User experience and usability are two different things. And usability does not always imply a system or interface that does not require any learning, or any enquiry, or any challenge on the part of the user.
I constantly find myself trying to walk a balance between using ‘convention’ where it is most appropriate, but also looking for ways that we can look to use new forms of interaction to solve user experience problems. I can’t understand how people who do IA and UxD can find their work fulfilling if they are constantly wheeling out the same old solutions to problems that they face on their projects.
I don’t understand how we expect our profession to develop, how we are going to create *better* user experiences if we are not always testing new approaches, giving new solutions the opportunity to prove that they are feasable, efficient, ergonomic and pleasurable, rather than ruling them out wholesale because there’s nothing in a textbook to say that the approach is ok.
‘ooh, that’s innovation for innovation’s sake’, I hear from these people who are overly besotted with convention. Well no. It’s innovation so that I can continue to do *better* work, and so I don’t become an automaton. ‘show me the research that says your approach works’. Well, there is none.. yet. Let’s do some! ‘Tags, schmags. That’s fine for Flickr, but we’re not Flickr’. It’s difficult to argue with someone as obtuse and uninterested as that.
If you’re any good at your work and if you’ve been doing this UxD stuff for a while now, then you *can* almost do it in your sleep… if you’re content with taking an uninspired and boring approach to your work. Is that very respectful of your users?
So, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of wireframing lately.
I have to admit that, in the last little while, I’d gotten into the habit of wireframing straight into Visio, maybe after a quick thumbnail sketch on a notepad somewhere.
The site I’m working on at the moment has quite a bit of application type functionality in it, as well as a whole bunch of content, and offers the opportunity to be a little bit creative with the interaction design.
Out of habit, I pretty much launched straight into Visio (after a couple of quick sketches), but the further I got into it, the less satisfied I was with the output.
So, just for a while, I dumped Visio, got a whole pile of paper, some pencils and a sharpener, and just played around with ideas.
Ahhh. That’s just *soooo* much better.
It’s a little bit 37 Signals/Getting Real (although, these *will* end up as Visio wireframes in a functional specification – the size and dispersal of the team on this project demands that kind of documentation), but it does seem to be a popular approach to documenting RIAs. (Jeffry Veen was saying the other day that he’s going from pencil sketch to build these days).
So, what’s so good about pencil sketching your wireframes?
There’s been quite a bit of talk, on and off, around developing a library of patterns that interface designers could use that would mean that technology would become a whole lot more consistent and usable. So I was interested to discover that XPDesign, the methodology that PTG Global have been talking up for a while now, is essentially a part of this whole discussion.
PTG have been in the press a bit lately since they’ve launched their ‘certified usable‘ product.
The Certified Usable Guarantee: We guarantee that, on average, 90% of users can complete 90% of tasks with minimal assistance, within a reasonable time, without error, and with at least 80% satisfaction (based on a random sample of at least 300 end users using a Certified Usable™ technology product).
Craig Errey of PTG presented some of the fundamentals of XPDesign at the NSW CHISIG gathering last night. At the very least he should be congratulated for stimulating probably one of the most engaging debates around HCI methods that I’ve been a part of for quite a while.
The last one was probably back at OZCHI conference, where another PTG representative presented their work on the Citibank Mobile Banking interface and surprised many of us by stating that PTG didn’t need to iterate in their design process because they *knew* what worked and what didn’t. (Obviously, given that mobile banking is a pretty new application on a reasonably new device with many special complexities, many in the audience found this difficult to believe!)
Craig started his talk by asserting that ‘nothing particularly interesting has happened in HCI for the last 10-15yrs’. Big call. I guess that depends a lot on what you consider interesting, he then went on to challenge people to answer two questions: what is usability? and how do you make something usable?
I was reading a great post by Russell Beattie recently on handheld stylesheets and the great implementation that Opera have launched on their community portal recently. It took me back to my (not so distant) days finishing up my Masters degree with our digital project. As you may guess, my group did a mobile project.
It was a great little project and it really allowed those of us who’d been working in web for so many years to apply our skills to a different platform and develop some really interesting learnings. For me, I was pretty amazed by what we found with regards to Information Architecture and Interaction Design.
Being a university project, of course there was a lot more research involved than you’d usually have the budget of the time to do for a commercial build. This allowed time for me to definitively show that there were very, very few ID conventions when it comes to interface design for mobile web content.