Interaction design: take a step back

As a designer and teacher, I am really enthusiastic about user interface and I find that my experience as a designer makes it perfectly logical to be a teacher in IT. I can explain to the users why a button is where it is and not at the other end of the screen. I can explain the logic behind the order of steps or why a field only accepts text and not numbers. It helps the users remember when they learn WHY not just HOW.

For the past 2 years I have worked with creating and adjusting the new DBMS for my company. Since the beginning I have had issues with some of the user interface, both UX and UI, and I have managed to get through some changes. However I have been in discussion with the programmers trying to explain that not everything is a learning issue, there are also logical issues and after all, established design principles one shouldn’t break from. I understand that to a developer a button might seem completely logical and doesn’t need change. Sometimes it feels difficult to try to explain that it’s not logical to people without technical background and that we already have a lot to teach them in the new system, many small issues like this can’t be added on top.

I liken it to a painter or a writer: the developers are great at their job and have been submerged into their coding for a long time. A painter goes “blind” and does not see when he should do something differently, he has been working so closely at his art that he can not see it from another perspective. He needs to step back and have a look at his work as a whole – not just look at the details, one by one. It’s always a good practice to get input from someone else, from outside. I recommend having a look at this interview with an experienced IBM interaction designer in regards to important pitfalls one can do in software: (Friis Dam and Soegaard, 2011)

 

I have seen this situation before: user interface design and facilitating for a good experience is viewed as not so important and only as a part of a learning curve. Why, then, are there so many books and studies done on digital learning? Perception? I like this quote: “Those who dismiss psychology as a pseudo-science have not been paying attention.” (Ware, 2012)

Christian Kraft (2012) describes user experience as the feelings that a user gets from using a certain product. I find this to be a very reasonable explanation – if a user gets frustrated from using your product, should you not be interested in changing that? Word of mouth is said to be the very best of advertising and we can probably all agree that a product would have to be sovereign and supreme to all competitors, should you decide to use it despite several friends being angry and frustrated from using it. (Trusov, Bucklin and Pauwels, 2009, pp.90-102) Most of us listen to other people’s opinions, especially if we hold the person in regard.

In particular one main problem is that the end user might be using the software differently than the developer intended. (Kuniavsky, 2003) Thinking differently leads to looking for an option in a different place or starting in another order than the developer would have. This is why preliminary studies on non-experienced users are so important – something we also saw confirmed in the video from week 1. (Friis Dam and Soegaard, 2011) When you are working intently on something, you are within your own bubble and cannot see outside of it. Therefore, in any business, it is important to bring outsiders in to look over your work before calling it finished.

 

Bibliography

Friis Dam, R. (2011) Social computing video 2 – three best practices and three major pitfalls [Video] Available from: https://youtu.be/gnsRuXaZCNA (Accessed: 29.09.2016

Kraft, C. (2012) User experience innovation. [electronic book] : [user centered design that works]. New York, NY : Apress, 2012. [EBSCO].

Kuniavsky, M. (2003) Observing the user experience. [electronic book] : a practitioner’s guide to user research. San Francisco, CA : Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, c2003. [EBSCO].

Trusov, M., Bucklin, R. E. and Pauwels, K. (2009) ‘Effects of word-of-mouth versus traditional marketing: findings from an internet social networking site’, J.Market., 73 (5), pp.90-102.

Ware, C. (2012) Information visualization. [electronic book] : perception for design. 3rd. Edition. Boston:Morgan Kaufmann. EBSCO Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/science/book/9780123814647 (Accessed: 29.09.2016).

Image source: Michael Sauers, Flickr, CC generic licence, white border added. https://flic.kr/p/5oHs79