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SIGIA-L Mail Archives: RE: SIGIA-L: Extreme Programming v. Inte

RE: SIGIA-L: Extreme Programming v. Interaction Design

From: William Pietri (
Date: Fri Jan 18 2002 - 16:39:13 EST

At 12:56 PM 1/18/02, Dave Harland wrote:
>Unfortunately, I see no mention of decisions made by the people expected
>to USE the application other than a handful of business stakeholders.
>Therein lies the fundamental flaw with XP and why XP and Interaction
>Design are mutually exclusive.They cannot be compromised to work "well"
>together no matter how much we would like everyone to "just get along".

I'm sorry; I must not have been very clear.

XP divides building software into two distinct realms: what to build and
how to build it. The 'customer' is responsible for deciding the first; the
developers are responsible for the second.

Although I'm not very knowledgeable about Interaction Design, my
understanding is that it is mainly interested in what to build, not the
mechanics of the construction. Thus Interaction Design sounds like
something that is part of the 'customer' role.

I use 'customer' in quotes here because it's XP jargon. Although it implies
a single person, it's frequently more like a team or a committee,
especially in large organizations. But XPers often refer to the singular
'customer' because it's imperative that they speak with one voice; making
your developers resolve what are really internal political problems can be
a disaster.

So suppose SuperMegaCorp wanted to build a mass-market piece of software.
Since the software needs to be marketable, one part of the 'customer'
committee would likely be a product manager. It could also include other
stakeholders, including those responsible for support, manufacturing, and
distribution. And if they are smart, they will recognize the difficulty of
building something for the mass market and include a usability expert as
part of the 'customer' committee to represent the needs of an end user. Or
perhaps the organization thinks of usability as part of a product's
marketabiliyt; then the product manager could hire an outside group to
frequently test the software and advise her as to what she should require
to make the software more usable.

Or suppose that you want an in-house piece of software, made for just a few
people. Then it's practical to have them be the XP 'customer' and directly
instruct the developers about what they need. That can be great fun for
both sides: the users get a tool that improves weekly; the developers get
to see their software being used immediately. With such a tight feedback
loop, the software can make progress by leaps and bounds.

So the short answer to your question is that if a product needs an
Interaction Designer, they should be one of that "handful of business

Personally, I'd like that. I feel that most software doesn't have enough
attention paid to usability, and I really enjoy working projects where the
higher ups recognize its importance.


William Pietri <>
brains for sale -

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