Tuesday, 25 September 2007

The Age of Experience

The first talk at Dconstruct07 was given by Jared Spool and in my opinion kicked everything off to a good start. Jared's presentation was titled "The Dawning of the Age of Experience".

The emphasis of Jared's presentation was the user experience. Starting with the simple fact that technically the Ipod is nothing special (when you get right down to the technical specs.). It was the user experience of the Ipod/Itunes combination that made it an object of desire. The Netflix site is also highlighted and how it managed to take such a big slice of the online DVD rental market, apperently thanks to the user experience and word of mouth as opposed to advertising. Ipods keeping popping up during the day, it was during this talk that I started to try to think against the flow and find the "dark side" of the Ipod experience, the fruits of this labour will be detailed in a later post.

Good design is invisible, it doesn't get in the way of what the user is trying to do.

Jared also presented a few points that were apparently contradictory. On occasion it is possible for someone to circumvent countless hours of usability analysis, just by knowing the right thing to do (is he trying to put himself out of a job). Jared also highlights us to the fact that some skills are almost impossible to flow-chart or describe or even learn conventionally, rather they are acquired skills. His example is Chicken sexing. Jared also stresses the importance of conducting suitable usability analysis.

Jared does not seem to resolve the potential contradictions above, but I can see my own personal resolution based on experiences, maybe not quite what Jared had in mind but it works for me. Basically to ensure good usability you have to think like a usability expert, simply following a formula or studying a book won't cut it. How you come to think like a usability expert is of no consequence so long as you can do it. Don't know whether Jared would agree but hey it works for me.

By the way, I love the chicken sexing example it lends itself to so many thoughts.
"I have an innate ability to sex turkeys, but want to transition to chickens because the money is better!". "I am implementing the decisions of those who have an innate ability to sex dodos (which they still think is useful)" are just two hypothetical examples that spring to mind.

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