Looking back at my best-designed products, I realized that they were not only personal bests but TEAM bests. Effective interface design is more than just following guidelines and applying rules. To create products that are truly useful and usable, one must follow a user-centered attitude and design methodology. (See BBG’s SalesPro & Data mining products as well as MailPro a self service html mail builder.Download productdemo.swf
) The right combination of diverse skills, team structure, and development process were essential to implementing user-centered design for those products.
The Team Make Up Is The Key
It is important to have a well-balanced team that has the skills needed to implement a user-centered design approach to product development, often referred to as User Experience (UE). Rarely are all these skills found in one person, so create a team of individuals who specialize in these areas who can contribute uniquely to the final product. The following sections describe the various disciplines in UE and how they should be integrated into the team structure and product development process.
User Experience Disciplines
Interaction/Product Designers create a cohesive conceptual model for the product that is consistent and easy to learn and understand. They build a solution that supports the overall work flow, not just isolated actions. Interaction design must take into account the task requirements and context of use with users’ skills, knowledge, and capabilities. Interaction designers typically have backgrounds in human-computer interaction, human factors, graphic design, industrial design, or equivalent.
Visual Designers are trained in graphic design and possess the design skills that merge the conceptual model and interaction design with the aesthetics of the product. They are the experts at layout, typography, color, and illustration. They design the product pages with the goal of making the site easy to consume visually, aesthetically pleasing to look at, and visually consistent with the rest of the network.
User Researchers (Usability Engineers) gather qualitative data about what users are doing. The characteristic attributes of this research are that it is qualitative (as opposed to the quantitative data gathered from data mining and surveys), emphasize behavioral observation (as opposed to asking users what they do), and center on understanding users’ intent (as opposed to only looking at what happened).
Web Developers/Rapid Prototypers can rapidly build product mock-ups and interfaces that can be tested immediately, before the real technology is implemented. Skills for this role typically come from computer science or engineering.