The six disciplines of User Experience

January 25, 2008

As envisioned by Donald Norman and inspired by his book “The invisible computer“.
The following skills are required for building the best user experience into a product (could be any product from hi-tech to manufacturing)

  1. Field studies – Observing potiential users doing their tasks in their normal settings. Skills require careful and systematic observation and usually come from the fields of anthropology and sociology.
  2. Behavioral designers – People who create a cohesive model for the product based on a detailed task analysis of the users. They mesh the task requirements with the skills and capabilities of the intended users and this model becomes the basis for engineering design.
    Skills required for this come from the cognitive science and experimental psychology.
  3. Model builders – People who rapidly build prototypes and product mock-ups that can be tested even before the real technology is ready. Skills for this usually come from people with a designing and programming background (information architects) and architecture and industrial design.
  4. User testers – These people are usually involved in performing usability and feasibility studies. Through rapid user-testing studies , they enable to iterate through designs in order to meet the real needs of the users. Skills for this come from experimental psychology.
  5. Graphical and industrial designers – At this stage, the aesthetics of the product are brought in through people who have experience in graphical and industrial design, and the “joy” and “pleasure” of using the product come into picture. Not only must the product designed merge the conceptual model and behavioral aspects but it must also meet varoius requirements of technology. These skills are usually brought in by people from schools of art, design and architecture.
  6. Technical writers – The goal of these people should be to show the technologists how to build things that do not require manuals. However in the real world scenario, they are usually brought in after the product is built and are asked to write usage manuals. The technical writers should be able to understand the audience, what the intended users require of the product and how they can go about getting their tasks done through the product. The technical writers should be an integral part of the development team, so that the product is built so well that no instruction manual will be required.

So here’s the deal, in a typical technology product, there is no luxury of time to go about doing all the above mentioned steps and in many cases some of the steps can’t be executed because the target audience characteristic is too far and wide.

What do you think is the best model that can work for a typical web based application scenario in order to make sure that the real needs of the user are met ?


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