Saturday, November 06, 2004


Usage-Centered Design

I'm currently skimming Constantine and Lockwood's Software for Use after hearing favorable comment on it from Nigel Bevan, and recently finding a used copy for myself. Constantine and Lockwood advocate an approach called usage-centered design that gives precedence to how a product is used, as opposed to focusing by whom it used (personas) or in what situations it is used (scenarios). The usage approach is much more methodical than Alan Cooper's persona 'n scenario narrative approach, and is stronger and weaker for that. Cooper writes with wit, and the narrative approach animates discussion of design, an attractive attribute when talking with clients. In contrast, Constantine and Lockwood's discussion reads like a Java program.

Though I don't like its techy attitude, the usage centered approach seems far more robust in describing complex interaction than the narrative approach. I'm impressed how the usage approach can transcend personas, allowing one to see common user needs between two disparate users who are in dissimilar contexts.

Usage centered design seems like a useful tool to untangling the spaghetti of complex software, for example, the unfortunate complexity of mobile phone account administration and tariffs.

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