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Re: [agile-usability] The simplest thing that could possibly be re-invented?

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  • Petteri Hiisilä
    ... I agree. Those companies have a strategy. If it ain t broken, don t fix it. ... The impacts are often slow and not easy to measure. The single biggest
    Message 1 of 10 , Oct 10, 2004
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      > First, it is important to acknowledge not all companies actually want to
      > innovate on design - they may well be more interested in copying
      > features and innovating in other areas, like cheaper development time.

      I agree. Those companies have a strategy. If it ain't broken, don't fix it.

      > By now, at least some mareketers should be aware of usability as a
      > potential differentiator. I'm sure many are aware, but are still
      > concerned about its actual impact.

      The impacts are often slow and not easy to measure.

      The single biggest benefit is substantially higher customer loyalty. If
      you already have a very useful (usable, purposeful, satistying, stable,
      high-quality) product, the competitors are in trouble.

      Everybody knows that customer loyalty is a big deal once you have it,
      but its value is very hard to predict, especially in dollars.

      As Alan Cooper put it: "After all, you can sell dirty water in the
      desert to rave reviews, but the same product elicits a different
      response in an upscale restaurant."

      http://www.cooper.com/newsletters/jan01/the_iteration_trap.htm

      What happens if you start selling the clean water in the desert too?
      What can the competitors do?

      Thus, the opposite applies: those companies whose current products don't
      satisfy customers, leave room for competition. It can be fatal. True,
      people generally accept the new, better products slowly, but once they
      have made the move, they usually don't turn back to the old vendor.

      - More satistying products have (almost?) killed Novell and Borland.
      - WordStar was replaced by WordPerfect.
      - WordPerfect was replaced by Word.
      - Word will be replaced by ??? (not OpenOffice, it's essentially an open
      source Word clone)

      It's not easy to design satisfying user interfaces, no more than it's
      easy to create clever technical architecture or efficient code. It
      requires a lot of (often new) thinking and tools. And organizational
      changes!

      Marketers are not able to design usable products with their current
      thinking. They have tools that tell what _sells_. Not what _works_. And
      even when they know what works, they don't know why it works and how to
      make their product work too. They sure know how to clone features, and
      that's what they do!

      Marketing can help when you need to get the product through the
      customers' doors. But once the product is in, that's where desireable
      design, clever engineering and quality programming starts to count.

      Best,
      Petteri

      --
      Petteri Hiisilä
      Palveluarkkitehti / Interaction Designer /
      Alma Media Interactive Oy / NWS /
      +358505050123 / petteri.hiisila@...

      "I was told there's a miracle for each day that I try"
      - John Petrucci
    • Petteri Hiisilä
      ... The marketer approach to usability: http://www.econ.au.dk/fag/4141/e2001/dilbert_easy_to_use.gif ... Best, Petteri -- Petteri Hiisilä Palveluarkkitehti /
      Message 2 of 10 , Oct 10, 2004
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        Michael Mahemoff wrote:
        > Phlip wrote:
        > > Michael Mahemoff wrote:
        > >>By now, at least some mareketers should be aware of
        > >>usability as a
        > >>potential differentiator.
        > >
        > >
        > > Hence today's Dilbert episode.
        > >
        > Funnily enough, it also does a great job of showing how long some
        > purchasers will take to choose between usability and the bottom line.

        The marketer approach to usability:

        http://www.econ.au.dk/fag/4141/e2001/dilbert_easy_to_use.gif

        :)

        Best,
        Petteri

        --
        Petteri Hiisilä
        Palveluarkkitehti / Interaction Designer /
        Alma Media Interactive Oy / NWS /
        +358505050123 / petteri.hiisila@...

        "I was told there's a miracle for each day that I try"
        - John Petrucci
      • William Pietri
        ... I think that principle is one people often misunderstand, because they confuse simple with easy . The easy thing to do is often to say, make it just
        Message 3 of 10 , Oct 10, 2004
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          On Fri, 2004-10-08 at 17:45, jeff.grover@... wrote:
          >
          > Intellectually, there is a great temptation to say the "simplest thing
          > that could possibly work" (XP/agile principle) is to do what someone
          > else held in high regard (OS vendor, competing product, open-source
          > project, well-used application) chose to do.

          I think that principle is one people often misunderstand, because they
          confuse "simple" with "easy". The easy thing to do is often to say,
          "make it just like X". But the reason they just point to X rather than
          saying what specifically they want is that X is not simple.

          Figuring out what is really the simplest thing that could possibly work
          often takes a little more thinking, as you have to understand both the
          need and the medium in enough detail so that you can pick out the simple
          solution that addresses the core need.

          > And, more importantly, if I'm trying to be "agile"... how can I argue
          > the need for more rigorous user/interaction design and testing
          > (feedback), when someone else has presumably already paid for that
          > (...or got really lucky and got it right the first time)?

          I think of most moves toward agility as tightening feedback loops. The
          best way to get user feedback is to release early and often while
          listening to your users. When you can't do that, user testing can be an
          adequate substitute. Either way, getting frequent user feedback is very
          much in tune with the agile spirit.

          Personally, I think short iterations and frequent releases make it
          easier to innovate, as you get

          * more data -- prototypes are good, but there's nothing better
          than trying the real interface on real people.
          * more design time -- agile methods allow you to overlap the
          design and construction work.
          * less pressure -- when design is no longer a phase, it stops
          being a bottlneck. That means less pressure, making it easier
          to be creative.
          * less risk -- by taking things one step at a time, your bets are
          smaller, which reduces the incentive to chose the safe,
          well-understood solution.
          * better feedback -- because you can find out how you're doing at
          each step, you have a better environment for learning how to
          make good choices.

          > How can I make it more obvious to feature-driven stakeholders that
          > there is inherent value in re-thinking and innovating even though
          > pre-canned answers to tough usability questions seem there for the
          > taking (however false they may be)?

          I think you need to make this argument in financial terms. In essence,
          you're saying that you want them to spend their money differently, so
          you have to show them how that will result in reduced costs, better
          sales, or something else that improves the bottom line.

          William
        • Joshua Seiden
          Jeff Grover wrote: ... a great deal of the usability input we get whether evolutionary or revolutionary originates from or is relative to products
          Message 4 of 10 , Oct 11, 2004
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            Jeff Grover wrote:

            ... a great deal of the usability input we get whether
            "evolutionary" or "revolutionary" originates from or is
            relative to products competing with ours or performing
            similar functions in some other market space. Here are
            some examples:

            "We need a <Fill in your favorite object here> editor
            that looks like <our competition>"
            "Make the browsing feel like the Windows Explorer".
            "Make the web page look like My Yahoo!, Amazon,...
            <fill in your favorite site here>"


            And:

            How can I more eloquently describe this to people
            driven by "industry standards", "competetive analysis",
            "code reuse", and "feature envy"? And, more
            importantly, if I'm trying to be "agile"... how can I
            argue the need for more rigorous user/interaction
            design and testing (feedback)


            -----------

            I find that when designs and solutions are expressed
            relative to another product, it is often the sign of
            sloppy thinking. If someone has thought through a
            problem, there will be less need for comparison--and a
            good chance that he or she will have some drawings,
            documents, specifications--anything--that will express
            that thinking more completely.

            Your examples above are solution statements--divorced
            from any particular problem statement. Try seeking the
            problem. (We had a good long thread on this a while
            ago.) Ask a simple question: "Why?" This may reveal a
            lack of thought, or it may yield a very good answer.
            Sometimes, when you encounter a lack of thought, you
            will find at it's core a lack of understanding of the
            problem space. This is where you may have a good
            opportunity to employ a more rigorous cycle of user
            research, interaction design and testing.

            The potential upside is not "innovation" for its own
            sake, but rather a solution that better fits the
            *specific* problem you are trying to solve.

            Thanks,
            JS
          • Jeff Patton
            ... I can only agree with what s been posted so far. If there isn t a financial reason for changing the software, it s going to be a hard sell. I m hearing
            Message 5 of 10 , Oct 11, 2004
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              --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Joshua Seiden"
              <joshseiden@y...> wrote:
              >
              >> Jeff Grover wrote:
              >>
              >> ... a great deal of the usability input we get whether
              >> "evolutionary" or "revolutionary" originates from or is
              >> relative to products competing with ours or performing
              >> similar functions in some other market space.

              > The potential upside is not "innovation" for its own
              > sake, but rather a solution that better fits the
              > *specific* problem you are trying to solve.

              I can only agree with what's been posted so far. If there isn't a
              financial reason for changing the software, it's going to be a hard
              sell.

              I'm hearing that you believe a usability person might come up with
              better solutions than the "us-too" choices you see being made. No
              offense to the usability people and designers on the list - but what
              they're doing isn't so innovative - not usually. It's exactly what
              Josh has said in his post: it's correctly identifying the goals of
              the user and determining the simplest way to address those goals.
              It's just remarkable how often people don't choose to identify the
              goals of the user.

              Ok - it's really not quite that simple. You sorta need to know
              something about that user and the context of use as well. A little
              experience with a few proven approaches doesn't hurt either. But
              knowing just a little about user, goals, and context of use can go a
              long way at disqualifying "us-too" solutions. The idea isn't to
              disqualify them because they're not innovative - but to disqualify
              them because they're inapropriate... inapropriate for the goals of
              the user, their experience level and the context of use.

              Start with identifying goals first. Ask what the user's goals are
              until you get a good answer. Try the "popping the why stack"
              or "poking with the why-stick" technique. If you really know the
              goal of the feature, you often find the simplest appropriate solution
              is also the cheapest to build.

              Finally, consider trying to make a case for low cost usability
              testing. By that I mean recording users actually trying to use the
              software - using software that records the screen and the face of the
              user running it. There are inexpensive tools that could connect to a
              laptop and be set up quickly - say on a routine customer site visit.
              I've heard from several people that replays of people struggling to
              use software have at least as much political value as value in
              identifying usability problems.

              I understand that if designers aren't part of your current
              development approach, it's going to be hard to explain to folks what
              there unknown unknowns are. And, I suspect others might have
              diagnosed part of the issue correctly? Do you currently suffer from
              lack of competition and large market share? Those are terrible
              burdens on usability. ;-)

              Thanks Jeff G. for posting!

              -Jeff
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