Gray’s Anatomy, it has never been out of print. A look at details, a study of the structure or internal workings of something.
The decisions we make have a profound impact on user experience. Jared arngren.net vs etsy.com. Havenworks.com vs nytimes.com. Celebrity death match: 37 Signals vs. Don Norman. Don Norman, the curmudgeon of the user experience world. Don Norman calls someone else arrogant.
Design Decision Styles
37signals uses self design. The act of designing for yourself. It works really, really well when there are enough people like you who are willing to use the product. We regularly use it, just like our users do. You feel the pain when things don’t work right.
You know what you’re doing, you’ve done it time and again.
Understanding activities to build something that works. Works well when we can easily identify the users and activities, w need to go beyond our previous experience and innovations can come from removing complexity.
More about the flow, than each individual discrete thing. Difference between being usable and being a great experience. Moving past the web, buying a product online for in-store pick up. User goes to store to pick up item and the store has sold out of the item purchased for online pickup. The store can’t even refund the purchase, because it was purchased online. The Web site was perfect, but the experience sucked.
Experience is about spaces between activities. Think about difference between standard amusement park and Disney, where the housekeeping staff know how to do towel origami.
You pick one
What is good enough? Will self design work?
University of Pennsylvania doesn’t fall victim to “girls under trees,” a common design funny of university Web sites.
Rule-Based Decisions vs. Informed Decisions
Example: Always put search box in upper-right. No evidence to suggestion it works better on the right, left or in the center.
Design style guides never work, because we have this real tension between idea of being rule-based vs. being informed. In a rule-based world, we don’t want people to think. Maybe people who are only trained in MS Word will be implementing Web pages. Design style guidelines don’t cover exceptions.
Informed decisions handle exception cases, you figure it out. This is the differentiator from rule-based decisions.
Spectrum, in center of the line is a process. If you put things out, you’ve gotten things done and you have a process. Methodology is a formalized process to get things done. Process just happens and is lost after the moment. Formal and informal methodologies.
Dogma. We look to Transportation Security Administration and 3-1-1. Anything beyond 3-1-1 is a suspected instrument of terrorism. An unquestioned faith in anything. Sometimes we call it standards, some call it jQuery.
Techniques, each step in the process is made up of one or more techniques. The first time you make something, you’re going to screw it up. With experience and practice, you’ll get better.
On the far side of the spectrum are tricks. They are like techniques, but they’re not done the way they should be done. We can get them done so fast with the wrong tool, we don’t go to the trouble of finding the right tool.
Those who are really good at informed decisions, are all familiar with the tricks and techniques. This is where design patterns come in.
Eat your own dog food. Use your products and services. Move from self-design to genius design with usability testing. Watch people. You’re seeing a design through the users eyes. Number one factor for a great product or service is hours of exposure the design team and decision-makers have observing users. Beware of the executive seagull dive or the scoop and poop. The more you expose that executive to actual users, the less likely that executive is to kill your work for stupid reasons.
Field studies, an ethnographic approach, help you move from Genius Design to Activity-Focused Design. Observe people in their natural environment, after awhile they will forget you are there. You learn the way you think things were done aren’t true.
Personas and Patterns, help you move from Activity-Focused Design to Experience-Focused Design. Every sentence in the persona will be something that means something in the design.
All of these steps get us from one place to the next. You need to know which decision style you’re using. Encourage informed decisions and avoid rule-based decisions. Techniques and tricks are more effective than methodologies and dogma.