If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
The often quoted axiom “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is from Abraham Maslow’s The Psychology of Science, published in 1966. The axioms’ implicit caution is relevant to many areas of business and service delivery.
I work at the Yale University Library in the Library IT group’s User Experience Department. Libraries have changed radically in the 15 years I’ve been at Yale. We have gone from being an almost completely print-based repository of books and journals to a mixed collection of print and electronic material. Our digital interfaces provide access to digital resources, but our patrons also use them to find out about our print collections and our brick and mortar locations.
For me the idea of ‘Users first!’ means simply that: putting the user first in the job you are doing.
I’ve been a software developer for most of my career and in many cases I’ve been worked on small teams or independently on a project, and many times working directly with my users. I wear many hats, some official, many times unofficial: project manager, business analyst, help desk, graphic designer, and yes, even programmer.
Consider this: You have created a report with graphs and charts to explain trends to your users. Your report doesn’t make sense – in fact, it is confounding people. You are frustrated that they don’t understand what you are trying to say. Where did the message break down?
Presentation ≠ communication – Tell a story with your data.
To me, the theme of “Users First!” (and yes, the exclamation point is obligatory) speaks to the centrality of end users in much of our work. Whether it’s providing customer support, fixing software bugs, or (re)designing business processes, the end user experience is the measure by which define our success. Or it should be. After all, the whole point of our work (be it a project, application, service, etc.) is for it to be used by and useful to its intended audience.
How do you develop a new website, meet users’ needs, and get them to buy into a new design?
This summer, the Yale School of Management launched a new website. Not only did we drastically change the look and feel of the website, we also chose a new URL. However, while the Communications and IT departments spearheaded the efforts, we definitely did not act alone. We solicited opinions from the Yale SOM community each step of the way. If you had a suggestion, we wanted to hear it.
Are you ready to take the “one morning a month” usability challenge?
Web development is one area where understanding user interaction is critical. In order to ensure your audience can perform the necessary tasks it is essential to design an interface that is intuitive, requiring little thinking on the part of the user. Some think that this can be resolved with documentation and training but this is a grave misconception for a couple of reasons: