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ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)


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Mon, 11 Jul 2005 23:20:21 +0100
Adrian Howard <[log in to unmask]>
Adrian Howard <[log in to unmask]>
"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
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On 9 Jul 2005, at 02:29, Scott Berkun wrote:
> Specific to my suggested rephrasing of the question: when in a  
> typical computer science or MBA education (and career) would an  
> individual likely first hear about ease of use?

Sadly the answer is often "not at all"

Even when people have CHI in the syllabus, it's often only a weeks  
worth of work in an N year degree. I've yet to come across any CS  
degree that really integrates CHI/HCI/usability across all the  
relevant areas.

Sure there are degrees that specifically focus on on usability  
related stuff, but they're preaching to the converted :-)

> In the context of a specific set of skills and practices (and not  
> just as an abstract quality of a thing)? When will they have their  
> first conversation with a designer or usability engineer?  Did they  
> have a positive opinion afterwards?

That's a good point.  There's a large group of developers whose  
encounters with usability folk consists of dealing with an inaccurate  
and overpriced "report" that appears from on-high.

Adjusting peoples expectations after they have encountered the very  
worst of the profession can be a tricky job.

> HCI and usability have come a long way - but the fact is that  
> anyone working in design or human factor must see themselves as  
> ambassadors to the ideas of user centered design. Most of us will  
> always be in collaborative roles where
> we contribute largely by influence, not by decree - and the more  
> comfortable and skilled we are in explaining ourselves, and our  
> value, the more success we'll have.


> My answers to your suggested questions would be directed at  
> quality. How do they know the software is easy to use? How  
> important is it that they improve it next time? I'd let them tell  
> me what they want to do and how they're doing it, and only then  
> suggest how they might go about doing it better.

Yup. That's what I'd look at first too. The problem is often that the  
development process (rather than the /people/ doing the development)  
is organised in a way that means usability advice is ignored.

If you have an organisation where developers never get to talk to  
stakeholders (let alone actual users!) and are evaluated by idiotic  
metrics like lines-of-code then any usability push is doomed in the  
long term.

Improve the process and get the developers involved more  
appropriately (agile methods like XP and Scrum are great for this)  
and you'll have a chance of getting the usability message across.



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