Revolution Lullabye

February 19, 2009

Scott, “The Practice of Usability”

Scott, J. Blake. “The Practice of Usability: Teaching User Engagement through Service-Learning.” Technical Communication Quarterly 17.4 381-412.

Teaching about user-centered design and usability is different from practicing it. This article, categorized as teacher research by the author, centers on the author’s introductory technical writing students, who are asked to enact user-centered design principles in their service learning projects at an Orlando-area HIV planning council (which distributes services to HIV patients in the area.) The students demonstrate knowledge of user-centered design principles, which (like participatory design) integrate the user in the process of design, treating the user(s) not as clients but rather as collaborators. This kind of design process is complex, messy, and complicated, and the author finds that even though students intellectually understand the merits and values of the process, they do not succeed in enacting it. Scott concludes that more time is needed in the classroom – and in the scholarship of the field – dedicated to discussing and talking about the practices of user-centered design. These practical issues, which he describes as metis (flexible intelligence) are breezed over, but they (how to gain access to users, how to communicate with them, how to set deadlines, how to research the institution and the potential users) are the key to implementing a user-centered design and having a successful service-learning experience for both the students and the community organization.

Quotable Quotes

The study shows how his students “gradually came to understand usability as a situated, dynamic, messy, and difficult process and set of practices involving various user-engagement challenges and requiring the flexible adaptation of usability methods” (384).

Our scholarship on user-centered design or service learning “often stop short of foregrounding or even addressing practice-level issues” (406). We need to make “such practices visible” (406)

“By foregrounding the context-specific, complex, difficult, and dynamic practice of usability for students, we can help them develop a flexible intelligence that can serve them as technical communicators and rhetors more generally” (406).

Notable Notes

Cited works: Spinuzzi, Robert Johnson (user-centered design), Huckin (service-learning and technical writing), Linda Flower, JT Grabill

connection between participatory design and user-centered design

data included student assignments, interviews with the students, and pre-and post-course questionnaires, coding responses

25 students from two sections of introductory technical writing in Spring 2005 (research done the following semester)

best to introduce concept of usability in advanced technical writing class or as part of a two-semester sequence because of how much time a complicated service project takes incorportating user-centered design.

ease-based v. user-based design (401)

focusing on practice-level issues is like the classical pedagogical technique of imitation (mimesis) – not straight imitation but rather “a creative process of rearranging and reconstructing rhetorical elements in light of kairos” (404)

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January 10, 2009

Shedroff, Experience Design

Shedroff, Nathan. Experience Design 1. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Press, 2001.

Experience design seeks out the common elements that make “superior” experiences, those that are successful and memorable. Shedroff includes all experiences in his analysis, both online and off-line, and his goal is to define principles of good experiences so that they can be consciously reproduced. Experiences are contained by their boundaries and usually consist of three major phases: attraction, engagement, and conclusion. The principles Shedroff discovers by evaluating and analyzing superior experiences (those he deems superior) connect to all three of those phases and include attributes like consistency, usability, interactivity, feedback, control, creativity, adaptivity, and community and identity creation. These types of good experiences have developed cognitive models, which is a structure based on how the designer predicts how the audience might understand the information, find meaning in it, and remember it. Shedroff also argues that good design is derived from insight, which is created by thoughtful, contextual structured information, developed along a continuum of information, stretching from pure data (which has no context), to context-driven, organized¬†information, to generalized knowledge, to personalized, non-transmittable wisdom.

Quotable Quotes

“The elements that contribute to superior experiences are knowable and reproducible, which can make them designable” (2).

“[Seduction] has always been a part of design” (8)

“Information is really data transformed into something more valuable by building context around it so that it becomes understandable” (34) and “Information is data put in context with thought given to its organization and presentation” (42).

“The path to wisdom is not even open until we approach understanding with an openness and tolerance for ambiguity” (54).

“The most important aspect of any design is how it is understood in the minds of the audience” (cognitive model) (60).

Notable Notes

Experiences must “compete for the attention of the audience and partcipants” – novelty isn’t enough to keep a person interested for long. Compare with Lanham The Economy of Attention. (4) “Successful digital media are those that offer experiences unique to their medium and complete with traditional media in usefulness and satisfaction” (4)

Look at experiences throughout history to inform the design of present and future things (23)

Important experiences include birth, death, and the takeaway moments – those important experiences that you take away with you as you die as your lasting memories of Earth (rarely have anything to do with modern digital technology)

Information overload is really information anxiety – there is too much information out there as just data, no context or insight to put it into perspective or communication with others (34)

Ways to organize data (only 7) – magnitude, time, numbers, alphabet, category, location, randomness. Many presentation possibilities for the same data (example of the periodic table of the elements.) (66)

There is a need for multiplicity for different learning styles, redundancy, different levels of understanding and meaning (example of Vietnam memorial in DC), navigation routes.

Clear navigation and cognitive models are key in design.

Important design considerations: consistency, usability (learnability and functionality), design must create meaning, interactivity (audience are participants), feedback (audiences know that their participation matters), control (audience has control over experience Рor thinks they do), creativity (people feel valuable, satisfied when asked to be creative), productivity (usefulness), adaptivity (customized, personalized), community membership, authentic identity formation, storytelling, narrative, perspective and point-of-view.

Sensorial design (276) – smell, taste, touch, sound, sight

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