Evolve through Evaluations ..
Why are products developed? To make our lives better and easier!
So how should they be designed? To make our lives better and easier!
So what should we do? Simple!
Accept human behavior the way it is, not the way we wish it to be…
Now I feel there are two problems with that..
First is that sometimes the users themselves don’t know what they want. Their idea of the product keeps on changing, or they may realize that they want or don’t want something only after it has been presented to them.
Second is that we want our devices to be purposeful as well as simple and easy to use as well as aesthetically pleasing all at the same time. Hence to presume that following the predefined design guidelines guarantees good usability of a product is a big mistake. The human mind works in mysterious ways. Unless we see how it is working with our product, we cannot be sure of how pleasurable an experience our product actually could actually give the user.
With our demands being so multifarious, evaluating a product properly at different stages of development to make sure it is in track with the user’s expectations from the product becomes all the more important for the designer. Moreover, having to fix the final product that might be totally different from what the users wanted is much more complicated than fixing the smaller problems and making the smaller changes as they are identified along the development process.
Different systems however need to be tested in different ways depending upon the purpose and crowd it serves. A good designer should be able to make out what kind of evaluation is required at which stage and for which system.
The real world presents a lot of scenarios which a designer might overlook during the development process. These unexpected obstacles will hamper in the expected functioning of the products. Hence to have a better understanding of how the product will in its intended setting, we need to carry out field tests when the prototype is ready.
In a laboratory, a product may be used by a person without any disturbance. However in real life, a person’s daily activities are punctured by interrupts. Moreover our lives are nowadays driven by deadlines! In the real world, a person rushing through his day might not have the time to deal with a product that isn’t easily accessible and consumes more of his time and energy than the task otherwise would have without using that product.
Hence to ensure the usefulness of the product in the real world, it is important to observe people’s behavior with the product in a natural setting as the behavior of a person sitting in a laboratory to test the product with his entire concentration on it hardly matches with the behavior of a person going about his real world activities.
In fact a designer should be prepared to see surprising results from the field tests, right from unexpected technical problems cropping up to users interacting with the products in ways that they never imagined. Though it may elongate the development time a bit further, these are actually excellent opportunities to get to know and solve the problems in a product before it is presented to the users. More evaluation with the users, better the final product will be as the designers can then code and concentrate on real problems, instead of having debates on imaginary problems.
The importance of evaluations having been said, another question that rises is how much is enough when it comes to testing. Every test will reveal few more flaws or few more possible areas of improvement with a design. There is no end to it. No design can ever be perfect; and hence it is meaningless to keep waiting for the day when all flaws of a system would be taken care of and an ideal system can be given to the users. This is in fact impossible, because an ideal system for one user might not be ideal for another user. Idealism is something that cannot be achieved, but we can definitely strive to have a final product that is pleasurable for the masses.
So how do we decide when we should stop? When enough testing has been done? Generally schedule and budget constraints determine when to stop. And until then the developers should keep on evaluating it trying to align it more and more with the user’s expectations… because if users don’t like a system, it doesn’t matter how successful the design according to the developers are; the users probably won’t use it; and that kills the entire purpose of designing and developing the product.