Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Dogmatic Advise and Thoughtful Design
In the july+august issue of the ACM Magazine Interactions, Don Norman argues that doing user observations first is wrong. Usually Norman is man of wisdom, but this time he argues against a dogmatic view (that user observation should come before design), while unfortunately pushing another dogmatic view. As soon as someone argues that "this is the way to do it" we have to be careful. In Norman's case, it is of course quite easy to find example situations where it is a good idea to do user observations first, as well as it is easy to find situations where it is better to start with design. No rule, no process advise is always "true", it all has to do with intention, purpose, context, and judgment. This is the background to my (our) book "Thoughtful Interaction Design" in which we try to describe a way to approach design that in a serious way takes "intention, purpose, context, and judgment" not as problems in design but as preconditions. Based on this we develop a thoughtful approach where dogmatic ideas have no place. This leads to an understanding of design and the designer that, while keeping design complex and rich, establishes a way of developing personal design competence, not in the form of external guidelines but as internalized qualities, not as predefined action sequences but as a sensibility of quality and a respect for the particular.
Posted by Erik Stolterman at 8:41 PM