The first course – Interaction design – was delivered by Bruce Tognazzini (pictured). Before becoming a principal of NN/g, he was the employee #66 at Apple. He is one of Steve Jobs’ “original boys”, as he likes to say. He is one of the fathers of Apple’s Lisa that defines how our computer’s interfaces look nowadays. Bruce discussed the way a product should be designed from the very beginning to the final user testing. He emphasised the importance of the brainstorming phase.
The brainstorming phase
Brainstorming is characterised as a single kick-off meeting between designers with rough sketches on a whiteboard, but Bruce holds a different view. A brainstorming session should last hours with a maximum of those involved. The outcome of this brainstorming phase should be advanced sketches, the projection of written content and first technical solutions from the engineers. This may be challenging when the client is unfamiliar but increasingly, blue-infinity clients are keen to work in an Agile environment and it tends to give more room to brainstorming and open discussions between our departments.
Power to UX
Designers are always outnumbered by engineers on any given project. But they need as much power in the decision making process. If designers don’t have enough clout the project may adopt technical shortcuts or decisions that only carry a technical meaning even if they seem logical. User minds have preconceived models that are not based on technology hence UX managers should be involved as much as tech managers. Project managers need to have a thorough understanding of UX designs in order to support significant long term initiatives or ideas.
User testing: The quality label
Designers are the only ones that can perform a quality check on the interface. Engineers focus on verifying performance and code. However checks between these parties differ and those performed by UX designers have a big advantage, as they are based on user testing. Quality can be improved through UX design updates, with a focus on existing rather than new ideas. Apart from obvious usability problems, no one can tell where the errors in an interface are without having tested it. Even users are not really able to tell themselves. People tend to get used to bad conceptions, work with them, assimilate them and work ineffectively without realising it. To truly identify the problems designers need to observe users performing their tasks. As Nicolas Nova said during the world usability day 2014 “To even enhance the process of observing user, we can be the user, live with his tasks for one day, and more problems will get identified”.
Photo credit: Nielsen Norman group