Category Archives: Recommended books

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.

New Scott Berkun book out soon

I notice that Scott Berkun has a new book coming out soon, The Myths of Innovation. His previous book, The Art of Project Management, was (despite the dullish title) one of the best work-related books I’ve read in a long time. One of those ones that gets you thinking so much that you only read about 10 pages at a time.