- Art or Science
- What’s in a Name?
UxP has a close working relationship with Documentation. This area is vital to our success because it is the vehicle by which we communicate. UxP is often the project’s de facto documentation manager.
UxP has a close working relationship with QA, because UxP is the ultimate owner of product quality.
UxP has a close working relationship with Process Management. One of the biggest challenges in product development is reiterative design – the “fine tuning” of a service in response to customer, client and enterprise needs.
Most of the interactive designers that I’ve met originally came from the visual arts: illustrators, animators, print design. It figures. In the screen-centered environment we tend to think of “user interface” design as a graphical skill that delivers a checklist of good design attributes.
Mandated to record functional specifications, tech writers are usually most interested in being helpful: creating accessible, understandable end user guidelines, training, online help, etc. Because of our organizational and communication skills, we are often the de facto usability advocates on the development team.
In the technical development environment, artists and documentation writers traditionally carry little weight. However, the Business Unit champions the customer relationship, knows the customer best and is a strong lobbyist for “usability”.
Cognitive studies probably acccount for most of the credentialed “usability lab” folks. Although originally few in number, they can be exceptionally influential, bringing academic rigor, testing methodologies and professional credibility to the mix, along with a focus on the dynamics of interaction.
Product testers are the “tecchie” version of the behavioral scientist. QA is generally more concerned with functional conformance to the workflow than customer satisfaction, but – because of our process-orientation – we are also vigorous champions for “best practices” & standards.
True enough to form, my background includes strong graphics (I had been a commerical artist and animator) and documentation / training (a degree in educational media). I’ve done a lot of marketing presentations for new media ventures and roll-outs. I honed my writing, editing & librarying skills as a Documentation Manager and Technical Writer.
UxP already embraces a broad umbrella of activity: graphics, navigation & structure, behavior, online help and personalization. Within all that,
There are two major approaches to the usability role
is an Academic person
with Analytical approach
in a Laboratory environment
making Tests & Reports
is good at Identifying Issues
through Rigor & Methodology
The Usability Researcher is more likely to identify customer needs, data and behavior that have somehow been missed.
is a Creative person
with Proactive approach
in a Studio environment
making Prototypes & Models
is good at Proposing Solutions
through Skill & Talent
The Interaction Designer delivers immediate solutions that can be easily grasped and provide satisfaction.
With appropriate backgound information the Interaction Designer can look at a site and come up with a fair number of viable design improvements quickly. Often that’s all the client wants.
But there are also strong arguments for Usability Analysis. We now expect our sites to handle a more intimate relationship with the customer. We have the tools to harvest the customer behavior, organize the business information and deliver personalization.
The Usability Researcher should be able to identify things you’ve missed.
But you’ll probably still need an Interaction Designer to come up with creative solutions.
Many production environments lump the two schools of effort together, even though they are actually very different. You rarely see this sort of rigorous separation of responsibilities. The “usability expert” is often expected to wear both hats, providing neutral analysis and creative advocacy. Sometimes that can get a little confusing.
Look at this long list of UxP Job Titles
(I’ve answered to most of these over the course of my career.)
HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) Specialist
GUI Web Specialist
Online Help Designer
Help Systems Analyst
Customer Experience Design
Business Design Analyst
User Centered Design
This whole UxP thing has emerged only relatively recently. The role itself is an integrative one that encompasses several major organizational silos.
Just Call Me “Slash”
The UxP professional is a designer / architect / librarian / documentor / psychologist / artist / technician / counselor / etcetera polymorphwho wears many hats.
So it’s not terribly surprising to find that “the UI guy” goes by many different names, depending on who’s defining the project space:
- Technical / QA
But – When it comes right down to it…
I’m the only guy on the team with “user” in my job title
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