SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Information Architecture and Usability Professions
Re: [Sigia-l] Information Architecture and Usability Professions
>> First, there's that silly assertion that usability [people] are sitting
>>in judgment of design.
>Of course, they are. At the end of a usability test someone has to
>interpret the results and make a judgment/recommendation to the person
Yes. That's exactly their role. But they report the results to someone who
judges THEIR work. And, if the designers are actually working as part of
the team, the designer assists in developing the test, agrees on the
criteria, and reviewing the results.
>What's often galling is that usability people not only make a judgment (as
>to whether the design works or not) but often go ahead and recommend ways
>to correct it (if it doesn't work), a process of design they are likely not
>well versed with.
Many "usability people" report only the results of testing without any
recommendations (and are criticized for it BTW). However, I understand your
point since interpreting the causes and making specific recommendations are
not the same thing. But why is that so threatening? Part of many usability
tests is exploring issues and ways to overcome them with different
terminology, comparing multiple designs, looking at other approach the user
might have encountered, etc. But it's only a recommendation. Failure to
even discuss someone else's recommendations seems rather narrow minded and
defensive. Many of the designers we work with (as member of a team) see
this just a suggestion and welcome it.
>> shouldn't review movies unless they are directors. And art critics
>>should review art unless they are artists. And so on.
>What you don't seem to grasp here is that movie/art critics are NOT
>employed by the movie studios/art galleries. They are independent parties
>passing judgment. Usability people ARE employed directly by the businesses
A good point and a limitation of the analogy. However, I noticed you
skipped over eliminating the QA staff, and IV&V, and other roles where the
analogy IS appropriate.
>> "the employer evaluates the "usability dudes'" work.
>How? Divine intervention? This is absurd because the employer, in the vast
>majority of cases, is a business man/woman who signs the checks and has as
>much design and UX evaluation sense as a mollusk.
So, in this situation, the designer has to one to report to either. If this
mollusk cannot evaluate a usability person's work, they are incapable of
evaluating the designer's work as well. And this angers you why? Because
the mollusk listens to the usability person but NOT the designer? Because
mollusk listens to the usability person AND the designer. Or because the
designer is not in charge? I think THIS is where the problem is. There
should be a project lead capable of understanding both design and usability
acting as the true lead. Not some business person with no knowledge. If
not, it's a leaderless project and in fighting naturally ensues. But don't
blame this on the usability person. This is the company's fault for not
setting up a competent project lead.
>Usability people have positioned themselves as the gateway between the
>design and the users, as the final arbiters of suitability.
I dare say, there is no usability person in the world with the power to
interject themselves into that position. Someone WITH the power had to
place them there. Again, you're blaming the wrong people.
>Yet we don't have formal methods to judge *their* effectiveness and
>competency. The claim of some amorphous notion of an "employer" judging
>them is at best a cop out.
And do you have a formal means of evaluating the effectiveness and
competency of the designers? If you say its education, then you CAN apply
it to both groups. If you says it certification, you can also apply it to
both groups. But are your talking about the field or a person? Having
prerequisites before claiming the title of "usability person" IS an industry
issue right now. But it seems to me that your issues are (1) a lack of true
leadership in a project skilled enough to actually evaluate either the
designer OR the usability person's work and (2) past exposure to poorly
training, untrained, or inexperienced "usability people." Neither issue is
the responsibility of the concept and role of usability testing in product
Bill Killam, MA CHFP
President, User-Centered Design, Inc.
20548 Deerwatch Place
Ashburn, VA 20147
Work/Fax: (703) 729-0998
Mobile: (703) 626-6318
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: Tue Sep 05 2006 - 11:39:43 EDT