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Albert Liao <[log in to unmask]>
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Albert Liao <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 15 Aug 2000 13:48:06 -0700
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>Amen. For this reason I watch and gather (ethnographically speaking) some
>of the artifacts from this discussion, at large, but do not believe that
>our tendencies to do "usability studies" are valid. Heresy? They're a
>necessity because we're not yet doing the right things. I spent several
>months doing research on a variety of topics, including complexity theory,
>to understand the concept of self-evolving entities...which the Web
>definitely qualifies as. If you simplify some of the components of a
>self-evolving entity (which we also qualify as), you'll find that one
>attribute that they have that most Web sites do not is adequate feedback
>mechanisms. With sight or touch we typically avoid bumping into walls.
>Pain tells us when some portion of our body is not performing well. We
>typically respond immediately to identify and work to a solution.

You have made an insightful point about the web as a complex system.

While I am a big proponent of existing usability study methods, I do
believe they need some changes.

one of them relates to the key point you made about complex systems needing
constant feedback to evolve successfully. I think the user tests and
listening labs are reaping such big rewards b/c they are one of the few
avenues for the feedback to occur. (Tiny amount of feedback grant you,
compare to the amount of users. )
One way I think we can improve what we do is find a way to increase the
flow of feedback from 5-10 users at a time to all users. Feedback forms are
a good start. but we need more!!  (I know dreamy...)

The other is to have more fundamental research into usability that WILL NOT
be outdated as soon as the study is finished (note: I don't entirely agree
with the extreme position that most existing studies are quickly outdated).
Right now, most studies are based on heuristic approaches for the most
part. There's a lot of hit and miss, and they often get the wrong
conclusion from the data collected b/c the fundamental assumption aren't
completely up to date.
Right now, there are some exciting research going on at various
universities on the human brain and how it learns and acquires. I think we
can see much more fruitful results as the cutting edge brain research start
influencing our field. (Don Norman is perhaps an early leader of that

Albert Liao - Art Director

Jurock New Media

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