Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Impact of Design

After reading Donald Norman's first chapter of his new book, I realized a couple of things:

  1. What I'm designing right now has no catastrophic consequences if things go wrong for the user or the system;
  2. What I'm designing can be referred to as "low impact" because of the nature of the product (administration). Functionality is more driven than usability at certain times.
  3. The only thing I can affect is the bottom dollar, directly dependent on learnability.

Yes, I think in fundamental ways. I can also tell you that I've designed systems or products where catastrophic failures can occur. When this happens, more and more scenarios go through my head to anticipate every situation imaginable. And from Donald's new chapter, it can only come from the designer's head - that is why having usability analysts are important.

Anticipatory design is what we do. Solve it before it becomes a problem. But then that means automation in certain respects - by autofilling users' previous entries, by autocalculating cruise control speed on a car in approaching traffic. The objective is to meet the users' needs even before they start to complain - like a decent waiter at an exclusive restaurant.

While I won't be saving lives (directly) with what I'm doing (as opposed to developing airplane systems or auto-cruise control on cars), I will be improving some people's attitudes by creating a more pleasant and usable interface. Not that administration work is in itself pleasant, but perhaps then, less evil.

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