Archive for July 2007

Next Frontiers For Design: New Economic and Cultural Models

July 29th, 2007 — 12:06pm

In The next fron­tiers for Design and User Expe­ri­ence Jess McMullin offers:

I believe that the oppor­tu­nity for design and user expe­ri­ence to increase our influ­ence is not about find­ing bet­ter meth­ods for work­ing with users, but in bet­ter meth­ods for work­ing with busi­ness. Not that new meth­ods for gen­er­at­ing insight, pro­to­typ­ing, and defin­ing solu­tions aren’t use­ful. But that’s not where the real bar­ri­ers are in my prac­tice. The real bar­ri­ers are about build­ing con­sen­sus, buy-in, bridg­ing com­pet­ing view­points, and actu­ally exe­cut­ing. In that envi­ron­ment, we need to cul­ti­vate busi­ness flu­ency, and use our design toolkit to work with stake­hold­ers, not just cus­tomers.

This a solid assess­ment of the obsta­cles design and user expe­ri­ence face, and sound advice on how to increase the influ­ence our dis­ci­pline com­mands. Think­ing prag­mat­i­cally, the busi­ness has power and money, mak­ing it essen­tial for design to “cul­ti­vate busi­ness flu­ency”.
It’s impor­tant to build on this sound advice, and under­stand that to be well-positioned for the long term, design and user expe­ri­ence must rec­og­nize that new eco­nomic and cul­tural pro­duc­tion mod­els — commons-based, open source, net­worked / col­lab­o­ra­tive, and likely oth­ers yet to be seen — blur the for­merly sharp dis­tinc­tions between busi­nesses and users / cus­tomers, and con­se­quently open new roles and chan­nels of influ­ence for design.
This blur­ring is most vis­i­ble in sec­tors of the econ­omy such as soft­ware and media, but is also hap­pen­ing in other sec­tors as well, and even for ser­vices tra­di­tion­ally seen as the respon­si­bil­ity of the pro­ducer. The bal­ance of power is chang­ing. Though far from out­right demo­li­tion, the old high ram­parts divid­ing pro­duc­tion processes from con­sump­tion are show­ing some wear.
This blur­ring (con­ver­gence might be a bet­ter (albeit overused…) word) means busi­ness also has clear and increas­ing incen­tive to cul­ti­vate design flu­ency. User expe­ri­ence, and other dis­ci­plines ori­ented toward under­stand­ing and work­ing with — even work­ing for — users and cus­tomers are essen­tial for sur­vival and suc­cess in these new eco­nomic and cul­tural pro­duc­tion mod­els.
One out­come of this con­ver­gence of meth­ods, frames, and approaches might be, as Janko Roettgers sug­gests, using a com­bi­na­tion of busi­ness and design per­spec­tives to pro­to­type a busi­ness, instead of just the prod­ucts and expe­ri­ences that are tra­di­tion­ally seen as the touch points or inter­faces con­nect­ing busi­nesses with cus­tomers.
To close the loop, design and user expe­ri­ence should indeed cul­ti­vate busi­ness flu­ency, but also keep in mind that those things which make design dif­fer­ent from busi­ness — such as core approaches, frames, and meth­ods — will remain crit­i­cal to insur­ing the value of user expe­ri­ence in the future. Good exam­ples of these dif­fer­ences, as Peter Morville recently sug­gested, are the holis­tic per­spec­tives and tech­niques that help design and user expe­ri­ence imag­ine and describe the future.
What could be more influ­en­tial than defin­ing the future?
Finally, what does this future look like? Open design may be an early exam­ple of a new model and approach to eco­nomic and cul­tural pro­duc­tion, one that was both con­ceived with the aid of, and also struc­tured to rely upon, design and user expe­ri­ence perspectives.

Comment » | User Experience (UX)

A Good Primer On Simplicity and Complexity In Designs

July 27th, 2007 — 1:28pm

Dan Ward has cre­ated a nifty primer on the bal­ance between sim­plic­ity and com­plex­ity in designs that is worth a look. It seems espe­cially use­ful for design­ers fac­ing chal­lenges with sta­bi­liz­ing the vision, fea­tures, require­ments, or other design dri­vers for a prod­uct, ser­vice, expe­ri­ence, etc.
The Sim­plic­ity Cycle, is “a graph­i­cal explo­ration of the rela­tion­ship between com­plex­ity, good­ness and time. It explores the nat­ural devel­op­ment of sys­tem design, and high­lights both the impor­tance and the dan­gers of com­plex­ity. …has prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tions for artists, teach­ers, engi­neers, archi­tects and any­one else who cre­ates.“
A quick read, The Sim­plic­ity Cycle is nicely illus­trated (replete with poten­tial pre­sen­ta­tion­ware for har­ried con­sul­tants…), has engag­ing nuggets like quotes from Charles Min­gus, and is free to download.

3 comments » | Reading Room

The Rise of Holistic Thinking

July 24th, 2007 — 5:22pm

Good design is the result of an unusual mix of two very dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing that must work together to a com­mon end; reduc­tive approaches (to define a prob­lem) and holis­tic approaches (to solve — or rede­fine — the prob­lem by con­sid­er­ing every aspect). The com­bi­na­tion is a pow­er­ful syn­the­sis which relies on a bal­ance between com­pet­ing forces.
Design­ers have under­stood the impor­tance of this bal­ance — and thus the indis­pens­able role of holis­tic think­ing in design meth­ods — for a long time. But as a con­se­quence of the long-standing dom­i­nance of indus­trial pro­duc­tion processes and log­ics, which elim­i­nated or severely restricted oppor­tu­ni­ties for most peo­ple to design any part of the fab­ric of their every­day lives, holis­tic approaches and think­ing have had min­i­mal vis­i­bil­ity in the mod­ern cul­tural land­scape.
That seems to be chang­ing, and I sus­pect few would dis­pute the rise in vis­i­bil­ity and impor­tance of design within the cul­tural land­scape. Some might say we are in the midst of a renais­sance of design (that com­par­i­son breaks down under a crit­i­cal lens, in the end demon­strat­ing more the pos­i­tive aspi­ra­tions of design advo­cates than any­thing else).
Look­ing at the cul­ture as a whole, the rise of design is one aspect of a larger and much more impor­tant cul­tural shift: the rise of holis­tic think­ing. This shift towards holis­tic views is chang­ing the things we talk about and think about, and hold cen­tral as the ele­ments of our basic frame of ref­er­ence — in short, the way we con­ceive of the world.
The con­cepts in the list below are good exam­ples of the rise of holis­tic think­ing across dis­ci­plines and fields. Seem­ingly willy-nilly (which is exactly the point!), all these ideas rely on, include, or enhance holis­tic view­points at some level:

It’s no acci­dent that this list is also an index of many of the major ideas and con­cerns of our day. What does it mean? Well, it’s good for design at the moment. And maybe there’s a book in it for some­one with the time to syn­the­size an idea and work up a solid treatment…

3 comments » | Ideas

Portal Building Blocks Intro on Boxes and Arrows

July 24th, 2007 — 10:36am

Boxes and Arrows just pub­lished part two of the Por­tal Build­ing Blocks series — Intro­duc­tion to the Build­ing Blocks. This sec­ond install­ment cov­ers the design con­cepts behind the por­tal build­ing blocks sys­tem, and guide­lines on how to flex­i­bly com­bine the blocks into a well-structured user expe­ri­ence.
If you are work­ing on a por­tal, dash­board, wid­get, social media plat­form, web-based desk­top, or any tile-based design, this series should help clar­ify the growth and usabil­ity chal­lenges you will encounter, as well as pro­vide a pos­si­ble solu­tion, in the form of a sim­ple design frame­work that is plat­form and ven­dor neu­tral.
Stay tuned for the third install­ment in the series, due out shortly!

Comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Joining the Tag Team At

July 22nd, 2007 — 3:11pm

I’ll be writ­ing about tag­ging, tag clouds, folk­sonomies, and related top­ics over at going for­ward. As Chris­t­ian Crum­lish observed, it’s been quite at for a while, but that doesn’t mean that tag­ging is any­where close to being fully fig­ured out.
To help kick­start the con­ver­sa­tion, I’ve put up two posts since offi­cially join­ing the Tag Team; The Tag­ging Hype Cycle, and Is Tag­ging a Dis­rup­tive Inno­va­tion?.
Com­ments are already flow­ing in — be sure to join the discussion.

Comment » | Tag Clouds

Is Daylife the Collective Conscious?

July 20th, 2007 — 3:55pm

Jung posited the idea of the col­lec­tive uncon­scious (later refined, but a good point of depar­ture). Do Daylife and sim­i­lar stream aggre­ga­tors / visu­al­iz­ers (I’m reach­ing for a han­dle to describe these enti­ties) like Uni­verse, point at what a col­lec­tive con­scious could be?
Some pre­cur­sors might be Yahoo’s Taglines and TagMaps, Google Zeit­geist / Trends, and the var­i­ous cloud style visu­al­iza­tions like clouda­li­cious, etc.
Plainly, the num­ber and vari­ety of tools and des­ti­na­tions for visu­al­iz­ing what’s on the mind of groups is grow­ing rapidly.
If the par­al­lelism holds, mean­ing Daylife and kin are them­selves points of depar­ture, where is this going? I’m not think­ing of col­lec­tive intel­li­gence — just the visu­al­iza­tion aspect, and how that may evolve.

Comment » | Ideas

Presenting on Ethics Panel at EuroIA 2007

July 2nd, 2007 — 3:28pm

*Apolo­gies for another announce­ment post­ing* but now that the pro­gram is final, I can men­tion that I’ll be speak­ing at EuroIA 2007 in lovely Barcelona, as part of the panel Per­spec­tives on Ethics, mod­er­ated by Olly Wright. My pre­sen­ta­tion dis­cusses con­flict and ethics as an aspect of design for social online envi­ron­ments.
I shared some ini­tial thoughts on this (under served) area last year, in a short post titled Conflict-Aware Design: Account­ing For Con­flict In User Expe­ri­ences. The essen­tial mes­sage of this post — and the thing I’m think­ing about most regard­ing the ques­tion of con­flict — is “con­flict equals inter­est, and inter­est should be a focus for design.” The panel will be the forum for shar­ing promised (but not com­plete) follow-up post­ings.
While prep­ping the sub­mis­sion, I was work­ing with this treat­ment for the topic.
Con­flict is a fun­da­men­tal com­po­nent of human char­ac­ter and rela­tions, with impor­tant eth­i­cal dimen­sions. Yet con­flict rarely appears as an explicit con­sid­er­a­tion dur­ing the process of design­ing the expe­ri­ences, archi­tec­tures, sys­tems, or envi­ron­ments that make up the new social and par­tic­i­pa­tory media we use daily. Now that media are social, con­flict is inevitable.
How can (or should) design­ers eth­i­cally address con­flict within design efforts? Does an eth­i­cal frame­work for design require us to man­age con­flict in char­ac­ter and rela­tions actively? What mech­a­nisms or social struc­tures should design­ers use to address con­flict within new expe­ri­ences? Are there new kinds of con­flict cre­ated or neces­si­tated by the social and par­tic­i­pa­tory envi­ron­ments emerg­ing now?
Some spe­cific areas of dis­cus­sion: pri­vacy, iden­tity, own­er­ship, respon­si­bil­ity, speech.
I’d love any thoughts on the topic, the treat­ment, the impli­ca­tions, etc.
Fel­low pan­elists at EuroIA include:

Barcelona is a mag­nif­i­cent city…

The full con­fer­ence pro­gram is avail­able at this address, and the ros­ter of speak­ers along is worth the trip to Barcelona.
And Dru­pal­Con Barcelona hap­pens at the same time — I won­der what sort of cross-pollination will emerge…?
Viva Catalunya!

1 comment » | User Experience (UX)

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