Sunday, September 06, 2009

Process of Interaction Design

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Ah, what's in a process? Specifically, what's in an interaction design process? Something as convoluted and abstract as the human mind can't be simply mapped into an A-B-C method, can it? Yes and no. There is indeed a solution that's feasible through extensive sketches and testing, but is it perfect? The answer is no - it's never perfect.

Interaction design involves work on requirements, designing a solution, producing a protoype, and evaluation. But that's not to ignore constant trade-offs with stakeholders, the unexpected, and the task of having firm control of the gazillion ideas you might have for a specific problem space.

By employing proxies (role-playing users) can help get you started by giving a rough idea of understanding user needs. You also need to have good expectation management to keep people from expecting the next iPod (unless you have plans to deliver such a thing). It's always better to exceed expectations than not meet them.

As obvious as this may sound, the level of user involvement plays a great role developing the feeling of "ownership" of the product in the long run. However, whether it be driving around in a pimped out truck pulling users off the street or using focus groups to test your product, one must always remember - you can have too much of a good thing.

In 1985, Gould and Lewis laid down the three principles for a "useful and easy computer system." These steps are still employed today; 1) Early focus on users and tasks (with behaviors and context of use), 2) emperical measurement (prototype data for evaluation), and 3) iterative design (a never-ending cycle of feedback).

While the creative process is elusive in nature, one must keep one thing in mind - that "an expert is someone who gets reminded of just the right experience to help him in processing his current experience." (Schank) Prototyping gives everyone a better sense of the product, allowing for testing of its technical feasibility and subjective "quality" measurements by each and every one of the stakeholders in the project.

Lifecycle models can help out with showing how activities are related. That means lots of Visio work, but also milestones that make sense to different project groups. In HCI, we have three types that take precedence:

That's the Star model. Everything gets evaluated, from beginning to end. Next is the usability engineering lifecycle, which involves a fusing of usability tests within a structured software development routine. Lastly, the ISO 13407 model is an internationally renowned process, clearly identifying itself by correlating directly with the four steps of ID as listed above.

And while it's not easy to come up with a solution that everyone's happy with, being able to design via an efficient and effective process that corresponds with other experts in different fields, meanwhile keeping users as a priority, can only lead to a good thing in this blogger's opinion. Or at least until we create some killer robots or something.


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