Interaction Design Association

Rationale for *not* using UCD

Leisa Reichelt
January 23, 2007 1:01pm

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I'm working on a little side project at the moment that involves collecting as many reasons as I can come across as to why people/project teams decide not to use User Centred Design methodologies when designing/developing projects.

We have the obvious ones down (not enough time, not enough money, no UCD 'expert' on staff), but I'm sure you've come across a lot of more or less rational explanations for not using UCD.

I'd love to hear them! Pls reply to me offlist (in the interest of noise reduction!) or leave a comment here: http://tinyurl.com/yoz28r

I'll happily collate and share if you're interested.

many thanks in advance,
Leisa

Leisa Reichelt
User Experience Consultant

leisa.reichelt at gmail.com
www.disambiguity.com

 
Dan Williams
January 23, 2007 1:19pm

When the developer is the domain expert!?!

On 1/23/07, Leisa Reichelt <leisa.reichelt at gmail.com wrote: I'm working on a little side project at the moment that involves collecting as many reasons as I can come across as to why people/project teams decide not to use User Centred Design methodologies when designing/developing projects. We have the obvious ones down (not enough time, not enough money, no UCD 'expert' on staff), but I'm sure you've come across a lot of more or less rational explanations for not using UCD.
I'd love to hear them! Pls reply to me offlist (in the interest of noise reduction!) or leave a comment here: http://tinyurl.com/yoz28r I'll happily collate and share if you're interested. many thanks in advance,
Leisa
Leisa Reichelt
User Experience Consultant
leisa.reichelt at gmail.com
www.disambiguity.com


 
Juan Lanus
January 23, 2007 1:58pm

Leisa,

What do you mean with "not using UCD?"

The ultimate purpose of any system is to support the user's tasks, whatever those tasks are.
Without user there is no system, and our's is a moot profession!

During many years we built systems that didn't take the users into account, we programmed for the computers not the people sitting in front of them.

Sorry for the obviousness: you should make your intention a bit more clear.

Are you speaking of avoiding the formal steps? This can be done if the system is small and the user is available almost all the time. See the XP (for Extreme Programming) process, they say don't do the use cases, have the user available in the next office.

Juan Lanus
TECNOSOL
Argentina

 
CD Evans
January 23, 2007 5:48pm

There is a whole lot of not using ucd out there in the field, and until we are honest about it, nothing can be done.

The technology industry is some sort of cash grab war between MSC folks and MBA folks, there is not a lot of room between them. That is the current state of the field.

Sorry.
CD Evans

On 1/23/07, Juan Lanus <juan.lanus at gmail.com wrote: Leisa,
What do you mean with "not using UCD?"
The ultimate purpose of any system is to support the user's tasks, whatever those tasks are.
Without user there is no system, and our's is a moot profession! During many years we built systems that didn't take the users into account, we programmed for the computers not the people sitting in front of them.
Sorry for the obviousness: you should make your intention a bit more clear. Are you speaking of avoiding the formal steps? This can be done if the system is small and the user is available almost all the time. See the XP (for Extreme Programming) process, they say don't do the use cases, have the user available in the next office.
Juan Lanus
TECNOSOL
Argentina


 
Billie Mandel
January 30, 2007 3:55pm

A related/corollary question: What software companies are operating successfully -- right now -- without some kind of UCD/UED in the beginning of their product development cycle?

Cheers,

  • Billie
  •  
    Robert Hoekman, Jr.
    January 30, 2007 7:42pm

    1) 37signals, though one could argue (and some have argued this) that simply keeping users in mind is all it takes to qualify as a UCD process.

    2) Go Daddy, whose UX team is run by yors truly, and which practices Activity-Centered Design in an agile programming environment.

    The few, select products my team has had the opportunity to completely overhaul or design from scratch are doing extremely well. If it's not doing well, or is just barely hanging on, odds are that my team hasn't touched it. :)

    -r-

    On 1/30/07, Billie Mandel <billieslists at gmail.com wrote: A related/corollary question: What software companies are operating successfully -- right now -- without some kind of UCD/UED in the beginning of their product development cycle?
    Cheers,
    - Billie


     
    Jared M. Spool
    February 1, 2007 4:21am

    On Jan 30, 2007, at 11:42 PM, Robert Hoekman, Jr. wrote:

    1) 37signals, though one could argue (and some have argued this) that simply keeping users in mind is all it takes to qualify as a UCD process.
    Not by everyone:

    http://www.whybasecampsux.org/

    Jared

    Jared M. Spool
    User Interface Engineering
    510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845 e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
    http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

     
    Jared M. Spool
    February 1, 2007 4:24am

    On Jan 30, 2007, at 7:55 PM, Billie Mandel wrote:

    A related/corollary question: What software companies are operating successfully -- right now -- without some kind of UCD/UED in the beginning of their product development cycle?
    Many.

    Apple.

    Many parts of Google.

    Many parts of Amazon.

    Many parts of Dell.com

    Most of the Internet Retailer Magazine top 20 retailers.

    I could go on for a very long time.

    There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results. This is a big problem in the UX world which, while some of us have been talking about it for 5+ years, is only now seeing discussion.

    Jared

    Jared M. Spool
    User Interface Engineering
    510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845 e:
    jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
    http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

     
    Adrian Howard
    February 1, 2007 4:28am

    On 1 Feb 2007, at 13:21, Jared M. Spool wrote:

    On Jan 30, 2007, at 11:42 PM, Robert Hoekman, Jr. wrote: 1) 37signals, though one could argue (and some have argued this) that simply keeping users in mind is all it takes to qualify as a UCD process.
    Not by everyone:
    http://www.whybasecampsux.org/
    True. But I think a more accurate domain would be

    www.whybasecamsuxforme.org

    :-)
    Adrian

     
    David Malouf
    February 1, 2007 4:37am

    1) 37signals, though one could argue (and some have argued this) that
    simply keeping users in mind is all it takes to qualify as a UCD process.
    Not by everyone:
    http://www.whybasecampsux.org/

    Where can I sign up. Functionally, I find basecamp to be useful, but seldom is it everything I want/need and less times than that is it usable, engaging, delightful and well just good.

    It is cheap and does enough. That's why I keep using it.

    -- dave

     
    Leisa Reichelt
    February 1, 2007 4:37am

    There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results.

    Wow. That's a big call.
    How do we know this? Is everyone in agreement with this statement?

    Leisa Reichelt
    User Experience Consultant

    leisa.reichelt at gmail.com
    www.disambiguity.com

     
    David Malouf
    February 1, 2007 4:41am

    There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results.
    Wow. That's a big call.
    How do we know this? Is everyone in agreement with this statement?
    I think the work done by Adaptive Path on ROI (go to their site to buy the $400 paper--prices may vary) is really compelling as it speaks less about ROI of UCD/UED itself and more about applying ROI to UCD/UED and its success. They said that you cannot determine the ROI of UED--that 5 hrs. of UED will save you X% on your investment.

    Anyone from AP want to clarify.

    -- dave

     
    Jared M. Spool
    February 1, 2007 5:05am

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 8:37 AM, Leisa Reichelt wrote:

    There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results.
    Wow. That's a big call.
    How do we know this? Is everyone in agreement with this statement?
    Of course, everyone is *not* in agreement with this statement.

    However, everyone I've encountered who has actually tried to collect data and measure the results is in agreement with it.

    :) Jared

     
    Phillip Hunter
    February 1, 2007 6:13am

    Is it not a little more accurate to say that quantifying the correlation is difficult? Certainly there is correlation.

    Also, I suspect, as with most human effort, that a straight and universal time-to-benefit measure will never be seen. Which also leads me to suspect that perhaps one day we will be able to know and evaluate all the factors that should be examined and evaluated to produce estimates of benefit.

    ph

    -----

    Original Message -----
    From:
    discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Jared M. Spool
    Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 9:05 AM
    To: Leisa Reichelt
    Cc: discuss Discuss
    Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Rationale for *not* using UCD

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 8:37 AM, Leisa Reichelt wrote:

    There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results.
    Wow. That's a big call.
    How do we know this? Is everyone in agreement with this statement?
    Of course, everyone is *not* in agreement with this statement.

    However, everyone I've encountered who has actually tried to collect data and measure the results is in agreement with it.

    :) Jared


     
    Robert Hoekman, Jr.
    February 1, 2007 8:29am

    Of course, everyone is *not* in agreement with this statement. However, everyone I've encountered who has actually tried to collect data and measure the results is in agreement with it.

    I can vouch for this.

    Processes don't make better apps, designers do.

    -r-

     
    Todd Moy
    February 1, 2007 8:49am

    Phillip wrote:
    Also, I suspect, as with most human effort, that a straight and universal time-to-benefit measure will never be seen. Which also leads me to suspect
    that perhaps one day we will be able to know and evaluate all the factors that should be examined and evaluated to produce estimates of benefit. The hard part in determining any ROI is that there are many overlapping contributors: marketing, system development, training, finance, etc. UCD/UED is just one and it's difficult to extract the benefit it provides from the mix. There is a plurality of stakeholders and each is able to report the benefit by casually excluding the others.

    Just look at the other thread: "Has anyone succeeded in getting a usability-only release?" By the responses, it would appear that pure play usability is uncommon. So in the majority of cases, the ROI / benefit correlation is going to be tainted if you try to match benefits to contributors.

    Everyone has a hand are in the pot.which isn't a bad thing. Maybe it just indicates that accepted ROI analysis (NPV in particular) is too singular and do not account for the orchestration between many players.

    [also, my apologies if anyone received this twice. I think I bounced this post earlier.]

    -Todd

    On 2/1/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <rhoekmanjr at gmail.com wrote: Of course, everyone is *not* in agreement with this statement. However, everyone I've encountered who has actually tried to collect data and measure the results is in agreement with it.

    I can vouch for this.

    Processes don't make better apps, designers do.

    -r-

    On 2/1/07, Phillip Hunter <phillip at speechcycle.com wrote: Is it not a little more accurate to say that quantifying the correlation is difficult? Certainly there is correlation.
    Also, I suspect, as with most human effort, that a straight and universal time-to-benefit measure will never be seen. Which also leads me to suspect
    that perhaps one day we will be able to know and evaluate all the factors that should be examined and evaluated to produce estimates of benefit. ph -----

    Original Message -----
    From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Jared M. Spool
    Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 9:05 AM
    To: Leisa Reichelt
    Cc: discuss Discuss
    Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Rationale for *not* using UCD On Feb 1, 2007, at 8:37 AM, Leisa Reichelt wrote: There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results.
    Wow. That's a big call.
    How do we know this? Is everyone in agreement with this statement? Of course, everyone is *not* in agreement with this statement. However, everyone I've encountered who has actually tried to collect data and measure the results is in agreement with it. :) Jared




     
    maya gorton
    February 1, 2007 10:02am

    The only reason i can think of to not use UCD is that you want something done fast and cheap and that -- as the name implies -- your users are not a priority.

    In other words, you have enough money for a programmer but not for an Interaction Designer, and someone is paying you so you have to deliver something quickly, even if it's not well thought out before you show it to the client or launch it.

    Some projects require this approach, but I'm sure most people, and especially those on this list, can tell when UCD isn't used.

    I think GoDaddy.com is a great example. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I've been using them for years and years, and I'm still confused. That's not to say I haven't seen huge improvements as well, just that their approach may be what led to the mess that their ID team now has to sort out.

    m

    It is cheap and does enough. That's why I keep using it.

     
    Robert Hoekman, Jr.
    February 1, 2007 11:12am

    I think GoDaddy.com is a great example. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I've been using them for years and years, and I'm still confused. That's not to say I haven't seen huge improvements as well, just that their approach may be what led to the mess that their ID team now has to sort out.

    It's true. The UX team has existed for less than a year, and there's a lot to clean up. :) Previously, everything was "designed" through snap decisions by programmers. As I said, the few apps we've been able to completely overhaul or design from scratch are doing very well, but so far it's still just a drop in the bucket.

    -r-

     
    Ari Feldman
    February 1, 2007 11:36am

    i can't speak for godaddy but a lot of companies design along those lines to get people to take action. i used to work for columbia house.com back in the day when they still had millions of customers.

    they designed their site not to look good or be usable but to get you to buy or join. it worked. they had 40 years of history and research about color and placements of offers.

    there's sometimes reasons for the chaos.

    On 2/1/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <rhoekmanjr at gmail.com wrote: I think GoDaddy.com is a great example. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I've been using them for years and years, and I'm still confused. That's not to say I haven't seen huge improvements as well, just that their approach may be what led to the mess that their ID team now has to sort out.
    It's true. The UX team has existed for less than a year, and there's a lot to clean up. :) Previously, everything was "designed" through snap decisions
    by programmers. As I said, the few apps we've been able to completely overhaul or design from scratch are doing very well, but so far it's still just a drop in the bucket.
    -r-


    -- http://www.flyingyogi.com

     
    Jared M. Spool
    February 1, 2007 1:18pm

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 2:02 PM, maya gorton wrote:

    The only reason i can think of to not use UCD is that you want something done fast and cheap and that -- as the name implies -- your users are not a priority.
    The other reason to not use UCD is that you have the skills and talents necessary to produce a great design without it. Turns out, those skills and talents exist.

    For the record, I don't have them. But I've met several people who do. And I've come to the conclusion that bogging them down with UCD doesn't improve their results.

    Along the same lines, just because you use UCD doesn't mean you produce a great design. By any stretch of the imagination. (One need to look no further than Redmond.)

    Jared

     
    Jared M. Spool
    February 1, 2007 1:21pm

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 10:13 AM, Phillip Hunter wrote:

    Is it not a little more accurate to say that quantifying the correlation is
    difficult? Certainly there is correlation.
    Quantifying the correlation is easy. You measure the amount of resources consumed by UCD. You measure the relative usability, consumer satisfaction, or customer engagement (your pick -- doesn't matter for the measures) of the resulting products. You plot the chart.

    What you get is a scattergram with no clear correlative line. (The correlative line would be points clustering on the line itself, showing the more spent on UCD, the more the output measures increase.)

    Jared

     
    Doug Murray
    February 1, 2007 2:43pm

    "Ari Feldman" <ari1970 at gmail.com 2/1/2007 1:36 PM <snip i used to work for columbia house.com back in the day when they still had millions of customers.
    <snip

    Perhaps they might still HAVE millions of customers if they payed attention to those customers.
    Just a thought.

    NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.

     
    Ari Feldman
    February 1, 2007 3:10pm

    well, they were very old school and conservative. CH is a club marketer. they made more money off getting new customers than keeping them. damn bean counters.

    anyway, i merely used them as an example of how some companies ignore UI theory for the quick buck.

    On 2/1/07, Doug Murray <MurrayDB at ldschurch.org wrote: "Ari Feldman" <ari1970 at gmail.com 2/1/2007 1:36 PM <snip i used to work for columbia house.com back in the day when they still had millions of customers.
    <snip
    Perhaps they might still HAVE millions of customers if they payed attention to
    those customers.
    Just a thought.
    NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.

    -- http://www.flyingyogi.com

     
    Phillip Hunter
    February 1, 2007 4:50pm

    Jared,

    That seems a bit simplistic relative to the quality of the resources, the methods used, the quality of the effort, the information available, etc. If your view is the case, why should the majority of us design? You seem to be indicating that design success results from either singular talent or blind-squirrel luck. The rest of us flail, hoping we're the next squirrel.

    If I apply your reasoning to, say, sports, then only talent or freak occurrences correlate to success. No amount of time spent practicing, observing, planning, or training predicts it. Yet every decent kid league coach knows that is untrue. While certainly not every dedicated athlete reaches a pinnacle of their sport, and certainly some gifted athletes have to practice, observe, plan, and train less, there is a strong correlation between these activities and significant success, given a base level of talent/aptitude.

    I believe that to be true for interaction design. I believe that as we grow the study and practice, tangible and measurable and purposeful inputs will begin to be clearly correlated to successful outputs. We will find our own set of "fundamentals" to build on. Sure, inspiration and unique perspectives and riding fad-waves will still produce effects that have us shaking our heads, but there will be a day where consistent application of known concepts by skilled professionals will yield dependable results. And it won't come down to 100 hours = 2.5% increase in user satisfaction. And I argue that almost nothing does.

    ph

    -----

    Original Message -----
    From: Jared M. Spool [mailto:
    jspool at uie.com]
    Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 5:22 PM
    To: phillip at speechcycle.com
    Cc: 'discuss Discuss'
    Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Rationale for *not* using UCD

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 10:13 AM, Phillip Hunter wrote:

    Is it not a little more accurate to say that quantifying the correlation is
    difficult? Certainly there is correlation.
    Quantifying the correlation is easy. You measure the amount of resources consumed by UCD. You measure the relative usability, consumer satisfaction, or customer engagement (your pick -- doesn't matter for the measures) of the resulting products. You plot the chart.

    What you get is a scattergram with no clear correlative line. (The correlative line would be points clustering on the line itself, showing the more spent on UCD, the more the output measures increase.)

    Jared

     
    Donna Maurer
    February 1, 2007 5:09pm

    There is a huge difference between using a formal, defined UCD process and being user-centred.

    Many of my little projects don't have a formal UCD element (I don't do ethnography, make personas, write scenarios, do participatory design sessions or usability test) but that doesn't mean I don't know anything about the users or think about them. And it doesn't mean the result is awful. Sometimes it is truly not worth the effort.

    E.g I bet most of the bloggers here didn't do a UCD process before starting. I bet you set up and started writing ;) And it doesn't mean your blogs are unusable.

    Donna

    maya gorton wrote:
    The only reason i can think of to not use UCD is that you want something done fast and cheap and that -- as the name implies -- your users are not a priority.

    -- Donna Maurer
    Maadmob Interaction Design
    e:
    donna at maadmob.net
    web: http://maadmob.net/maadmob_id/
    book: http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/cardsorting/

     
    Doc
    February 1, 2007 5:55pm

    I think a lot more people use an informal user-centred design approach than the formal UCD methods written about in books. I know Donna does the occasional piece of user research, for example, and I know that to her the usefulness of the end result is paramount. And without being anything close to an expert on the distinctions, an activity-centred approach must in some way be inspired by the end users who will be performing those activities, whether that inspiration is explicit or tacit.

    So my question back to Leisa is: what do you mean by UCD methodologies and is there some specific criteria you have in mind for what qualifies an approach to be or not to be UCD?

    On 02/02/07, Donna Maurer <donnam at maadmob.net wrote: There is a huge difference between using a formal, defined UCD process and being user-centred.
    Many of my little projects don't have a formal UCD element (I don't do ethnography, make personas, write scenarios, do participatory design sessions or usability test) but that doesn't mean I don't know anything about the users or think about them. And it doesn't mean the result is awful. Sometimes it is truly not worth the effort. E.g I bet most of the bloggers here didn't do a UCD process before starting. I bet you set up and started writing ;) And it doesn't mean your blogs are unusable.
    Donna
    Steve 'Doc' Baty B.Sc (Maths), M.EC, MBA
    Director, User Experience Strategy
    Red Square
    P: +612 8289 4930
    M: +61 417 061 292

    Member, UPA - www.upassoc.org
    Member, IxDA - www.ixda.org
    Member, Web Standards Group - www.webstandardsgroup.org

     
    Daniel Szuc
    February 1, 2007 6:05pm

    Its easy to look into an organisation from the outside and make snap calls on their products & service design.

    There are *host of reasons* why end products/services may not offer the UX nirvana (taking into account different forms of : design team, process, management buy in, tools, technology, culture, size of company, products, communications etc).

    Adding 1 or 2 or 3 ingredients etc will not promise great UX design. This is what I find interesting & worthy of further discussion. Perhaps there is no secret sauce?

    "Ted Arroway: Small moves, Ellie, small moves." (Contact - 1997) - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118884/quotes

    Rgds,

    Daniel Szuc
    Principal Usability Consultant
    Apogee Usability Asia Ltd
    www.apogeehk.com
    'Usability in Asia'

    The Usability Toolkit - http://www.sitepoint.com/books/usability1/

    -----

    Original Message -----
    From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Robert Hoekman, Jr.
    Sent: Friday, February 02, 2007 4:12 AM
    To: maya gorton
    Cc: discuss at ixda.org
    Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Rationale for *not* using UCD

    I think GoDaddy.com is a great example. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I've been using them for years and years, and I'm still confused. That's not to say I haven't seen huge improvements as well, just that their approach may be what led to the mess that their ID team now has to sort out.

    It's true. The UX team has existed for less than a year, and there's a lot to clean up. :) Previously, everything was "designed" through snap decisions by programmers. As I said, the few apps we've been able to completely overhaul or design from scratch are doing very well, but so far it's still just a drop in the bucket.

    -r-


     
    Jim Drew
    February 1, 2007 10:38pm

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 2:21 PM, Jared M. Spool wrote:

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 10:13 AM, Phillip Hunter wrote: Is it not a little more accurate to say that quantifying the correlation is
    difficult? Certainly there is correlation.
    Quantifying the correlation is easy. You measure the amount of resources consumed by UCD. You measure the relative usability, consumer satisfaction, or customer engagement (your pick -- doesn't matter for the measures) of the resulting products. You plot the chart.
    What you get is a scattergram with no clear correlative line. (The correlative line would be points clustering on the line itself, showing the more spent on UCD, the more the output measures increase.)
    The more spent on UCD with respect to what, though? Absolute dollars? Dollar per schedule day? Dollars per man hour over the entire team? Weighted based on where it occurs in the cycle, or the development type (extreme, agile, waterfall)? Weighted based on the skill level of the designers, or that of the programmers and testers?

    There is probably little or no observable correlation because there are too many variables amongst the myriad projects you could get data from. That doesn't mean there is no correlation (nor that there is one), only that you haven't seen one.

    I would say that it's probably true that at some point, there's a decrease in the additional benefit from adding more UCD into the mix. As a corollary to that, there may also be a point before which there's isn't much added benefit, either: you have to throw enough to money/time/people to make an observable effect beyond that which the rest of the team will supply just from their own best practices.

    -- Jim

     
    Donna Maurer
    February 1, 2007 11:17pm

    So I was thinking about this some more, and Steve is right in that I do do user research (actually, full UCD) and I discovered my patterns in when I do and don't.

    Do:

  • when someone pays me (hehe)
  • when the project is big, important, high risk or impacts a lot of people's daily lives
  • when I genuinely don't know about the domain
  • when I'm mentoring or using a project as an exemplar
  • Don't:

  • when the overall impact on life is reasonably low
  • when I am a user
  • when I have some informal ability to learn about users
  • when I have an easy connection to users
  • when I'm working on something I can change rapidly
  • My don't example is the IA Summit website, which I've been buried in for the last month (and further, the whole conference). I didn't do any formal UCD, but I have spent the last 3 conferences doing informal research, have a close connection to a large number of users, have set up a good underlying structure, and can make changes pretty quickly.

    Donna

    Doc wrote:
    I think a lot more people use an informal user-centred design approach than the formal UCD methods written about in books. I know Donna does the occasional piece of user research, for example, and I know that to her the usefulness of the end result is paramount. And without being anything close to an expert on the distinctions, an activity-centred approach must in some way be inspired by the end users who will be performing those activities, whether that inspiration is explicit or tacit.
    So my question back to Leisa is: what do you mean by UCD methodologies and is there some specific criteria you have in mind for what qualifies an approach to be or not to be UCD?
    <
    http://www.webstandardsgroup.org

    -- Donna Maurer
    Maadmob Interaction Design
    e: donna at maadmob.net
    web: http://maadmob.net/maadmob_id/
    book: http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/cardsorting/

     
    Peter Merholz
    February 2, 2007 3:13pm

    I honestly don't get what this discussion is all about.

    UCD is an approach. A way of solving a problem. But it's clearly not the only way.

    At Adaptive Path, we have a principle for our practice: "More than anything else, our practice is focused on delivering results that satisfy the customer and meet their needs. This is true across all our lines of business.

    (Adaptive Path, contrary to popular conception, is not a "user- centered design company." User-centered design is only one way to go about approaching our projects.)"

    There are many design problems where UCD is not suitable. We've done many projects without UCD, and where we delivered good design. We've done many projects with UCD.

    For us, the primary reason to engage in UCD is when engaging with a domain that we're simply not familiar with. UCD helps us get inside the heads of the users for whom we're designing.

    We've opted out of UCD for projects where we're personally intimately familiar with the domain. For our work designing the Soundflavor application and website
    <
    http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000679.php we were the users. We have large music collections and need help in managing them. We don't need to go to users for insight in how to design such a tool. We can draw inspiration from our experiences.

    Also, regarding Jared's study, I don't understand why people are so up-in-arms with his findings. Frankly, it makes all the sense in the world to me that there's no correlation between investment in UCD practice and success in delivering usable product. This has less to do with UCD practice, and everything to do with organizational behavior and psychology.

    --peter

     
    Yoram Chisik
    February 2, 2007 7:58pm

    Peter,

    I agree with what you say but I would add that UCD is a philosophy as well as a methodology.

    You say "We've opted out of UCD for projects where we're personally intimately familiar with the domain." But I would argue that you have not opted out of UCD as much as skipped a number of the preliminary stages (contextual inquiry, etc.)

    UCD requires understanding of the domain from the user perspective and as you said in cases where sufficient knowledge exists that one can proceed with the design while adhering to the philosophy.

    The question should not be whether or not we want to use UCD but how do we determine we have sufficient knowledge to proceed either at the outset of the design or if we have decided to engage in some inquiries during the inquiry process.

    Yoram

    * Yoram Chisik
    DCD candidate and sandwich maker extraordinaire
    UB - School of Information Arts and Technologies
    Free advice and opinions - refunds available.
    http://iat.ubalt.edu/chisik

    -----

    Original Message -----
    From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Peter Merholz
    Sent: 02 February 2007 19:13
    To: discuss at ixda.org
    Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Rationale for *not* using UCD

    I honestly don't get what this discussion is all about.

    UCD is an approach. A way of solving a problem. But it's clearly not the only way.

    At Adaptive Path, we have a principle for our practice: "More than anything else, our practice is focused on delivering results that satisfy the customer and meet their needs. This is true across all our lines of business.

    (Adaptive Path, contrary to popular conception, is not a "user- centered design company." User-centered design is only one way to go about approaching our projects.)"

    There are many design problems where UCD is not suitable. We've done many projects without UCD, and where we delivered good design. We've done many projects with UCD.

    For us, the primary reason to engage in UCD is when engaging with a domain that we're simply not familiar with. UCD helps us get inside the heads of the users for whom we're designing.

    We've opted out of UCD for projects where we're personally intimately familiar with the domain. For our work designing the Soundflavor application and website
    <http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000679.php we were the users. We have large music collections and need help in managing them. We don't need to go to users for insight in how to design such a tool. We can draw inspiration from our experiences.

    Also, regarding Jared's study, I don't understand why people are so up-in-arms with his findings. Frankly, it makes all the sense in the world to me that there's no correlation between investment in UCD practice and success in delivering usable product. This has less to do with UCD practice, and everything to do with organizational behavior and psychology.

    --peter


     
    Oleh Kovalchuke
    February 3, 2007 10:31am

    "Just look at the other thread: "Has anyone succeeded in getting a usability-only release? By the responses, it would appear that pure play usability is uncommon. "

    I think the usability-mostly releases happen fairly often. At the last company I have worked for this moment of revelation has come when VP of Product Development has uttered:¨"We have the product for ´Power Users´. In the next release we need to focus on making it accessible to ´Regular Users´." Because non-´Power Users´ constitute about 90% of the market and this is where the money are.

    It happens whenever industry goes through that notorious ´technology-to-commodity´ switch.

    -- Oleh Kovalchuke
    Interaction Design is Design of Time
    http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

    On 2/1/07, Todd Moy <oombrella at gmail.com wrote: Phillip wrote:
    Also, I suspect, as with most human effort, that a straight and universal
    time-to-benefit measure will never be seen. Which also leads me to suspect
    that perhaps one day we will be able to know and evaluate all the factors
    that should be examined and evaluated to produce estimates of benefit. The hard part in determining any ROI is that there are many overlapping contributors: marketing, system development, training, finance, etc. UCD/UED
    is just one and it's difficult to extract the benefit it provides from the mix. There is a plurality of stakeholders and each is able to report the benefit by casually excluding the others.
    Just look at the other thread: "Has anyone succeeded in getting a usability-only release?" By the responses, it would appear that pure play usability is uncommon. So in the majority of cases, the ROI / benefit correlation is going to be tainted if you try to match benefits to contributors.
    Everyone has a hand are in the pot.which isn't a bad thing. Maybe it just indicates that accepted ROI analysis (NPV in particular) is too singular and do not account for the orchestration between many players. [also, my apologies if anyone received this twice. I think I bounced this post earlier.]
    -Todd
    On 2/1/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <rhoekmanjr at gmail.com wrote: Of course, everyone is *not* in agreement with this statement. However, everyone I've encountered who has actually tried to collect data and measure the results is in agreement with it. I can vouch for this.
    Processes don't make better apps, designers do.
    -r- On 2/1/07, Phillip Hunter <phillip at speechcycle.com wrote: Is it not a little more accurate to say that quantifying the correlation is difficult? Certainly there is correlation.
    Also, I suspect, as with most human effort, that a straight and universal
    time-to-benefit measure will never be seen. Which also leads me to suspect
    that perhaps one day we will be able to know and evaluate all the factors
    that should be examined and evaluated to produce estimates of benefit. ph -----

    Original Message -----
    From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Jared
    M. Spool
    Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 9:05 AM
    To: Leisa Reichelt
    Cc: discuss Discuss
    Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Rationale for *not* using UCD On Feb 1, 2007, at 8:37 AM, Leisa Reichelt wrote: There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results.
    Wow. That's a big call.
    How do we know this? Is everyone in agreement with this statement? Of course, everyone is *not* in agreement with this statement. However, everyone I've encountered who has actually tried to collect data and measure the results is in agreement with it. :) Jared





     
    Jared M. Spool
    February 3, 2007 7:58pm

    On Feb 1, 2007, at 8:50 PM, Phillip Hunter wrote:

    That seems a bit simplistic relative to the quality of the resources, the
    methods used, the quality of the effort, the information available, etc. If
    your view is the case, why should the majority of us design? You seem to be
    indicating that design success results from either singular talent or blind-squirrel luck.
    I'm not saying that at all.

    I'm saying that corporate investment in UCD doesn't guarantee improvement and improvement often comes without any investment in UCD.

    What I'm not saying, but implying, is that there may be other things that produce improvement and that UCD may be placebic.

    Think of the stone in the story about stone soup. http://tinyurl.com/ 3xm9b3

    If UCD is the stone, then we are the traveller. The difference between us and the traveller in the story is the traveller doesn't actually believe the stone makes soup.

    Jared

     
    Phillip Hunter
    February 4, 2007 8:08pm

    "There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the usability of the results."

    ".there may be other things that produce improvement and that UCD may be placebic."

    This follow-up is a strong statement. It further implies to me that most design research and some design tasks are always a waste of time. I certainly have seen some research and tasks that are. And I have certainly seen them done by people that turn the research and tasks into wastes of time, but are you saying that some or most of them are?

    Or, by analogizing with the stone soup story, are you saying you see a catalytic link between design methods and the subsequent actions of the teams involved that in turn lead to a better result? If so, why point to the catalyst as having no correlation to the result?

    But if the former is your point, and we are not blind squirrels, then what tasks do reliably, correlatably, make a difference?

    I apologize for dragging this out, but as someone who passionately believes that the right design process performed by the right people in the right way makes a difference that can and needs to be measured, I want to understand what seems to be a different view.

    ph

     
    Jared M. Spool
    February 7, 2007 2:27pm

    On Feb 4, 2007, at 9:08 PM, Phillip Hunter wrote:

    "There is no correlation between effort/resources spent on UCD/UED and the
    usability of the results."
    ".there may be other things that produce improvement and that UCD may be
    placebic."
    This follow-up is a strong statement. It further implies to me that most
    design research and some design tasks are always a waste of time. I certainly have seen some research and tasks that are. And I have certainly
    seen them done by people that turn the research and tasks into wastes of
    time, but are you saying that some or most of them are? Or, by analogizing with the stone soup story, are you saying you see a catalytic link between design methods and the subsequent actions of the teams involved that in turn lead to a better result? If so, why point to
    the catalyst as having no correlation to the result? But if the former is your point, and we are not blind squirrels, then what
    tasks do reliably, correlatably, make a difference? I apologize for dragging this out, but as someone who passionately believes
    that the right design process performed by the right people in the right way
    makes a difference that can and needs to be measured, I want to understand
    what seems to be a different view.
    I didn't say "most design research and some design tasks are always a waste of time."

    I said there was no correlation.

    Do no confuse "no correlation" with a "negative correlation."

    No correlation means that sometimes we see positive result, but some times we don't. It also means we can't predict when we will see a positive result.

    I was also very specific in referring to UCD, which has specific meaning. There are alternative design research methods and design approaches that aren't generally considered UCD. I wouldn't bundle them into this statement.

    My reference to the Stone Soup folk tale is to suggest that there may be benefits to our involvement in projects that extend beyond the specific methods (the "stone") themselves. Maybe there are things independent of our actions which are actually the catalysts, as you put it.

    We may see no correlation because sometimes the catalyst doesn't have any effect. If we don't really know what causes usable designs, then we can't explain why what we do sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

    The point of this is we don't know what the "right design process" is, who the "right people" are, or what the "right way" should be. Until we do, your desire to have "the right design process performed by the right people in the right way" will probably not manifest success in any repeatable, manageable way.

    This is why we need more research and not be so quick to condemn those who aren't doing things "the right way." They may actually be getting better results on average than we do.

    Jared

     
    Robert Hoekman, Jr.
    February 8, 2007 10:42am

    This is why we need more research and not be so quick to condemn those who aren't doing things "the right way." They may actually be getting better results on average than we do.

    I think Jared is defending me. ;)

    -r-

     
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