Do you remember the WordPerfect function key template?
Is this user-centered design?
When doing user-centered design I think about 3 different conceptual models of an application/system.
- The Developers’s Model;
- The User’s Model;
- The System Model.
The goal of user-centered design is to optimize the overlap between these different and often disparate models.
The keyboard template is a method for exposing more of the system model to the end-user. This forces the user’s to conform to how the system works, which I would argue is not user-centered design. But it is an extremely effective method for increasing the overlap between the system model and the user’s conceptual model.
How do you maximize the overlap?
The goal of user-centered design is to maximize the overlap by using methods and techniques to better understand users and change the design of the application. Techniques like contextual inquiry allow the development team to understand the tasks, information flow, social networks, and the environment on people as they perform work. Usability analysis allows developers to evaluate the performance of an application with real users. And standards and guidelines helps the development team design an application that has a consistent conversation/dialogue with it users.
All of these methods are part of the design process. How do we design the application? How do we move the developers conceptual model and the system model closer to the user’s conceptual model. There is another industry that has formed to move the user’s conceptual model closer to the existing system models.
Training and Development
Online courses. Training manuals. Professional certifications.
These are all like the WordPerfect keyboard template in that they help to align the different conceptual models by modifying the user’s model. I wonder about the effectiveness of training and documentation methods for everyday users. How many people read the manuals that come with their dishwashers? Can we expect these same people to read the manuals that come with our applications?