Design, Develop, Create

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Usability Evaluation Considered Harmful

"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
Steve Jobs, quoted in BusinessWeek (25 May 1998) cross ref. (link)

Can usability studies be more harmful than productive to the design process? (Greenberg & Buxton, 2008) Is usability evaluation - laboratory-based user observations, controlled studies, and /or inspection - the last word in evaluation? What does usability overlook and why?

I keep thinking back to the first problem based learning case we studied - The Avalanche case (link) - and wondered where 'in the wild' field studies fit within the industrial development process.
prototype tracker

It seems that a key ingredient of a successful design is having a strong top down vision. But in the absence of vision who has the big idea of what the product is? Who decides what belongs and what doesn’t? And who gets the 'learning' out of usability studies?

References:
BusinessWeek (25 May 1998)
Greenberg, S. & Buxton, B. (2008) Usability Evaluation Considered Harmful (Some of the Time) (link)
Henry Lieberman (2003) Tyranny of Evaluation (link)