Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One More Steve Jobs Post...but not what you expect.

Steve Jobs was a genius. No question. I enjoy many of the products he enabled to be brought to market. He was a huge influence on my technology life.

But if one more person tells me that 'we don't need to talk to users, because Steve Jobs didn't talk to users to inform his designs', I'll barf on their shoes.

My contrary assertions:

He was a user of what he designed, so he had intimate domain knowledge. If you are designing something for someone else, and you don't have intimate domain knowledge, you need to get it. How? Engage the users.*

He had people who talked to users. If you don't have people to talk to users, you need to do it yourself.

Not everyone likes the iPhone or has one. Don't say that they do. And there are very poorly-designed apps for iOS devices, just like other platforms.

He was a marketing genius. He told us what we wanted, and we bought it. He could have sold us the iTurd. He couldn't know--and didn't design--everything we would do with his creations. He just gave us the platform in which to do it.

Consider this, from Apple's own Human Interface Design Guidelines:
"A great user interface follows human interface design principles that are based on the way people—users—think and work, not on the capabilities of the device. "
Last I looked, "human interface design principles" include the principle of talking to users.

By gosh, I wish I had a fraction of the visionary, arrogant, creative genius of Steve Jobs. But until I do, I'm gonna spend some time trying to understand my users.

*An example: While designing a system for healthcare professionals, I learned, from talking with healthcare professionals, that a "doc" is a physician. In my context of information technology, a "doc" is a document, or a file. In your design, you must remove ambiguity for your audience. Labeling is contextual, and you can't rely solely on your own frame of reference unless you are a domain expert. (And even then, you're only one domain expert.)

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