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.
Archive for July 2007
In The next frontiers for Design and User Experience Jess McMullin offers:
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.
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:
- collective intelligence
- the Internet
- systems thinking
- design thinking
- cross-cultural communication
- climate change
- internationalization / localization
- social media
- the mashup
- collaborative production models
- the green movement
- open source
- urbanism and urban planning
- the creative class
- architecture of participation
- the knowledge economy
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…
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!
I’ll be writing about tagging, tag clouds, folksonomies, and related topics over at Tagsonomy.com going forward. As Christian Crumlish observed, it’s been quite at Tagsonomy.com 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.
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.
*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:
- Olly Wright, Media Catalyst, NL
- Thomas J. Froehlich, Kent State University, US
- special mystery panelist…
Barcelona is a magnificent city…
The full conference program is available at this address http://www.euroia.org/Programme.aspx, 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…?