by Lisa Battle
and Duane Degler
New thoughts relating to previous ISPI articles:
in Pursuit of Performance: the Challenge of Context
Around the Interface
in 80 Clicks
When asked to think
about how our ideas may have changed since we wrote these articles,
our first thought was that not enough time has gone by to provide new
insights. And yet… we juggle a growing number of competing
pressures, such as less forgiveness from users for poor design, more
accountability for user performance, greater diversity among users,
changes in technology and interface “standards,” and always less
time to analyze and design. What lessons do we continue to learn?
can’t easily support “all the people all the time.”
increasingly see the value in providing multiple views, designed
around a common framework but adapted for the unique needs of key
users based on such things as context, language, culture, and physical
abilities. One driving force that reinforces this approach,
particularly in the US, is the legislated need to create interfaces
that are accessible to people with disabilities (known as
“508-compliant” because they need to conform to conditions laid
out in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act). We have found, for
example, that making an interface supporting auditory readers for the
blind may decrease usability for sighted users (and vice versa). Thus,
one of the ways we promote the support of all users is the
creation of different views that adapt to their specific needs. With
sufficiently holistic design thinking, we can support a wide range of
needs for flexibility, such as internationalization, levels of user
experience, and multi-layer context profiles.
If you aren’t
thinking about these issues now, you will be soon.
expectations will continue to move toward more adaptive interactions.
Legislation and commercial pressure will reinforce user demand. We
also need to engage closely with technologists to share the
vision throughout the development lifecycle.
practices are heading in the same direction.
Fortunately, just at
the time designers are looking for more user-centered interactions,
technologists are focused on separating the presentation, the program
logic, and the code, and making each layer more flexible. For example,
XML is being used increasingly to apply different presentation formats
to the same data. The goal is to create a configurable central
application with different views/interfaces (what we described in part
as an adaptive knowledge interface). Designing with multiple views as
a goal also makes an interface potentially more “future-proof”
because it can be easier to evolve without massive re-coding.
It is not solely a
technology issue: implications for design practice are significant.
In order to make the most effective architectural choices and gain the
greatest design efficiency benefits, you have to consciously
include all these requirements and opportunities into your design
thinking from the start. It calls for an extremely holistic
approach to design! The user performance analyst/designer must deploy
more powerful techniques to elicit the user’s requirements across a
broad spectrum of context and culture. We must then make the design
rationale more explicit – and communicate it clearly – so it can
be translated effectively into views and styles for presentation.
We need to think
about how to do it faster.
If we are to succeed in supporting our
wide range of users and contexts, we must be able to more quickly
understand their needs and design for the implications of those needs.
We are refining our techniques in order to integrate inclusive,
thoughtful design with the increasing move toward rapid application
development and iterative, modular implementations.
Go back to the associated articles:
Knowledge Management in
Pursuit of Performance: the Challenge of Context
Around the Interface in
Copyright, Reuse and
The content of this article may be referenced with the
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not be reproduced without written communication with ISPI (www.ispi.org).
Also, I would appreciate your notifying me if you intend to use these concepts or
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To cite the material, please include the following
information. I recommend the format:
Battle, Lisa and Degler, Duane (2002). Toward
a Unified Theory? An update to the articles:
Management in Pursuit of Performance: the Challenge of Context. Performance
Improvement (EPSS Special Edition). ISPI, 39(6), July 2000.
Around the Interface in 80 Clicks. Performance Improvement (EPSS Special Edition). ISPI, 40(7),