Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Are we speaking Alien?

I have a good feeling - and I'm sure many other usability practitioners have come across this - that we tend to speak a different language from developers. (Developers meaning the true sense of "coders" for lack of a better term.) Let me explain.

We recently had an educational series about UCD principles and it was well-received. It was for the developers and apparently, they learned quite a bit about what people in the UX field are most cognoscente about. And of course, everything that was taught was new to them. How could they know?

And this brings me to the point of what I dislike about about some people in our profession. There's this "we" and "them" mentality - we, being the people in UX, them, being developers or anyone else who may be labeled as ignorant. While we do know it exists, sometimes it's also all in our own mind. Yes, I used to be one of them many years ago - but that's only because I didn't truly understand what this game was all about.

It's not about battling each other because of egos (even though that's the case sometimes), and it's not because "they" didn't want to understand. It's because "we" as people in the field of UX aren't speaking a language that ordinary people can understand. (Yes, we are weird.)

We talk of wireframes and task analysis and layouts and personas, user profiles, U.I. standards, U.I. patterns and card sorting, usability testing, heurisitics, VIMM models and it goes on. So what really is this language? It's all jargon that we use to explain ourselves, but it doesn't get the message across. So what to do?

We in the UX field need a translator. It can be in the form of another person or ourselves. Either we learn the language (of ordinary English) or the Developer needs to learn our language. Which do you think is easier?

Ok, so we opted for the latter, but it wasn't easy. And we had to put it in plain english or it wouldn't be understood. Sometimes we get so caught-up in our research and our own mental models that we're not doing an effective job.

The point is, we really need to be more sensitive to our developers. We're sensitive to our users, so what makes development any different.

If we're here to serve our users, let's also serve everyone who's related to them either directly or indirectly. We're looking to make our users' life easier and so it starts by talking to development properly. It also takes some education, on both parties.

So, how about it?

1 comment:

Eva said...

Amen! This is a great post! When we blame developers for getting "too technical" in their explanations, we forget that we are sometimes guilty of the same thing.