RE: [agile-usability] The simplest thing that could possibly be re-invented?
- 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
"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>"
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.
- --- In email@example.com, "Joshua Seiden"
>I can only agree with what's been posted so far. If there isn't a
>> 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.
financial reason for changing the software, it's going to be a hard
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!