Professionalism

The following ten things have been said by actual clients and represent common and very human reactions to a new wrinkle in the process of building software: design. By gathering these comments in one place and sharing them widely, it becomes easier to recognize them, so we can keep our calm and contribute to effective software teams.

“What I need are highly condensed overviews,” I thought, “like those comic books that convert great literary works into a few illustrated pages. They condense Moby Dick down to 12 pages and provide a version of Great Expectations that can be read in 15 minutes.”

January 13th, 2003

Printing the Web

Despite predictions to the contrary, it doesn’t seem that the advent of networked information sharing has reduced human consumption of paper. In fact, given the amount of printouts modern offices and homes produce, one is inclined to say that even MORE paper is generated today than ever before.

Mention the use of HTML for wireframing or prototyping, and some information architects and interaction designers frantically look for the nearest exit. In some circles, HTML has acquired the reputation of being a time-consuming, difficult undertaking best left to developers. This is very far from the truth.

December 1st, 2002

Leading from Within

While there are IAs fortunate enough to work in companies that wholeheartedly embrace user-centered design, there are many more whose biggest challenge isn’t the work itself; it’s finding the opportunity to do the work, at the right time, in a meaningful way.

What the design student needs is a design course that stresses usability, human factors, and clarity, instead of the typical branding and interpretation problems they usually encounter in their other design classes. James Spahr recounts a year of teaching at Pratt Institute that attempts to cross those boundaries.

Several orienteering strategies – including map simplification and contact, navigating by checkpoints, rough and precise map reading, and using attack points to find the goal – have useful IA parallels. Gene Smith explores how IAs can learn from these parallel techniques and create digital spaces that are easier to navigate.

With a creative background and an M.B.A., I’ve been a professional half-breed over the past 20 years. What I’ve learned is that the antagonism, hostility and resentment often felt on both sides of the equation is the outgrowth of a basic failure to understand what makes the other side tick.

Lighting design has a utilitarian role: to put enough light on the stage so that the audience can see the actors. But the lighting also helps shape the performance by providing the color and overtones that add meaning and layers and depth. The same mix of art and technology, craft and discipline exists in user interface design.

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