User Centered Design(readings on Sep.13 2016)

The readings, Terry Winograd, The Alto and the Star, in Winograd, T., Gordon, P., eds, Bringing Design to Software, New York: Pearson, 1996. and David Liddle, Design of the Conceptual Model, in Winograd, T., Gordon, P., eds, Bringing Design to Software, New York: Pearson, 1996. give us a brief introduction about the development and historical contribution of Xerox Corporation and its personal computers, the Alto and the Star.

The Alto, the progenitor of the modern personal computer with bitmap screen, graphical interface and pointing device, was design to meet the requirement of the users who were stuck in bad code-based interfaces. The human-friendly GUI showed users a visible virtual world in which they can write, draw, compute and manage file, etc.

The Alto

The Star, as an update from the Alto, not only augmented the basic function of the Alto, but also became a flag of emphasizing user’s conceptual model in design. Three principles were articulated to summarize the design.

  1. Direct manipulation
  2. WYSIWYG
  3. Consistency of commands

From the interview with David Liddle, the user’s conceptual model, including what the users think, what the users like to see and how the users respond should be placed in the most priority position in software design. Before caring about how to program, the designers first of all need a clear, considerate and concrete understanding of user’s conceptual model. However, that’s still not enough. During the iteration of design, user’s conceptual model usually change. What the designers should do is to keep pace with the change and modify the model as soon as possible.

Such design concept inspires me a lot when I’m thinking about the development of mobile phone. Initially, mobile phone is very large and hard to hold by hand for the constrains of hardware. As the improvement of production technology, mobile phone became smaller and smaller to fit people’s hand. However, this tendency turned to the other side because of user’s requirement to bigger screen. Nowadays, the size of smart phone becomes stable which provides user a large enough screen as well as comfortable hold experience.

When talking about how to understand user’s conceptual model, establishing requirement from user is a key step.

From the reading, Yvonne Rogers, Helen Sharp, Jenny Preece (RSP), Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, 3rd ed, Wiley. 2007, Chapter 10, Identifying needs and establishing requirements. We learned two essential reasons for achieving requirement activities. One is to learn much more from user and the other is to lay a firm foundation for designing.

There are so many ways to gather data for requirement, such as interviews, focus groups, questionnaires. Through analysis of the data, user’s requirement for the design can be more explicit. Also through analyzing the task description, designers will have a better understanding of their work, especially the bad or unsatisfied part.

IPad Pro is a good example of design without considering enough from user’s requirement. This product has high quality and good user experience for specific users. It’s operating system and applications is the same as others of iPad series, However, the size is almost as large as iMac. No body will feel easy to host such large tool for entertainment when they are walking, sitting on the bus or lying on the bed. Also, many customers prefer to buy a iMac for work because it supports more software than IPad Pro. It cannot become a market-leading product because of this poor consideration of users’ requirement.

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