8 August 2007

UX, IA, UCD : Huh?

For as long as I can remember I've been immersed in the User Experience (UX), Information Architecture (IA) and User-centered Design (UCD) genres, long before I knew what they were called and what they embraced. To me, it was just doing what I always do, naturally, instinctively. The last few years I've joined the professional circles of these genres to sort of get up to speed, see what I've missed, help out where I can, and of course, promote myself and the genre in question in all professional things that I do.

But the more I learn about everything and all, the more I'm coming back to the beginning, back to where it all starts ; mental models of a problem space. Being a very creative person, one of those who love to fix things, love to sort problems out, mental models of problem spaces isn't something I have to do ; it's something that's always there. I don't have to visually try to understand problems ; they're there as a default, so I jump straight into solving whatever problem there is.

Well, big mistake ; that's not how the world works. No, the world wants to know that you indeed have got the problem space sorted out before you do anything, and you have to prove this through a small ton of documentation, convincing and bickering. The reason for this is that worlds modus operandi is the waterfall method, or in agile circles, we talk about chaining ; one thing needs to happen after another thing, and due to people's time schedules these things always have various degrees of gaps between when one task end and another start. They also need to start after someone has read a document they understand and agree with. Hmm.

To me, it's always been about fixing something small, check that it's okay, and continue until the problem is fixed to the point of some satisfaction or success. This is agile methodology in a nutshell ; never embark on blind-date thinking you know exactly what she looks like, how the evening will go, and how lucky you'll get. You need to take each step at a time, evaluate, make small plans to what to do next, and reiterate until some satisfaction or success.

The UX / IA / UCD disciplines to me always looked like agile development with a user-interface focus to me. It was never meant to be a big bang, big documentation, big plan type of thing. If nothing else, usability testing always tell us that big bang is big waste of time and resources. Yet, the more I walk in these circles the more documentation, meetings and justification I see. What's up with that? Is it that the initial small group of people have been flooded with a large group of not-so-smart people? Or are we succumbing to the business-need for paper stability? Or is it a lack of trust? Should we - indeed - sell better trust in order to do a better job?

Anyway, I'm slowly backing out of this whole debacle ; I'm so very, very tired of fighting the good cause. Being good in any of these things require the person to have great knowledge across many fields, and an instinctive feel for design, and I simply can't write a novel every time I come to some conclusion about some arbitrary nugget of wisdom. Consultants and contractors must struggle with this all the time ; justifying their wisdom based on their knowledge rooted in experience and education. Surely there's a better way. Perhaps, better customers?


  1. Hei :-)

    Søkte etter en statisk cms og endte opp her på jakt etter en demoversjon av xsiteable.

    Dessverre kan jeg ikke finne en lenke herfra igjen, så her er jeg altså endt opp med å sende en hilsen til dere i stede for :-)

    Hilsen en tilfeldig "surfende" nordmann

  2. God you hit the nail on the head with your article, I too find the lengthy documentation / meeting / miles of analysis documentation laborious. I too dont want to have to pad out documents with this or that latest UI "sound bite" aaach.

    Tis good to meet someone else that wonders what all this methodology spin is about, probably just to create jobs for those people that dont simply have the experience in built eye for solutions that work.

    Definitly think trust is the big problem, there are so many people who call themselves web designers, and rip companies off. *raises a glass to the day when these wanabees just bugger off to some other field of expertise and mess with their field...*