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Re: What's Interaction Design?

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  • jeff621
    Thanks all for the comments back. Nuno, thanks for the reference to UIDesign.net. I d read the Cooper interview, but not the Raskin comments afterwards.
    Message 1 of 6 , May 15, 2002
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      Thanks all for the comments back.

      Nuno, thanks for the reference to UIDesign.net. I'd read the Cooper
      interview, but not the Raskin comments afterwards. Basically if
      these well-respected people don't have a common definition of
      Interaction Design, I don't expect I'll find one.

      The stuff I'm trying to label are the decisions made before we know
      what might be on the user interface - or if there should be a user-
      interface at all. I'm seeing Interaction Design addressing questions
      like: "Who are the users?", "What do they want?", "How should they
      interact with some system to get it?", "Who else cares and what do
      they want?". Once we've decided what the users should do with the
      system, and basically what interaction contexts might contain, we can
      go about designing user interface and measuring its effectiveness.
      But no amount of good user-interface will compensate for
      misunderstanding the goal of a user - or leaving an important user
      out completely.

      Paul Hodgets wrote:
      >Are these papers available somewhere? I'd like to take a look
      if I could.<

      They're simple experience reports and still a work in progress.
      XP/Agile Universe and OOPSLA have accepted drafts. They'll be
      presented at each of those conferences. It's feedback from those
      groups that prompted my post. I'd asserted that some form of
      Interaction Design should be used - but then only gave information
      about U-CD. Which prompted the fair question "What is interaction
      design exactly? And, what other forms are there?" - Which maybe
      should have been my real posted question to this group.

      Nuno Nunez wrote:
      >Assuming the broad definition, it seams obvious that interaction
      design
      starts at early project inception when task cases (or task flows) are
      identified and the structure of use is captured and worked. This is
      especially true when work or process re-engineering are a concern
      (and they
      should always be in my opinion). The key issue here is that, assuming
      interaction design starts early in the project lifecycle, then it
      highly
      influences the system architecture... And perhaps that is the major
      breakthrough in the last couple of years (together with what is known
      as
      OOUID). Unfortunately it seams that those important aspects are not
      interesting in a world of x-something or agile-something!!!<

      Good comments. I'll focus on the comment on interaction design
      influencing system architecture. We've had good luck bringing
      developers, business people, end-users and UI people together in
      collaborative U-CD sessions. We find that developers and UI people
      come away with a better understanding of why things are the way they
      are. And, business people and end-users understand how doing things
      a little differently can be more cost effective and faster. U-CD
      gives us a framework to make sure we ask and answer all those right
      questions. We end up calling this agile because it's highly
      collaborative, we throw around lots of 3x5 cards, we churn out lots
      of poster-sized post-its then roll them up and call them design
      documents. We may be guilty of calling it agile because it doesn't
      look like anything we used to do.

      Nuno Nunez also wrote:
      >I'm sorry but I can't figure out how you can practice interaction
      design as
      an activity in XP without creating something which is not XP at
      all... On
      the other hand I can't see how UsageCD can be classified as an agile-
      method
      when Larry and Lucy are strong proponents of upfront-modeling and
      claim that
      agile development can cope with upfront specification of dozens of
      task
      cases without iterative or evolutionary development!!! I hope that
      somebody
      doesn't think about using the excellent modeling techniques of
      UsageCD,
      while doing XP, and them call it X-UsageCD...<

      This is a fun one to respond to. I've never seen an XP project that
      could be called XP – including the one I spent a year on that was set
      up by Kent Beck himself. We're definitely not doing pure XP. We do
      XP style planning, regular iterations, unit-testing, refactoring,
      pair programming.. yada yada yada. But, we front-end this entire
      process with a collaborative U-CD session. We "re-brand" our
      resulting task-cases as user-stories then use them to plan releases
      and iterations. Things get "agile" when we realize we made a mistake
      and need to change our minds about what to develop. We go back to
      the user roles and task cases and make our decisions with what we
      hope are interaction designer's sensibilities.

      On iterative development and upfront specification of lots of task
      cases, I find that when XP people bristle at big upfront design,
      they're generally talking about the architecture & objects under the
      interactions. In practice we don't decide any of that stuff up
      front. We still have lots of room to make mistakes and change that
      design without affecting the interactions we agreed on together.
      There's still plenty of room to really evolve the architecture over
      the course of many iterations. We may let interaction requirements
      push some major architectural issues – like "the performance of
      interactions required for this user may be better served by a Java
      Swing UI rather than an HTML/Servlet based approach."

      I hope we don't see an X-UsageCD either. I'll make it a career goal
      right now to never invent a software development methodology. I
      couldn't take the resulting abuse… ;-) - Makes me think of the joke
      you've likely all heard: "What's the difference between a
      methodologist and a terrorist? – You can negotiate with a terrorist."

      Larry Constantine wrote:
      >There is also a political issue, which is that interaction design is
      more trendy than UI design.<

      I'm adopting the more trendy interaction design label. The political
      issue I keep fighting in the XP/Agile community is: "UI designers are
      the people you bring in to make things pretty just before you ship."
      The emphasis in XP and agile processes to involve the "customer" or
      user in the process is a good one. Now if we can just get someone in
      there to ask the customer the right questions, we may just get
      somewhere. So, coming full circle, that skill of knowing what
      questions to ask and how to respond to that with an appropriate piece
      of software - can I get away with calling that "Interaction Design?"

      Someone also forwarded me this link:
      http://www.chesco.com/~cmarion/PCD/WhatIsInteractionDesign.html -
      thanks Peter. I haven't digested this article yet, but it may have
      some useful ideas as well.

      Thanks again for everyone's comments. Lots of good information and
      lots of good ideas to consider.

      Jeff Patton
      Development Team Lead
      Tomax Technologies
      (801) 924 - 6924

      "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used
      when we created them."
      Albert Einstein
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