brian carroll on 8 Jan 2001 03:16:57 -0000

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<nettime> Re: Disassociate Webdesign from Usability

 here are a few quotes from ch.2 of Hertzian Tales
 by Anthony Dunne on the subject of Usability...
 while the book focuses on industrial/product design,
 it can also be applied to design online...bc

 02 ( I N ) H U M A N  F A C T O R S

 "In design, the main aim of interactivity has become
 user-friendliness. Although this ideal is accepted in
 the workplace as improving productivity and efficiency,
 its main assumption, that the way we humanize technology
 is to close the gap between people and machines by
 designing `transparent' interfaces, is problematic,
 particularly as this view of interactivity has spread
 to less utilitarian areas of our lives." p.30

 "[our] enslavement is not, strictly speaking, to machines,
 nor the people who build and own them, but to the conceptual
 models, values, and systems of thought the machines embody.
 User-friendliness helps to naturalise electronic objects
 and the values they embody." p.30


 "... While interactivity made huge leaps forward before
 its entry into everyday life through the marketplace,
 once the computer became a successful mass-produced
 object, innovation in interactivity shifted from
 hardware to software, and evolved around screens,
 keyboards and mouse-like input devices." p.31

 The Human Factors Approach

 "These days most work on the development of interfaces
 is by engineers and scientists working for large
 corporations and universities, and comprising the
 Human Factors community.

 Although mainly concerned with computers, other
 electronic objects are becoming subject to this
 approach, particularly as designers have, so far,
 been unable to develop convincing alternatives.
 In a review of THINGS THAT MAKE US SMART by cognitive
 psychologist Don Norman, Rick Robinson offers remarks
 about Norman's view of design that are applicable to
 the Human Factors community in general. Robinson argues
 that Norman's approach results in products that will
 not confuse or disappoint (which is clearly not enough).
 His main criticism is that it: "misses the essential
 connection between the power of objects to affect the
 way in which the world is seen and the mechanism through
 which that happens. Paradoxically, user-centredness is
 not just figuring out how people map things, it absolutely
 requires recognizing that the artefacts people interact
 with have enormous impact on how we think. Affordances,
 to use Norman's term, are individually, socially, and
 culturally dynamic. But the artefacts do not merely
 occupy a slot in that process, they fundamentally
 shape the dynamic itself." R.Robinson, in Design
 Issues 10(1) p.32

 Design/Aesthetic Manifestations

 "In the Human Factors world, objects, it seems, must be
 understood rather than interpreted. This raises the
 question: are conventional notions of user-friendliness
 compatible with aesthetic experience? Perhaps with
 aesthetics, a different path must be taken: an aesthetic
 approach might subsume and subvert the idea of user-
 friendliness and provide an alternative mode of
 interactivity." p.32

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