Jonathan Arnowitz, Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson
The fun of a good, provocative, declarative statement is the hidden assumption that underlies that statement. In Don Norman's recent article, "Why Doing User Observations First is Wrong," (<interactions> XIII.4, July-August 2006) he appears to make the assumption that we in HCI do studies as a step in a process (or outside the process but thus as part of an overall process structure). I would argue that our studies should be as a result of a question. (Sure, questions will be arising along any product path.) It's the question that determines whether or not a study is needed and, if so, what study. Doing "user observations first" is neither right nor wrong (as I suspect Norman knows); doing user observations in the absence of an appropriate driving question is wrong.
Sara Bly Consulting
I just read your article "Dead on Arrival: A Case Study of Non-User-Centered Design for a Police Emergency-Response System" (<interactions> XIII.5, September-October 2006) and just about fell out of my chair. For the past year I have been working on the design of different pieces of public-safety software, including a mobile client and a CAD client. It has been a most trying process and reading your article made me laugh: The same mistakes are still being made! It seems as if vendors are more interested in features than how they work or whether they support the users appropriately. I cannot even count how many times I have been in design reviews and hear product managers say something to the effect of, "Vendor X has 453 shortcut keys all visible with one keystroke, so let's have 454 and make them always visible! It's so easy for the user because it's right in front of them!" Fortunately the subject matter is really fun and interesting, so in the end it all works out for our team. Thank you for such an informative article and reminding us we are not alone out there.
Human Factors Specialist
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