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User-Centred Design

Last night I attended a panel discussion on User-Centred design, hosted by CASS Business school, in conjunction with Electronic Ink and Wired magazine. My interest comes from working on agile software development projects that spend too many iterations re-working parts of the user interface following feedback from the showcase. This re-work is often described as 'part of the normal agile process', which it is - and it does work, but I think there's a more efficient way to get the end result.

Cass Tiny

There were several messages from the panel but two that resonated with my experience are:

First, use the right skills for the job - don't use software engineers to design the UI during an iteration. Software engineering and UI design are different disciplines.

Second, when a designer works with a User to develop the UI they use pencil and paper rather than code. The 'sketches' are quickly thrown away and new sketches created to reflect additional information or behaviour. This cycle can be repeated cheaply and easily until agreement is reached.

The combination of using the right design skills plus a process that can quickly develop UI concepts to the stage that they are ready for development, has potential to reduce time spent doing UI design during story development.

Panelists:

  • Dr Sara Jones (RCUK Research Fellow Creativity Applied to Design and Engineering, School of Informatics, City University London)
  • Conrad Troy (Lead Partner IT Enabled Business Transformation at KPMG)
  • Dave Weller (Chief Enterprise Architect of Thomson Reuters, Former CTO of Factiva)
  • Henry Dodds (Operations Director of Nomura International plc)
  • Harold Hambrose (Founder and CEO of Electronic Ink, a leading user-centered business systems Design company, author of the Wrench in the System)