Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do You Consider Users' Goals, Needs, Motivations?

Why don't interactive systems take users' goals, needs, or motivations into accout? In About Face Alan Cooper provides an important take:
Digital products come into this world subject to the push and pull of two, often opposing, forces - developers and marketers. While marketers are adept at understanding and quantifying a marketplace opportunity, and at introducing and positioning a product within that market, their input into the product design process is often limited to lists of requirements. These requirements often have little to do with what users actually need or desire and have more to do with chasing the competition, managing IT resources with to-do lists, and making guesses based on market surveys - what people say they'll buy...Unfortunately, reducing an interactive product to a list of hundreds of features doesn't lend itself to the kind of graceful orchestration that is required to make complex technology useful. Adding "easy to use" to the list of requirements does nothing to improve the situation.

Developers, on the other hand, often have no shortage of input into the product's final form and behavior. Because they are in charge of construction, they decide exactly what gets built. And they, too, have a different set of imperatives than the product's eventual users. Good developers are focused on solving challenging technical problems, following good engineering practices and meeting deadlines. They are often given incomplete, confusing, and sometimes contradictory instructions and are forced to make significant decisions about the user experience with little time or background.

Thus, the people who are most often responsible for the creation of our digital products rarely take into account the users' goals, needs, or motivations, and at the same time tend to be highly reactive to market trends and technical constraints. This can't help but result in products that lack a coherent user experience.

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