Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that understanding and negotiating politics is a fact of professional life, especially within the corporate environment. As our field continues to have to build its standing among entrenched disciplines such as software engineering and product marketing, recognizing and ideally controlling the impact of politics is frequently crucial to the success of a UX design endeavor. One valuable take-away from the class included the suggestion to apply user-centered techniques to the design of any educational or process-definition efforts. Such methods would include performing customer research with colleagues, in order to know your users’ needs and concerns, and insisting on measuring the success of your UX design activities.
In the course “Designing for User Efficiency,” I learned about a concrete basis for improving the effectiveness of complex systems. Although the instructor, Deborah Mayhew, relied heavily on a single example from her work consulting for a call-center—a less complex domain in comparison to the sophisticated clinical systems I design at St. Jude Medical, most of which use touch screens—she managed to provide a solid framework for analyzing software ease of use that should benefit my design work.
Firstly, by separating ease of learning—so often referred to as the all-important intuitiveness of interactive systems—from ease of use, one can separately study the productivity of experienced users using a system on a regular basis. With the crucial assumption that the users of a given system are experts, ease of learning becomes less important than ongoing ease of use. The framework Mayhew presented for efficiency analysis has its basis in the Keystroke-Level Model (KLM), which is a variant of the GOMS (Goals, Operators, Methods, and Selection Rules) model. Using KLM, one quantifies each specific step of an interaction with a system. For example, a task sequence requiring a user to find and click a button, select an insertion point in a text box using a mouse, then move her hand to the keyboard and type five characters would break down into four discrete operators. A code summarizes these operators as follows: P (point with mouse), BB (mouse click), P (point with mouse), BB (mouse click), H (hand movement), and T(5) (five typed characters). Each coded operator is associated with a measured time; thus, sequence analyses such as this one can measure the actual efficiency of system tasks. Now, regarding how KLM techniques translate into the analysis of touch-screen systems, I have some homework to do!
My major criticism of the class, despite its highlights, was that the design process Mayhew presented relied too heavily on task replication as opposed to goal-oriented improvements. Also, the specific “more efficient” design examples she covered for almost half of the class felt dated and unsophisticated, giving little hint of the dynamic expanse of rich, visual, modeless interactions available to designers today. My professional area of expertise is interaction design (IxD) with a broadening emphasis on the larger issues of user experience (UX) design. I also perform customer research that affects strategic product definition and regularly address information architecture problems as well as deliver user interface solutions. My three years of consulting with Cooper provided me with not only a very solid methodological foundation for design, but also a set of powerful IxD principles and patterns that help me to conceive innovative solutions. Participants in this class would have benefited from a deeper and richer palette of interaction design concepts that deliver efficient experiences.