Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Call to Arms?

Wow! It has been a busy couple of months. Heck, it has been a very busy year! Sorry for my silence here.

One of the themes in my thinking lately is that we UXCentrics are poised for a quantum leap in how we do what we do. No, that's not accurate. Actually, it's more like we're poised at the edge of a precipice with feathers waxed to our waving arms trying to fly—when what we need is a state-of-the-art hang glider or even a fighter jet. The growth of Web audiences and technologies is so vast that it's outstripping our toolboxes.

In one of my columns at gotomedia's gotoreport, I wrote this in response to all of the Web 2.0 buzz:
We have to break new ground.Surveys, usability tests, personas, card sorting exercises—they retain their value. But Web 2.0 calls us to reach deeper into the minds and hearts of our users. We're going to need new tools, novel methods and fresh perspectives. I know one thing: Brain science will become immensely important to user advocates.
Today, Todd Wilkens of Adaptive Path lays out the challenge before us more eloquently than I:
Essentially, I am calling for an end to the decades-old framework that HCI, information architecture, and interaction design have been using for understanding users. That's right, I say take a hike, task analysis! Good bye, user goals! These concepts are insufficient for the new kinds of systems we are designing. People do not live their lives in terms of tasks and goals; most behavior is not task-oriented nor goal-driven. The drivers for action are often complex, subtle, and closely tied to culture, meaning, and context. But it's nearly impossible to talk about meaning in terms of tasks and goals.
I like task analyses and IxD and IA and figuring out user goals and ways to help them achieve them. They're valuable tools, but Todd is right: They are no longer enough and do not provide an adequate paradigm/worldview for what we need to do as UXCentrics.

While Todd's clarion call for change is well worth your time, he does not propose a new model. And that's OK. It's going to take the contributions of all of us to grow our discipline into the future.

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