SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Human-Centered Design 99% bad
Re: [Sigia-l] Human-Centered Design 99% bad
> > Its a good article and worth reading!
Boniface Lau <boniface_lau_at_compuserve.com> wrote:
> Yes, it is. The article is about activity-centered design:
I actually got a bit angry while reading it. The introduction reads:
"If it is so critical to understand the particular users of a product,
then what happens when a product is designed to be used by almost
everyone in the world?"
Funny, but while reading the article my brain made several twitches.
It's not so much that I disagree with the sentinence of the article
(focusing on activites as compared to, uh, other human aspects, such
as colors, shapes and taste, maybe), but I really disagree with the
problem specified above; what the hell is the *difference* between
designing for some users compared to all users? They are still *both*
As an example of a non-user centered designed item he points to
musical instruments. He's obviously not a musician nor a music
historian which would have told him how instruments that had poor
design has died and the good ones have stayed on, the hallmark of good
design. This *is* user-centred design, not some block of wood that
made a sound and people adopted *to* it. He gives the violin as a
concrete example of this, but I take it he's never heard of or tried
playing the viola, or any earlier drone-based instruments. The violin
got popular due to its shape and ease of playing, not because it
sounded good; the violin was a user-centred design, and it is still
with us today because it was designed well, while the viola family is
only popular amongst early-music crazies (such as myself, btw).
Another example is time (and the clock). Uh, the world happens to be
devided in two blurry blocks called night and day and people of all
ages (demographic and historic) have devided these blurry bits further
in attempts to make the breakup fit human use. Saying that time is a
fixed thing and that humans have adopted to this tool is just
nonsense; how many different calendar systems have there been and are
there again? How abstract is time again?
If you want to point to things not human-designed, try a rock lying in
a ditch and ask how popular that design was over the one that was
carved into the shape of an axe and made humans dominate the whole
dang planet! Maybe the point was to say that function was more
important than form, and that the activity-centred design of the axe
was more important than the human-centred design of other things made
during the same period? Maybe true in its time, but they recently
found a 27 000 year old wood fallos in a cave in Europe (Germany?).
I'm certain we sell more dildoes than axes these days.
To me it feels like the article slams user-centred design because it
contains *more* than activity-based design. Hmm, think about it;
knowing about your users in design is supposed to enable you to design
for your users activities, is it not? Is the lesson learnt here that
*design* might be considered harmful? Crikey, anything taken to any
given extreme will be considered harmful - and check this out! - to a
given set of quality measures. I didn't find any quality measures
given in the article, so how can we check the premise of the article
for ourselves? None are given, and hence we are forced to swallow his
He challenges us with this: "Show me an instance of a major technology
that was developed according to principles of human-centred design
[...]" The space-suit, the chair, the bed, the house, my underwear ...
evolution of everyday objects *are* human-centred design. The rock,
the waterfall, the woods ... pretty, but not very popular products as
such. Claiming that our everyday objects *aren't* part of a long
human-centred design process is truly an amazing claim, on par with
flat-earth and creationism. In fact, here is the counter-challenge:
give an example of anything activity-centred designed that has no
If all he wanted to do was to focus on activites as a major
success-factor in human-centred design, then why not just say so? Why
cause all the ruckus? *grmph*
Alex, the grump
"Ultimately, all things are known because you want to believe you know."
- Frank Herbert
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: Thu Jul 28 2005 - 22:15:16 EDT