Monthly Archives: November 2007

Google, the new Microsoft?

Scott Berkun’s latest posting captures a subject I’ve been discussing with colleagues over the past year or so, Does Google 2008 = Microsoft 1998?

Google increasingly are to the Internet what Microsoft were (and are) to the PC, but without the sinister connotations (for me at least). Google genuinely appear to be innovating for the customers good, rather than growing, and creating monopolies for the benefit of their executives (I am sure their approach is also very beneficial for their executives!).

I’ll declare a little inside knowledge, I have a friend who is working at Google as a researcher. Their current investment in understanding real user requirements – rather than simply making their own ideas usable – is impressive. My gut feeling is that the output from the company is going to get better, rather than worse in the next few years.

From the rumblings and announcements coming out of Google, if you thought Google was everywhere in 2007 you haven’t seen anything yet – lets hope they continue to work for the benefit of the customer rather than the corporate dollar.

User centred design sayings

I would like to get a collection of sayings together that advocate the essence of the user centred design process. Here are a few for starters.

  • fail fast
  • fail early and fail often
  • the best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas
  • measure twice, cut once
  • watch what people actually do, rather than what they say they do

I apologise for not attributing any of them (a case of using expressions so often that I forgot where I heard them first, rather than an attempt to claim any of them for myself).

Please send yours.

Sketching user experiences

This blog has been a bit quiet of late – a mixture of workload and life…

Anyhow, I’ve been reading Sketching user experiences by Bill Buxton and can’t recommend it highly enough. One particular observation about the state of design in product development rang bells for me. To quote:

“My perspective is that the bulk of our industry is organised around two all-too-common myths:

  1. That we know what we want at the start of a project, and
  2. That we know enough to start building it.

Like the sirens who tried to lure Ulysses to destruction, these myths lead us to the false assumption that we can adopt a process that will take us along a straight path from intention to implementation. Yes, if we get it right, the path is optimal. But since there are always too many unknowns actually to do so, the fastest and most efficient path is never a straight line. Furthermore, my experience suggests that embarking on the straight-line path, and then having to deal with the inevitable consequences, is the path with the highest risk.

At best, it is a route to mediocre products that are late, over budget, compromised in function, and that underperform financially. At worst, it leads to product initiatives that are cancelled, or fail miserably in the marketplace. And with it, design, such as it exists, typically is limited to styling and usability.

Hear, hear. Sadly the t-shirt version would be too small for anyone to read, but Bill is bang on the mark. I’ve been dancing around a number of design and development companies over the years, and the key distinction between the good and the bad is the recognition of the need for design time.

No that does not mean giving the information architects two weeks to design the entire site! It means giving someone, preferably someone with good research skills, time to explore user requirements and understand the design space. (Then giving the IAs 2 weeks to design the site!)

I can’t recommend Bill’s book highly enough.