GOULD, J.D. AND LEWIS, C. 1985. Designing for usability: key principles and what designers think. Communications of the ACM 28, 3, 300-311

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Legends of UCD Gould and Lewis reported their famous Key principles for Design. These were later extended and adapted to most of our standards etc. I’d say a truly seminal work, and a solid start for any historic reminiscence.

Three principles of Design [Gould and Lewis 1985]:

-Early focus on users and tasks

-Empirical measurement

-iterative design

They claim that these principles that sound so obvious and common sense are not observed due to several reasons. Designers do not either see adequate value in them, misunderstand the underlying ideas of the principles (designer’s intention to test vs. designer’s actual action to do user testing) , underestimate (users’ are like me or they are just stupid) or overestimate (no way to test them all) the diversity among their users or beliefs that users’ do not know what they want or that involvement with users’ is somebody else’s responsibility. “Good user-oriented systems cannot be built from local optimization of individual system ingredients.”

Competing approaches include purely rational analysis and design, which leaves gaps in the understanding and does not cope with clashes with preexisting practices. “Analytic approaches cannot be seen as a substitute for empirical methods”. Similarly, reliance to guidelines is susceptible to ignoring relevant contextual variables either within the users or their environment. Thus, strong empirical testing is mandatory.

“‘getting it [design] right the first time’, is not achievable in user interface design.” Yet use of iteration is not an excuse for being sloppy in the first time. Due to strong belief that testing with users overly lengthens the development process, too often system developers (designers) enforce a two-stage hierarchy of preliminary and final designs that are at an appropriate time evaluated and accepted, thus making iteration non-existent. Iteration is not just added-cost and time for fine tuning, it should be a design philosophy. This is easily fixed by using early stage evaluation methods such as simulations and prototyping. Authors claim never to have encountered a design problem which some of its important aspects could not have been simulated. Rather rely on early stage empirical simulations, than initial customer feedback, if aiming in developing an innovative solution.

In most cases new technology is not the primary success factor. “Just because there is a speech recognition system, a touch screen, a wireless terminal, or a picture phone is no longer a guarantee that these will succeed.” How very true!

Authors then describe the principles and methods as utilized in either initial design phase or initial development phase, and give an extensive (but a little outdated) case study from IBM.

I’ll post the derivative works in the future…

Posted by Mika

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