Seems to me there”s some sort of meta-critique that can be made (or perhaps has already been made) regarding what Norman observes about attractive things being functionally superior to ugly things, and the conflicting idea in some UX circles that intentionally ugly deliverables might “work better” than high-fidelity comps and prototypes for representing and conveying foundational and structural design intention to our clients.
There”s a prima facie problem with the notion that abstract, simplified, aesthetically-neutral deliverables might be better at conveying design intent and getting durable client approval on specific, complex structural and navigational ideas. Especially if your understanding of Don Norman”s work is that he”s saying attractive things always work better than ugly things. This oversimplified reading of Norman would seem to necessarily stand as an indictment of the traditional approach to IA design, as much of the simplification and abstraction in IA design deliverables is attained by subtraction of visual design elements that correlate with attractive-ness. But hold-up:
[the] pleasure derivable from the appearance or functioning of the tool increases positive affect, broadening the creativity and increasing the tolerance for minor difficulties and blockages. Minor problems in the design are overlooked. The changes in processing style released by positive affect aids in creative problem solving that is apt to overcome both difficulties encountered in the activity as well as those created by the interface design. In other words, when we feel good, we overlook design faults. Use a pleasing design, one that looks good and feels, well, sexy, and the behavior seems to go along more smoothly, more easily, and better. Attractive things work better
In my IA class at UM SI, I talk about how the abstract deliverables we create as information architects can be more effective with client decisionmaking on issues like organization scheme and navigation and labeling because they subtract the highly emotional stuff (photography, color, typography) that “skews” client understanding of the info architecture. Counterintuitively (for some at least), the passage from Norman quoted above strengthens the argument some UX folks have been making with regards to simpler, even ugly deliverables*. The more attractive the deliverables are, the more likely the client will “overlook design faults”.
*NOTE: link to anonymous IA Wiki node with discussion of pretty vs. ugly deliverables is currently offline. I quote this node on a slide in my class, which is viewable here.
Just noticed (now that I’m using del.icio.us again) that at some point last year, Brian Kerr sent me a link to this sobering blog posting entitled Is Librarianship A Profession? Raises some eyebrow-knittingly uncomfortable questions that everybody who’s in or thinking about “library school” needs to read. It’s not all doom and gloom, and I’ll be a spoiler by quoting from Ms. Salo’s conclusion:
For myself, I’m not worried. I’m one of those folks who, based on developments in the research enterprise, is likely to be able to barter my labor individually for a decent price no matter what happens to librarianship as a profession. I’ll still call myself a librarian, no fear there. The question is whether people nod respectfully when I do—or laugh.
Sally McKenzie pops eCommerce n00b balloons up and down the block in tour-de-force called “E-commerce Freshman: Is Your Shopping Cart Before the Horse?”
…recently I have received a number of calls and emails from e-commerce first timers. The recession has prompted some pure brick and mortar retailers to seek growth in the online world. Or, sole proprietors are starting e-commerce businesses with hopes of pursuing a dream and ditching the need for a day job … Inevitably, the conversation starts with the client inquiring about what e-commerce platform or shopping cart software they should use. There are so many out there, it’s confusing, etc. … Well, it IS confusing. But one of the reasons it’s confusing is that you may be putting the shopping cart before the horse.
I think it the catchy title of the thread I created helped provoke so many great replies:Information Architect Seeks Assist from Regular-Old Architects
Here”s one gem from the growing pile of slot machines online gems:
Technology and software have actually made it easier for architects, including our firm, to make too many major changes late in the project because we didn”t resolve the design fully in schematic design
One of the big “question areas” I’m going to be exploring with architects as I do research for the book I’ve started writing is the rise of the use of CAD in regular-old architecture design and development processes and for those who’ve been around long enough to have the perspective … if 3D computer graphics and other digital renderings have made client relations and client sign-off any more or less durable than when physical maquettes and models were used in the process back in the day. Hopefully there’s a pile of dissertations about CAD vs. pre-CAD that I can pilfer some good bits from.
“Suppose that you had been commissioned to build a really grand opera house; that after the construction work had nearly been completed and your scheme of decoration fully designed you should be instructed that the building was to be used on Sundays as a Baptist Tabernacle, and that suitable place must be made for a huge organ, a pulpit, and a dipping pool. Then at intervals afterward, you should be advised that it must be so refitted and furnished that parts of it could be used for a court room, a jail, a online casino blackjack concert hall, hotel, skating rink, for surgical cliniques, for a circus, dog show, drill room, ball room, railway station and shot tower? That is what is nearly always going on with public parks. Pardon me if I overwhelm you: it is a matter of chronic anger with me.”
– Olmsted Papers, Reel 22. January 22, 1891.