XII.3 May + June 2005
Page: 64
Digital Citation

Attitudes towards testing

Nevin Berger

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We think "we" own the design of the user experience. Now comes the troubling question: Who are we? We hoped that by setting out an ownership challenge we would instigate some trouble among several organizations competing for turf. This competition largely did not happen. It did not happen because SIGCHI, SIGGRAPH, AIGA, UPA, Design Management, AiFiA and others are finally becoming the complementary groups they should be. They compete in some aspects: The AIGA Experience Design Group is definitely competing for the same members as the practitioner community of SIGCHI. UPA started off as a splinter group from SIGCHI, unhappy that practitioner concerns went unnoticed in a highly academic environment. Your editors-in-chief have spent the last five years trying to institute more opportunities for practitioners to meet and share at CHI events, with (shall we say) modest success. And of course everyone claims their take on HCI is the most important. Nevertheless, there is an appreciation that the concerns of HCI are more complex than any one group can manage.

The newest, and most successful, attempts to start new HCI organizations are those that try to network among the existing groups. SIGCHI's nascent DUX community is by far the most visible but not the only example. Surprised and thrilled at the home they found in the first DUX conference in San Francisco in 2003, members of more than 20 San Francisco Bay Area branches of HCI organizations founded BayDUX to coordinate discussions and events. UXnet and IxDG are also very recent developments on the "let's get coordinated" direction that is pulling together people from all over the world to discuss user experiences. While there are interesting new blogs and listservs to join, and occasional face-to-face events worldwide, it's unclear what effect the organizational soup is having on our day-to-day work.

Who is ultimately responsible for the user experience? Of course we all need many stakeholders throughout the software/hardware creation processes. Without an owner, without an accountable party there is no real serious hope for success. From high concept to detailed design, we need authority, accountability, and ownership. And we need to wield that responsibly. We think it comes to this: Vision. Leadership. Accountability.

A product vision needs an owner who will promote it, defend it, exercise it, and discard it when it no longer serves its purpose. A user experience needs the same kind of fearless champion who can answer the tough questions, stretch their thinking, skirt the abyss of edge cases and refuse to discuss preferences before the design is stable. Just checking to see if you're still with us here.

Don't get us wrong: We don't think designers are all interchangeable. Where elegance in user interaction is of paramount importance, the interaction designer should be the accountable owner. For information rich services, the information architect may need to lead. For projects where a stunning visual design is required, the graphic artist has the dominant voice. We'd like to see everyone, not just the oldest curmudgeon in the HCI group, present a mature and holistic attitude toward product creation. We won't be able to lead until we get our act together and acknowledge some shared goals in common language. What do all these organizations have in common? We think they all have the same spirit: Do good. When you get that working, do better. Our strength is our common ground: The HCI discipline is the playing field where diverse perspectives meet and great things happen. So do your part, already!—<eic>

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