People want more choices. / More choices make people sad.

February 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

“People will often want more information than they can actually process. Having more information makes people feel that they have more choices. Having more choices makes people feel in control. Feeling in control makes people feel they will survive better.”

Susan Weinschenk

BUT

“The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.”

Barry Schwartz

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The Problem with Starting with a Problem

June 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Defining the first step [in a person’s decision-making process] as problem recognition may imply the ‘problem’ has an objective existence, independent of the customer—and the producer. Framing the decision process as problem-solving suggests the customer is a ‘rational actor.’ The danger is that people often act more on emotion than by rationally calculating self-interest. And their definitions of problems depend on their point of view and are often formed in conversations with others—including producers. Indeed part of the innovation process is reframing an existing situation to create consensus around a new definition of a problem.

Hugh Dubberly and Shelley Evenson, The Experience Cycle (written for Interactions Magazine)

Khan Academy and Computer Imagination

May 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sal Khan of Khan Academy was on Charlie Rose today, and it made me remember how awesome his TED talk was. I love what he says about the value of being able to watch a video tutorial over and over or stop it in the middle and go back to a part you want to review until you really get it. It’s a great example of what one of my grad school faculty members, Marty Siegel, calls computer imagination — exploiting what computers (more specifically YouTube-mediated video in this case) do well that other mediums don’t. Letting kids go at their own pace with “lecture material” for homework has created an opportunity to use classroom time for exercises, where kids can work on problems either alone or in groups and get feedback from the teacher before they have to turn something in.

We came to a similar conclusion about the usefulness of video that you can watch as many times as you want during the Not Enough Cooks in the Kitchen project, and that led us to envision video-recording and library/archive features for our kitchen video chat app. This would not only allow people to create digital keepsakes of their lessons with family and friends but also give them the opportunity to review the techniques they were shown as many times as it took to make them their own.

Making Things

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

“This focus on delivery must underpin everything we do. It’s understandable for designers to want strategic roles, as we encounter tactical limits. But in claiming the territory of design thinking, we must never forget the design doing, where true craft and talent turns thought into results.”

From “The Fall and Rise of User Experience,” keynote speech by Cennydd Bowles at IA Summit 2011

“Let us be inspired by good designs”

February 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

“The world is not filled by bad designs because people do not care or do not try. There are bad designs all around us because good design is difficult. I am much more fascinated by the fact that, despite the difficulty of design, good designs can also be found all around. It is amazing how often good designers are able to come up with designs that defy the complexity and difficulty of the challenge at hand.”

Erik Stolterman, “Upset by Bad Design or Inspired by Good Design”

Erik Stolterman has been studying and educating designers for many years, and he knows an incredible amount about what it takes to produce great work. He wrote the post from which the above quote is taken about a year ago, when I was working on a really tough project at Designkitchen and needed the encouragement to keep searching for opportunities within the constraints.

I completely agree — good design is difficult, and as Erik reminds his students (I used to be one), it takes patience, practice, and constant reflection. Even as we, as designers, are humbled by our own design challenges, it can be easy to criticize the work of others without considering the barriers they might have faced. We’ve all done it at one time or another. But what good does that non-constructive criticism do anyone? Jason from 37 Signals recently posted a similar sentiment.

Erik has recently become the editor of Interactions Magazine, and I’m excited to see the direction he and his co-editor take it. Best of luck, Erik!

Update: Andre Torrez and Jason Kottke just posted commentary about this topic as well. I know it’s a topic that always resurfaces from time to time, but I’m glad people continue to speak up about it. From Andre’s post: “I think making the right choices when you face them is the best way to say how things should be done. Having empathy for people doing what you are doing is as important as having empathy for your own users.”

Sketching with Travis

June 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

photo of our interface sketches for a recent pitch

Our interface sketches for a recent pitch

Usually the UX team is spread one-to-a-project where I work, but every once in a while we get to collaborate, and we have such a great time. Working with the designers and developers at my company gives me perspective that’s really valuable, but i also think my work is always better when it’s pushed forward by design critique from one of my fellow UXers.

The Role of the Citizen in Design

April 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

Whether we’re city planners or interaction designers, it seems we come up against the same questions about the value of involving those for whom we design in the design process. As I’ve been studying city and regional planning forums for my master’s capstone research, I’ve come across some conversations that are eerily similar to those that still sometimes happen between designers in my own field. From the Cyburbia forums (registration required):

Submitted by jaws on Sun, 2006/07/23 – 1:28pm.

Citizenship has nothing to do with how roads and pipes and squares are going to be built, anymore than citizenship entitles you to decide how everyone’s shoes are going to be made. You’ve appropriated the notion of citizenship into a sphere that is completely irrelevant.

Submitted by Lee Nellis on Mon, 2006/07/24 – 7:45am.

Ah, the technical delusion.

Citizens should have EVERYTHING to do with where new roads, pipes, squares, etc. are to be built. They are the ones who are going to use them. They are the ones who will be impacted by them. That is why planners are not technicians (and why engineers who listen poorly, if al [sic] all, have messed up so many communities), but facilitators and educators.

There is, of course, a technical aspect to all of these facilities. Citizens are not going to have much to say about the actual piping schematic of a sewage treatment plant, but they are/should going to have a lot to say about the impact a new plant will have on the pace of growth and the quality of life. The reality is that efficiency cannot and should not be our goal in planning (in the actual construction of a plant, of course). Our goal has to be to help folks actualize their citizenship – and that is a messy, inefficient process.

Despite the vocal holdouts, many city and regional planners have been employing participatory design methods (mainly charrettes, interviews, and focus groups) perhaps even before interaction design existed as a profession. We may be working in different mediums, but I think this is yet another example of how designers of any object, system, place, or service have a lot to learn from one another.

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