Processing Stupidity

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The general thought process behind those who believe that the user doesn’t know what they want, is that people are dumb. This type of ego, and the audacity that comes with, likes to think that we know best what the user needs. This type of thinking is short sighted at best.

In fact we are beginning to learn the exact opposite of this mindset is true. People are generally smart, sometime even a little too smart. The trick is that people don’t like to feel stupid, therefore they tend to avoid things that make them feel stupid.

Make your users instantly feel like they are experts.

Processing Usability Testing

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Usability testing is a powerful tool, and I feel it should be completely integrated into the entire product development process. There are many different methods of testing, such as a-b testing, focus groups, lab studies, eye tracking, etc. At the end day you need to learn how to interoperate it.

The problem is that it isn’t as scientific as people seem to think it is; it is in fact extremely subjective. You will learn allot about user behaviors, however the result is always subject to interpretation. You may be able figure out what a user is doing, however there is no real scientific context as to the why.

Often times a usability becomes a sort of Pseudo Psychology that ignores things such as intuition, consistency, context, and user training. Without this overall view of how every little piece of the puzzle ties itself together, often times taking usability testing literally can actually make things more confusing and/or awkward.

Designing interfaces solely by usability testing will create products that may be logically straightforward, however still confusing and flawed from the end user’s perspective. Usability Testing should be used as a tool to refine as oppose to a tool to Design.

Processing User Feedback

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If you ask someone what they want, they are always going to tell you that they want everything everywhere. This can make it extremely difficult if not impossible to design an app that is easy to use; it really only ever benefits power users. It could potentially even keep new users from fully utilizing a product to it’s potential capabilities.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to user feedback? You need listen to everyone, however you shouldn’t take feedback literally. Instead of blindly integrating feedback literally, try to learn why someone us making the request. Then interoperate it and add it to your arsenal of knowledge. Now you know what people are looking for it, and most of the time you can create a better solution.

Collaborative User Centered Design

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I consider myself to be what I describe as an end-to-end User Experience Designer. Now, what do I mean by this; I like taking look at a project during every step of the process, from conception to completion, the entire time wearing the shoes of the user.

From a design perspective I like to plan everything from the overall User Flow and Information Architecture, to the Interface and Interaction and the Visual Design. Even though I am not a Developer or an Engineer, I like to know how things are going to work so I can utilize the most of what the architecture has to offer, and at very least know how my UI is going to be implemented. Sometimes I even prefer to be the one integrating the design and the code.

Essentially, I am a control freak. Yes, I realize that that doing everything is for the most part impossible in some scenarios. There is a method to the madness; the reason I like to have such an integrated role is that every little thing effects the user’s experience. The performance of the application, interactions such as hover or pressed states and dialogs and transitions, even things such as color contrast layout and composition, can be used to subconsciously guide a your users.

On the flip side of the coin, I also prefer it if everyone to be part of the design process, including: Developers, Quality Assurance, Marketing/Sales, Producers, and other Executive Stakeholders. The purpose of this is not to implement feedback. For your own sanity, you don’t not want to foster a design by committee environment. Instead explain why you are making the decisions that you are and stay firm, and get all parties to communicate and understand each other’s requirements, and how they relate to each other, and the end user.

Empathy based User Experience Design

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There are many different philosophies when it comes to User Centered Design.

Recently I have I find myself getting annoyed with standard Usability thinking and principles. There seems to be a train of thought with seasoned usability designers that there are set rules and best practices. I have a problem with this because in the past several years the entire spectrum has changed extremely drastically.

There are those who take a ‘customer is always right’ approach to design and believe that User Feedback needs always needs to be implemented into design work. There are many who believe that Usability Testing should be the driving factor of all User Interface Design. There are even those who believe that the user doesn’t know what they want and that we, as the experts, know better what the user needs.

As for me, I believe that the correct answer is all of the above, and none of the above. In the upcoming weeks I will follow up this article with my own personal takes on all of these approaches.