Observation, stumbles and smiles

hyde and rugg

By Gordon Rugg

If you’re designing something that’s going to be used, as opposed to something decorative, then it’s a really good idea to make it fit for its purpose.

How can you do that? Observing the users is a good start.

“Observing” is a broad term that includes various specialised forms of observation and analysis. In this article, I’ll describe a simple way of doing basic observation of users, which involves watching out for four key alliteratively-named actions:

  • stumbles
  • scowls
  • swearwords
  • smiles

It’s simple, but it’s powerful, and it usually catches most of the main problems, and it gives you a good start towards designing something that the users will like.

Not great art, but useful: Four things to watch for in task analysisbannerv1

Sources of original images are given at the end of this article

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3 thoughts on “Observation, stumbles and smiles

  1. You know it’s funny, I used to do UX and UI design for work several years before coming to academia to do a PhD. Sometimes it seems basic UX testing and prototyping is almost like the pink elephant in the room no one dares to acknowledge is there. You need +10 pages of theory to justify it academically what you have observed to be useful for development in practice. 🙂

    Also, your blog topics seem very interesting. Good find!

    • Dear Marko I agree…I worked in industries all around the world and in accademia. In one everything is pragmatic and quick, in the other everything need a theoretical justification. I have to say That I prefer to do stuff with a solid background…In fact, quite often, people in industry used the term UX and usability assessment just to put a label to small, and very qualitative, confirmatory analysis with 2 or 3 experts . However, maybe you can be interested in this handbook: Computer Systems Experiences of Users with and Without Disabilities…you can find it on googlebook

      • Cheers for the reply Simone. I guess we have “variance” in both of these realms. Often with industry clients it is pushing to (genuinely) include the end user in the prototyping and development process (instead of those so-called experts you mention), and at the academia, trying to balance between sometimes destructively theoretical and the applicable. At the same time I’m very much in agreement with your “do stuff with a solid background”. Both realms need this, and I guess also discourse in what it actually means to do it. Cheers for the book title, I’ll have to check that out.

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