Wednesday, August 10, 2005

User - Human - Activity Centered Design. What gives?

It seems like everyone is still trying to come up with their own words for how they approach design. Don Norman's "new" stance ( that user centered design is not as important as activity centered design. I don't know about you guys, but user centered design never just meant profiles and personas to me. Yes I do make sure I know who the target user is, so that I can understand what GOALS they are accomplishing when they show me the kinds of tasks they are performing. To me the GOAL is the reason for the ACTIVITY and the ACTIVITY is accomplished through a series of TASKS.

For example in a call center a user shows me what she is doing: "I record all of this information when a customer calls". In my analysis, this turns into a design that allows the user to perform the tasks to get the end result. The end result or activity is richer customer information that leads to better customer service on follow up calls. The Goal is better customer service, the Activity is collecting and recalling richer customer information, the task is entering the data and recalling the data. Haven't we all be doing this when we say we are User Centered Designer or Human Centered Designer or User Experience Architects or Usabilty Engineering or whatever.....

This doesn't seem new or different to me - just another way to say the same old thing: users performs tasks, combined tasks are an activity, activities accomplish a user or business goal. If the Goal is worthwhile enough then people will adapt. Is this the point that Don Norman is trying to make? If so, I agree, but I have always accounted for the potential value something new, undreamed of before by the users, as having substantial enough value to the user that they will be willing to learn. I may be just the thing they never knew they could have or needed. I don't believe UCD or HCD ignores innovation if the value can be understood and embraced by the users it was intended for.

Well, he got me thinking and reflecting - maybe that was THE point!

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