Does Design Matter?
Interface design matters most to the frustrated end user. It often seems to matter least to the designer/creator based on some of the poor stuff out there. Like acting and public speaking, it looks easy when you see someone else doing it, until you yourself have to get up on stage or behind a camera and create that same convincing proof that acting or speaking is easy. It isn't. Nor is instructional design, and more specifically, interface design. Throwing a bunch of text and pictures up in FrontPage or Dreamweaver does not a website make. It's a hard thing to coach someone else on, especially when they don't take the artistic leap of intuitively "getting it".
One of the things that the reading brought out for me was that interface design isn't just about websites, but includes things like what the icons on the desktop do, or for that matter, that it IS a dsktop and not a countertop, or cash register metaphor. SOMEONE had to decide that concept would work and translate easily for people to use. Being of the old school, my first computer experience was with an APPLE IIe and a zillion keystrokes, a half hour to reload the software EVERYTIME you used it,and the not-so lovely green screened letters. I say a prayer of thanks to the genius who thought outside of the box to design WYSIWYG.
As to our reading, I am convinced that Head's book is a classic example of "Don't judge a book by it's cover." I'm kind of surprised that a book on design is typeset doublespaced to look so much like an old term paper. She wouldn't have gotten a second look from me in a bookstore. An academician, specializing in HCI, she wrote this book on a sabbatical researching for Stanford University. She does a good job defining her terms, and breaking down and numbering her points. She gives good examples of what HCI is and the different elements that comprise it. To put it in coffetable talk, it appears that Alison is a techie writing to humanize the geekness of computers.
Theo Mandel is an educator and consultant so he appears to have a more rounded perspective on the process. He talks about concepts like quality of experience, and beats the drum about "knowing thy users, for they are not you." He culls out key points, and lays his book out better, making his a better example of user friendliness. OK, he is publishing with Wiley, vs Hunt's Cyberage--perhaps self published-- book so this may be an editor's function, but it still makes the point.
Richtel's article about Jakob Neilsen, is about an engineer who is teaching and preaching informational functionality on the web. Neilsen's critiques of some websites have influenced their redesign, and have assisted novices in avoiding some of the pitfalls when they heed his advice. He acknowledges that when the user fails in working with a website, it is likely the fault of the designer. He has established some criteria to define usablility standards, putting that which good designers "feel" into verbal terms that a non-intuitive person can begin to comprehend and follow.
I have found it interesting within myself as I have begun this course that I am looking at the design of things more critically. Driving on the hughway yesterday I was comparing the shape of tail lights on the passing cars, realizing that someone made a conscious choice about the squareness, or triangular shape they would have. Some of the lines flow smoothly creating intricate details. I watched a video about a city in the Holy Land in my Sunday School class and looked at the intricacies of design in the columns in the old cities. Design matters greatly to the designer creating the lines in the column and the triangular tail light, but the end user never gives it a thought. You never pay attention to the graphic layout of something until you are involved in graphic design. In surfing the web, I can qualify the experience because I know what I am doing. I can't necessarily explain the how-to or whys to someone else, but I have a heightened awareness of new things as a result of this thinking process. I never expected that to be a side benefit of interface design. I just figured I'd learn to do design the "right" way. Ah the joys of learning....
Link to Capella University