iA and Usability: When to start
We often get invited to work on bizarre interfaces after the project is already done – in order to “save the project”. We don’t mind doing so. Yet information design is supposed to be done from the very beginning, as it’s not a cosmetic but a substantial discipline.
The project manager of a software product we are currently working on, understands the value of interface design: “Programming? I can get whatever I want for a butter bread in India. Programming is not of high value anymore. It’s the interface.” Still he decided to hire us after the project was done. He “had no time”. As a matter of fact, you are much faster, if you hire an information designer in the beginning.
You don’t need to be an expert in interface design to understand the financial benefits of a solid interface. An understandable easy to use interface guarantees: - High productivity for the customer - Safe products - Increased customer satisfaction - Low cost of customer support - Great perceived value - Competitive marketing advantage - Fast and simple implementation - Simple manuals and online help - Brand loyalty
Programming as usual
Fact is: Too many companies still procede as usual, hiring the information architect/interface designer in the end. Macintosh interface designer Jeff Raskin believes that it’s the management’s fault:
It is difficult to create a good interface when management does not think that interface design is important. In the short-term view, careful interface design may appear to add to the expense of creating a product and to lengthen the development time. In my experience, the short-term view is wrong even in the short term; improving the user interface often simplifies the design. Careful design and detailed specifications do not hinder but rather speed implementation. A superior interface is also an exceptional long-term investment that returns. (The Humane Interface)
Interface designers usually are not able to decide when where and with what weight they are iconsidered. However, when interface designers have been taken into consideration from the very start, as in Macintosh projects such as OSX or the iPod, the results have proven to be better, sometimes even spectacular.
Why is it so difficult to get involved at the beginning of a project?
- Information design as a discipline is relatively new.
- Therefore few information designers or IAs have moved into higher management.
- Interface designers believe in user testing, not bosses, politics, protocols, bonuses.
- Interface design is usually perceived as an aesthetic discipline (in reality it’s engineering).
- In his own mind, everybody is a designer. Weather we talk about a poster, a website, a software interface or designing chairs, everybody is his own specialist.
- The need of a specialist structuring information often only becomes apparent after the project has become a mess (same for all design disciplines).
So before you start programming away – click the contact button on our page.Ð