Retiring a Methodology


IA Summit 2008 in Second Life

During last week I got to see Jared Spool keynote at IAsummit via a streaming into Second Life. Okay its wasn’t that great, the streaming not the presentation. After reviewing the presentation later. It’s apparent to me that some people maybe missing the point of methodologies.

Jared’s core comments are summed up well by Mia Northrop and Molly from NLC Internet Marketing Blog, basically he proposes that we should be moving away from UCD and start to own up to the point that we haven’t really been practicing it anyway. Thumps up Jared.

But if you think about it, does it matter. In reality a practical modern methodology should not be a collection of reliant steps with supplementary techniques and tools that are all interdependent.

Screw the Users

Shouldn’t any design approach be aligned to the bottom line. The business direction or vision of the organisation, this in turn should be reflected in the website. Generally you’re not going to get the project surviving if it’s not inline with the goals of the organisation.

After all, to be honest, does it really matter what the user wants. Yes and no. Sure improve the process for the user, but if the user requirements are too far removed from the organisational vision is there any point. We have either the wrong audience or an organisation morphing its direction. Which if you think about it is the same thing.

Before you get all UX zealot on me. Yes, sure the user experience is important, but only at the micro level of the process, products and procedures. But on the macro level it has to come down to the organisation goal. After we have provided the goal we can then look at supplementary services for providing the user requirements.

The Process

From my experience the process in which this is done is not a standardised traditional approach. This type of methodology died with the mainframe and the old 25 volume developmental methodologies.

Now it’s just the application of a holistic toolbox of techniques, tools and short course methods or defined micro processes. Any good team will apply them as require, mixing them in and out as required, iterating the process as required.

As expect this toolbox is applied depending on the budget and scope of the project. There is a distinct difference in the delivery of a UX for a $3000 site verses a $30,000 one. But that said still very core of the UX should be presented and implemented no matter what the budget. How you do this is a topic for a future post.

Jared’s comments are amusing from my localised view point. For many organisations UCD is an unknown so it’s a little amusing to hear UCD being retired, when some aren’t even there yet.

So is Jared just stating what we have all really been doing for years or is it a little more. Is this just UX and UCD spun into one package?

The slideshare presentation is below.

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  1. Good post Gary. Like you, I see the UCD methodology as a framework consisting of a range of tools and techniques that you pick and choose accordingly, dependent upon the requirements of the job.

    Like a hardware toolbox, you won’t use every single tool if you need to hang a picture. You could use every tool in the toolbox, but it wouldn’t be particularly effective for hanging that picture (go jigsaw machine thingy, go!).

    I’m a strong believer in being pragmatic (which by the way, is a draft post that I wrote last year and just never published! I better do that soon) and doing what we can to achieve the best outcome within the constraints. It’s about helping our clients make an informed decision about designing and developing a product but ultimately, I still believe that we must consider the user experience as a whole. We might not be able to do much about it on a smaller budget, but at least our design decisions are made in that context.

  2. Caronne Carruthers-Taylor

    Hi Gary, I agree with you & Ruth. UCD and UX are relatively unknown in Government agencies – despite the formulation of UCD teams in several Federal Govt depts. Appropriate use of tools and techniques is the best & most practical methodology. Incorporating UX & UCD into SDLC / project methodologies in govt – especially fitting in with project managers, architects, developers, BAs – is the biggest challenge for most UCD teams and my particular interest.

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