsty00050000000014>.
                    >
                  • Ron Jeffries
                    Hello, Robert. On Tuesday, September 16, 2008, at 8:19:42 AM, you ... I very much agree with all this. Nor do I believe there has to be a single best answer
                    Message 9 of 28 , Sep 16, 2008
                      Hello, Robert. On Tuesday, September 16, 2008, at 8:19:42 AM, you
                      wrote:

                      > Secondly, I want to highlight the issue of design. Agile processes do
                      > not say much about design. Much of this thread has related to better
                      > understanding of the needs of the end user, and also the customer, and
                      > I do agree these are important. But they don't say much at all
                      > relating to how the needs might or should be met. Agile processes are
                      > not alone here: this is also true in User-Centred Design. Moreover, I
                      > don't even think this is necessarily a bad thing. I don't think agile
                      > processes or UCD need to suggest an approach to design: I think it's
                      > fine for them to leave that out. But I still think that it is an
                      > important element that will come from somewhere, and I think we should
                      > acknowledge it more, lest people assume it does not exist.
                      > Moreover, there could be many many approaches to design, and many
                      > might succeed. There does not have to be a single best answer. And it
                      > might change over time.

                      I very much agree with all this. Nor do I believe there has to be a
                      single best answer for anything. Regarding software development in a
                      sufficiently narrow sense, Agile as I do it is the best I know but I
                      do hope to learn over time. I like to think that I have done so in
                      the past.

                      Ron Jeffries
                      www.XProgramming.com
                      www.xprogramming.com/blog
                      If you don't push something beyond its boundary of usefulness
                      how do you find where that boundary is? -- Martin Fowler
                    • Kathy Glur
                      ... I ve been lurking for quite a while and this thread has finally compelled me to respond. The product owners and the users frequently ask for functions that
                      Message 10 of 28 , Oct 1, 2008
                        > On Sun, 14 Sep 2008 12:29:01 -0400, John wrote:

                        > Agreed. What becomes frustrating is when someone in the business
                        > believes they know what the right answer is to their business
                        > need,and objects to being asked 'why do you want that feature?'.

                        I've been lurking for quite a while and this thread has finally
                        compelled me to respond.

                        The product owners and the users frequently ask for functions that
                        they really don't need. I always ask them what the real issue
                        is...what are they trying to fix with the solution they're
                        proposing. If would I ask them why they wanted it, it would
                        instantly put them on the defensive. By digging into what the
                        problems are, they feel like they're involved in the better solution.

                        Here's an example: We have an ordering feature that we handle
                        through a wizard. If the user leaves the wizard, they lose their
                        progress. (We have an architecture that makes it difficult to save
                        progress.) The business came to us and asked us to allow them to
                        save and leave the wizard. I asked them what operations they needed
                        to perform when they were needing to save the wizard. They listed
                        three things that were much easier to integrate into the wizard than
                        the save function.

                        As usability practitioners, it's our role to listen to what the
                        business wants, observe what the users need (not ask them), and then
                        propose the best design to the stakeholders.
                      • Scott Preece
                        Hi, Kathy, The notion of always trying to understand the why before committing to the how is great. I have a little bit of concern about your example, though.
                        Message 11 of 28 , Oct 1, 2008
                          Hi, Kathy,

                          The notion of always trying to understand the why before committing to the how is great. I have a little bit of concern about your example, though. Bending the user experience to make it easier to implement is a dangerous path; you need to be very sure that you're not making the user's job harder or more difficult to understand. It may, of course, be that the specifics of the example didn't have any issues, but it's a situation where you would probably want to test the tasks with users to make sure the new capabilities were clear and didn't make it harder for them to complete the task the wizard supported.

                          Also, you wouldn't want to go down this route if the added capabilities were things you would ever want to do when the wizarded process wasn't going on. That is, if they're things you might want to do at arbitrary times, building them into the wizard would potentially mean you needed to implement all or part of them more than once to make them available in different places.

                          [Obviously, I have no idea of the specifics of your applicatio, so these are general thoughts that may very well not apply here; in any case, figuring out what the customer needs to accomplish is, as you said, central to figuring out the best way to do it.]

                          regards,
                          scott

                          ----- Original Message ----
                          From: Kathy Glur <kaglur@...>
                          To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                          Sent: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 8:33:35 AM
                          Subject: [agile-usability] Re: The user is always right

                          > On Sun, 14 Sep 2008 12:29:01 -0400, John wrote:

                          > Agreed. What becomes frustrating is when someone in the business
                          > believes they know what the right answer is to their business
                          > need,and objects to being asked 'why do you want that feature?'.

                          I've been lurking for quite a while and this thread has finally
                          compelled me to respond.

                          The product owners and the users frequently ask for functions that
                          they really don't need. I always ask them what the real issue
                          is...what are they trying to fix with the solution they're
                          proposing. If would I ask them why they wanted it, it would
                          instantly put them on the defensive. By digging into what the
                          problems are, they feel like they're involved in the better solution.

                          Here's an example: We have an ordering feature that we handle
                          through a wizard. If the user leaves the wizard, they lose their
                          progress. (We have an architecture that makes it difficult to save
                          progress.) The business came to us and asked us to allow them to
                          save and leave the wizard. I asked them what operations they needed
                          to perform when they were needing to save the wizard. They listed
                          three things that were much easier to integrate into the wizard than
                          the save function.

                          As usability practitioners, it's our role to listen to what the
                          business wants, observe what the users need (not ask them), and then
                          propose the best design to the stakeholders.

                        • Kathy Glur
                          Scott, Lots of user observation before the recommendation and after the recommendation confirmed that the items we implemented were the right items. It s a
                          Message 12 of 28 , Oct 2, 2008
                            Scott,
                            Lots of user observation before the recommendation and after the
                            recommendation confirmed that the items we implemented were the
                            right items. It's a call center application, so user research is
                            pretty cheap.
                            Kathy

                            --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Scott Preece <sepreece@...>
                            wrote:
                            >
                            > Hi, Kathy,
                            >
                            > The notion of always trying to understand the why before
                            committing to the how is great. I have a little bit of concern about
                            your example, though. Bending the user experience to make it easier
                            to implement is a dangerous path; you need to be very sure that
                            you're not making the user's job harder or more difficult to
                            understand. It may, of course, be that the specifics of the example
                            didn't have any issues, but it's a situation where you would
                            probably want to test the tasks with users to make sure the new
                            capabilities were clear and didn't make it harder for them to
                            complete the task the wizard supported.
                            >
                            > Also, you wouldn't want to go down this route if the added
                            capabilities were things you would ever want to do when the wizarded
                            process wasn't going on. That is, if they're things you might want
                            to do at arbitrary times, building them into the wizard would
                            potentially mean you needed to implement all or part of them more
                            than once to make them available in different places.
                            >
                            > [Obviously, I have no idea of the specifics of your applicatio, so
                            these are general thoughts that may very well not apply here; in any
                            case, figuring out what the customer needs to accomplish is, as you
                            said, central to figuring out the best way to do it.]
                            >
                            > regards,
                            > scott
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            > ----- Original Message ----
                            > From: Kathy Glur <kaglur@...>
                            > To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                            > Sent: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 8:33:35 AM
                            > Subject: [agile-usability] Re: The user is always right
                            >
                            >
                            > > On Sun, 14 Sep 2008 12:29:01 -0400, John wrote:
                            >
                            > > Agreed. What becomes frustrating is when someone in the business
                            > > believes they know what the right answer is to their business
                            > > need,and objects to being asked 'why do you want that feature?'.
                            >
                            > I've been lurking for quite a while and this thread has finally
                            > compelled me to respond.
                            >
                            > The product owners and the users frequently ask for functions that
                            > they really don't need. I always ask them what the real issue
                            > is...what are they trying to fix with the solution they're
                            > proposing. If would I ask them why they wanted it, it would
                            > instantly put them on the defensive. By digging into what the
                            > problems are, they feel like they're involved in the better
                            solution.
                            >
                            > Here's an example: We have an ordering feature that we handle
                            > through a wizard. If the user leaves the wizard, they lose their
                            > progress. (We have an architecture that makes it difficult to save
                            > progress.) The business came to us and asked us to allow them to
                            > save and leave the wizard. I asked them what operations they
                            needed
                            > to perform when they were needing to save the wizard. They listed
                            > three things that were much easier to integrate into the wizard
                            than
                            > the save function.
                            >
                            > As usability practitioners, it's our role to listen to what the
                            > business wants, observe what the users need (not ask them), and
                            then
                            > propose the best design to the stakeholders.
                            >
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