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Can We Use Consumer Power to Make Good Design Count?

TeaPot

How do we make Good Design so important to companies that they ensure that it is a component part of the product or service they are taking to market?

Part of the fallout from World Usability Day was a question raised by Jared Spool – Is World Usability Day Harmful for Practitioners? Part of this question was the relationship between design and usability and the importance of promoting good design and not alienating the business who might engage us to help them create good design.

In a subsequent comment conversation I got to wondering, again, about what we can do to make good design more of a priority. How can we change business processes and product development cycles so that rather than design being an afterthought, the quest for good design moves up the food chain and becomes more of an imperative, a requirement than a potential differentiator.

Jared is concerned that the focus on usability (which in isolation from design, does tend to take an almost disciplinarian approach to how things work) has the potential to alienate companies who might otherwise be inspired to engage with good design practices.

I think he has a point… for a moment I’d forgotten that for some, usability DOES exist in isolation from design (where people specialise in finding things that are broken and rousing on the designers who designed it that way).

Jared says we should just keep doing good design work and that eventually, the balance will shift and good design methodologies will become part of the overall business process for more companies.

(how many times can I say ‘good design’ in one post?!)

But, and tell me if I’ve being overly optimistic and idealistic here…

I think that there might be other things that we can do to help turn the tide.

What if we spent less time talking to each other about how important good design is, and spent a bit of energy evangalising the power and importance of good design to the end user, the consumer, the man and woman on the street, the people who open their wallets to buy the goods and services designed by the companies who may or may not care about good design.

Can we help educate and inspire people who buy mobile phones and who catch trains and who buy their groceries online to expect good design, to DEMAND good design? And can we do this in way that likewise inspires businesses to see good design as an opportunity, rather than alientating them, shaming them, putting them in the corner like a bad student?

Can we harness consumer power to promote the benefits of good design? To make good design culturally entrenched? Just part of our every day life?

I reckon we can. Although I’m not quite sure just now.

What do you think? Is it worth working on a plan?

Image Credit: Don Norman, of course :)

Usability Man – The Video

Fun & Games (and a new superhero!) for World Usability Day!

Usability Man

There’s some cool stuff going on now for World Usability Day 2006 (14 November). In London today we’re particularly honoured to have Usability Man (pictured in action above) helping us out with our mission to identify good and bad usability throughout London. Read more about him on the MakingLifeEasy website, and check out the Flickr Group where he’ll be sending photos live from the streets from about 3pm local time.

On a slightly less frenzied note, you can also participate in the Worlds Largest Cardsort. It’s online now so go, signup and try a sort.

Cardsorting is a tool that lots of Information Architects like to use to help them devise effective and usable website structures and terminology, but you don’t need to be an Information Architect to contribute. It’s dead easy and quite an interesting process.

There are loads of other activities happening all over the world. Even if you can’t participate, take a bit of time today to think about how good design DOES make your life easier through good usability, and how bad or thoughtless design makes your life unnecessarily difficult or even dangerous.

Usability. It might be a notoriously geeky thing to be interested in. But if you’re interested in usability, you’re interested in making life better for everyone. And that’s pretty special.

Happy World Usability Day!

Making Life Easy for World Usability Day!

Making Life Easy!

World Usability Day is 20 days out. Are you doing anything to celebrate?

If your work involves usability or user experience, you should be!

This is a great chance for us to make some noise and help spread the word that usability matters and that there are people like us who spend our time trying to make life easier!

At Flow, where I work, we’ve organised a little project we call MakingLifeEasy.org

Here’s the general idea.

On World Usability Day and in the lead up, we’ll be out on the streets of London tying balloons to the worst offenders. We want people across the world to do the same. Participants are encouraged to photograph the scene and either add it to our Flickr group, or email it to us (hello [at] makinglifeeasy.org) and we’ll post it to the website where we’ll be collecting votes for the Usability Hall of Shame and the Usability Hall of Fame.

We’d LOVE you to get involved. There’s a few things you can do.

  1. Help get more people involved! If you have a blog, give us a shout out and send people our way to participate. If you have a Flickr account, come join our group and invite all your friends!
  2. Share your examples of the best and the worst of usability where you live (or visit or holiday!). Add photos to the group or drop us an email and we’ll add your submission to the website and potentially to the Hall of Fame or Shame
  3. Cast your vote! Take a look at the website and have your say in what *really* drives you crazy and what you really love.

Stay tuned for the announcement of inductees to the Usability Hall of Fame and Shame on 14 November 2006 – World Usability Day.

Meanwhile – I encourage you to make the most of the opportunity that this day and the lead up offer to put the spotlight on Usability and User Experience. Help us make a noise and raise awareness and – ultimately help us make life easy!

www.makinglifeeasy.org

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