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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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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