links for 07 March 2006

define: design

and, speaking of definitions

is there another word responsible for so much confusion as ‘design’.

every time I use that word I have to spend another three sentences defining exactly what I mean by design… because there are so many different types of designing, and everyone has a different default setting.

I give you:

  • visual design (surface design, branding, etc. designers in charge of gorgeousness)
  • motion design (Visual designers specialising in things that move, animation, video etc.)
  • interface design (designing elements on a page that users interact with… e.g. forms, applications etc)
  • conceptual design (aka. strategic design, ‘the big idea’)
  • user experience design (related to but more than interface design)
  • information design (designing content, sometimes used to describe information architecture… I think, incorrectly)
  • interaction design (v. closely related to interface design, but more focus on the ‘interactive’… unsurprisingly)
  • instructional design (used largely in eLearning land, actually v. similar to conceptual design, but focussed specifically in imparting and measuring learning)

That’s just a quick list. I’m sure you have more.

I propose never to use the term ‘design’ in isolation ever again. From here on, I vow to always use it with a descriptor that ensures me meaning is entirely clear.

Well, as clear as possible.

Who’s with me?

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“I didn’t want them to think I was being smart” (user 15 mins after completing user testing session)

A friend of mine just finished being a ‘user’ for a testing company. They were doing final usability testing before launching a redesign of a well known online share trading website.

They’d asked him in because he’s been using this website every day for a few years now. It was the only reason he was interested in the internet. He struggles doing a search on Google, but he’s a power user of this site.

At the end of the user testing he emerged frustrated and a little angry.

He hated the new design, but because he’s so experienced with the tasks that he was asked to perform, he would have tested quite well.

When it came to the questionnaire, he said that he didn’t really tell them what he thought because he didn’t want them to think he was being ‘smart’.

‘I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they knew what they were doing and that they were making good decisions’.

Oh dear.

Is your sales pitch more important than your IA strategy?

So, last night I was thinking…

… it’s just as important to be able to come up with a solid IA strategy as it is to be able to sell in that strategy. To explain to your stakeholders why your approach is the right one, and why they should approve it.

So, what if you’re really quite good at this ‘sales’ process. Rationalising the approach that you’ve taken and being able to describe that in terms that are aligned with the overall project strategy.

You sound confident and authorative and you use words that your client may not understand (but probably won’t tell you because they don’t want to look dumb).

What if you’re just really good at selling bad ideas?

Well… its possible, isn’t it?

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