TAG: User-Centered Design

Breaking the fundamentals

The fundamental purpose of an article page is to read the article, not read or click on something else.

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Personas and the Advantage of Designing for Yourself

What are personas good for?

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The hidden lives of MySpacers

Why opinions from anybody but users rarely matter.

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More Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture

How “information architecture” is defined much too broadly, frames design in the wrong way, and suffers from infoprefixation.

One of the more insightful social design books of the last decade is John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid’s The Social Life of Information (ch. 1), in which the authors suggest that we suffer from “tunnel vision” caused by an over-focus on technology. Certainly, the technological explosion of the Web has brought about huge changes, as Brown and Duguid should know: Brown works at Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and Duguid works at UC Berkeley, two of the most distinguished technology havens on Earth.

Infoprefixation

One emergent problem Brown and Duguid describe is called “infoprefixation”, or being over-fixated on information instead of focusing on the people who use it to enrich their lives. Here’s how they explain it:

“…you don’t need to look far these days to find much that is familiar in the world redefined as information. Books are portrayed as information containers, libraries as information warehouses, universities as information providers, and learning as information absorption. Organizations are depicted as information coordinators, meetings as information consolidators, talk as information exchange, markets as information-driven stimulus and response”

This tendency to reframe things in terms of information echoes my frustrations with “information architecture”…

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Can we talk about politics and design at the same time?

Last week I wrote about How to prevent valueless design in social web sites. My main point was that most of the value people get from the sites comes over time from the interactions with other people, not from the sublimity of the visual design.

In that post, I used an analogy that pissed people off. I used the analogy that great-looking interfaces can at times be like a public speech out of touch with an audience…solidly executed but sending the wrong message…

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Is there an Example of a Scalable Taxonomy?

Kevin Gamble (via Dave Weinberger):

“Is there any living, breathing example of a taxonomic approach working (scaling) to keep-up with the hyper-efficiency we see in peer-production systems? I’m being quite serious here. Can you point me to a working model?.”

Why is this an important question?

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Why do People Tag?

Gene Smith has a nice cheat sheet of this important article on tagging systems. He quotes the article (which I had read quite some time back, but now with renewed interest) “The motivations to tag can be categorized into two high-level practices: organizational and social. The first arises from the use of tagging as an […]

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Zeldman on Usability

Update: Changed some wording…some folks thought I was arguing with Zeldman. Actually, I was agreeing with him, and finding that his post echoed what I’ve found to be true. Jeffrey Zeldman on how he softened up to usability: “Like many design professionals, I rejected usability when I first encountered it. That’s mainly because I first […]

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Different Context, Different Design

In The Most Frustrating Thing, Matt Mullenweg, who helped create the Wordpress software that runs this site, is frustrated about our geeky fascination with technology and design. So frustrated, in fact, that he claims they don’t matter…

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Paul Rand on Design

Paul Rand on Design:

“To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.”

Note how Rand goes way beyond the common notion of design, incorporating not only the editing of content, but the embellishment of it. I think we need that sort of broad view of Web design, a field that is far too focused on the technical aspect of publishing, and hardly, if ever, focused on the verbs Rand was occupied with…

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