We’ve been reading Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton. Which is a lot more about design process than the title implies. Below are some notes from the text. I’ve also included a video presentation by Buxton from the 2008 Design Strategy Conference. It highlights many of the book’s concepts and expounds on others.
The difference between UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) was illustrated via some orange juicers.
Juicer A is electric, but the annoying sound hurts the user experience.
Juicer B uses a physical lever, but utilizes low quality materials and mechanics.
Juicer C uses a physical lever, but utilizes refined materials and elegant mechanic function – it feels solid and great to use. So, although ‘A’ has the same UI as ‘B’, it has quite a different UX.
One insight the book demonstrates is that sketching is the process of design. We use sketches as an internal feedback mechanism, is this going to work here, how about here? Furthermore, sketches are social things – they help provoke discussion, make design decisions and solidify ideas.
But, many times sketches aren’t socialized.
Designers tend to keep sketches to themselves in fear of them not being complete. This is a balancing act with the client too. Is this sketch (or mock-up) too finished? What if they (the client) think something is definitive that isn’t finalized? What if we shared ‘unfinished’ sketches to start a dialog? Do we want the client that involved in the process? We have a tendency not to share the full process of design. Some people may not care how we get to the solution, but truth is it takes a lot of work to get there. The products at the end may look inevitable or like they took minimal effort (think iPod), but designing simple is hard. And the process to get there is what costs so much.
One last interesting item (in reference to the visual above credited to Laseau 1980) is how Buxton defines Design.
“Design is a choice, and there are two places where there is room for creativity.”
1) in idea generation – creating meaningful distinct options to choose
2) in idea selection – defining the criteria in which choices are made
Many times (especially in Web sites) the tendency is to generate all these ideas about what the Web site will do – the site or application is going to do these 15 things. This elaboration tends to be the fun and exciting part. But the second step is essential and more challenging; what (objective) criteria do we use to reduce these ideas? Its hard to cut ideas, especially when there is ownership of the ideas and the client has been shown a breadth of them. Expectations are high and we don’t want to disappoint. But truth is the second part (cutting out ideas objectively) is a creative process too. And the more focused the idea at the end, the better quality the result.