A very valid point you have made. What doesn't work on paper will definitely not work in real life. Plus a well-researched project does progress at a better rate and actually has a chance of making it to the finish line.
"Finally, some people claim that doing design research puts too much restraint on their creativity. Ironically, a robust design research process actually gives you a lot of design freedom. Even better, it points you more directly to where the majority of all your creative energies should be focused, which can drastically increase product development efficiency and innovation."
I think this is a very fair statement. I would think the challenge is determining how much up front research is enough - striking a balance between the amount of research to be done and when to move into the next phase. Also, understanding your target audience is key - usability feedback must be from actual users rather than people from a generalized group that fall into a predefined category.
Good point Nancy. Sometimes it is a matter of doing the most you can with the small amount of resourced available at the beginning of a project. This is just reality. And you are correct, WAY too many R&D people just think, "I would do it this way", or "this seems to work for me". These people may be from Mars, and actual users may be from Venus!
The map of the house is a great analogy. Many details regarding the homeowners preferences need to be known before the construction crew starts building. Why do they wat the sink here, or over there? Where is the ceiling to be vaulted? Which direction do they want the staircase to face, and why? We need to know this stuff.
Sadly, so often we see a high amount of engineering effort go into product development before the "house plans" have been sketched in, even at a primary level.
Tom, I myself am guilty of "WAY too many R&D people just think, "I would do it this way", or "this seems to work for me". These people may be from Mars, and actual users may be from Venus!"
Not so much on test equipment projects as we generally had predefined customer specs and a huge experience base that went a long way - I designed production and lab test equipment and we were pretty good at what we did with a thorough understanding of the operating environment. Because we maintained what we built and interacted with the operators on a daily basis, usability was already a part of our paradigm.
So it seems funny to me that I didn't take this into consideration when I was designing my small business website. I developed it the way I liked it - without considering whether or not it was user friendly to my audience - I assumed that since it made sense to me, it would make sense to others. Since I was an engineer who owned horses, and my target audience was horse owners, this did not translate so well. My engineering background was a liabiity in my design since most of my audience were rural non-engineers with access to limited technology(some are still on dial-up). After conducting some usability studies I implemented some major changes that met the needs of my customers much more effectively. While this is not the development of a product - it does illustrate the need for researcjh up front rather than operating on just your own instincts.
The comments about putting prototypes in front 0of people brings to my mind that great lie,"Consumers are demanding this", when that is not the case at all. What happens is that marketing types think up some feature to make their product different. We see them worshiping "product differentiation", which is supposed to bring out those features that somebody is demanding, while the truth is that nobody ever thought of that feature.
AND OF COURSE the new feature is never tested as to useability or usefullness, or how it will work with other functions.
So it is indeed vital to do some actual research, much more than asking a group of five, who happen to not need to be at work, what they think of some offering. And it is indeed far better to first find out where an actual need is, and then do a bit more research, and finally come up with a design concept and a design.
I am always hesitant to agree with anyone who declares, "This is THE WAY it is done." Which is written first; the music or the words? Depends on the artist.
I worked with and for a man who rarely had an original thought, yet he was able to improve on almost any project we had, once someone else got the process rolling. He used to joke that he was only good at second-guessing, but it worked for him. He became very wealthy and retired early to a life of ease.
Time and time again I would put the user interface through its paces and find flaws in the specification, or put it in front of the customer to see that it wasn't really what they wanted. OEMs will draw screen shots of what they want, but rarely practice the process of pushing buttons and watching the display change. We started filming people when they had their first experience with a user interface and were always surprised to see what button they would attempt to press for a desired function. I still feel the best user interface allows multiple paths to the same function.
Interesting... when you are attempting to design multiple paths to a single function, how do you ensure that it is clear which path is a priority, or put more simply, how do you make sure the user is not confused by the multiple paths?
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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