March 5, 2010
Users have a special knowledge, and an intimate familiarity with data and process. Listening to them informs us. Watching how users work with our prototype system design lets us refine the design, so that it is clearer, more intuitive, easier to use, and harder to miss-use.
Listening is an attentive and active process that that requires focus and energy. Too many system design projects are based on untested assumptions — when listening to and watching users could have created a much better result.
Design is not cleaning up the mess, or adding ornamentation at the end. It’s a process of thinking, organizing, trying, testing, reworking, creating anew, refining, honing, and more. Successful systems work because they are well conceived, and responsive to user needs, styles, wishes, and habits. They continue to work because they are well structured, and can be easily maintained and enhanced.
A successful user interface design defines a process by which users interact with many elements of their work world. It’s much more than just a pretty set of screens.