Human-to-Human Design

by Sharon Lee

43 Reader Comments

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  1. Perhaps I wasn’t being clear. This notion stems from a process through which I’m undergoing personally. I’m just beginning to articulate what has come to me and it is undoubtedly fuzzy at this point, but it only becomes more clear with each step of exploration.

    Over a decade ago, I sought to understand what my place was going to be in this world and I identified myself as “designer.” I studied design. I labeled myself as designer and revered myself as such.

    Over the years, I’ve realized the term is misused, overused, and abused. A hobbyist can pick up a book, learn a little something and go forth, create, build, and declare their design. And no one can argue that it isn’t design.

    Ah, but craft. “Craft” as it relates to “design” is the beauty side of the same coin. As indicated, design has intention and this may very well be true, but it is the word “craft” that can denote so much more. And so, I would suggest that where design has intention, craft has intuition; designers are industrious, craftsmen (and women) flow.

    In my college design courses, the literature taught us that there was function and there was aesthetic. I have found that most people polarize and tend to focus on one or the other in their post-academia careers.

    Throughout my career, my position has at countless times been to mitigate in the chasm between the technically proficient and the artistically profound. Perhaps it is design that is the middle where the two meet. Moderately simple mathematics will show us that starting with zero then going in two opposing directions, there is infinity in both directions. Artistry and Industry, running infinitely deep in their respective directions.

    So, for me, I need some distinction for this discipline of “creating an experience.” Usability, in its purist sense, is virtually devoid of all aesthetics. Just as pure artistic expression of emotion is is of no mainstream use.

    I am by no means suggesting that design should go away. Perhaps I’m suggesting that as human factors, usability, ergonomics,  etc. have become such cornerstones to our practice of design, we need see the other side of the coin. And that is where we find craft.

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  2. Sorry, Chris, I think you’re making stuff up. I think you’re finding divides where none exist.

    If you prefer to call yourself a craftsman because the romanticism of the word appeals to you, go for it. But leave the rest of us designers out of it.

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  3. As I said, this is just partly a personal process. The notion is still nebulous. I will still consider myself a designer when the time comes to design. Just as I’ll have to put a purely analytical left-brained hat from time-to-time.

    I am not creating divisions or factions. Quite the contrary, actually. I was just looking to explore some areas in the spectrum and seeing if anyone else was interested in the notion.The intent was not to ruffle your feathers — or anyone else’s for that matter — Amber. If your position is to take a stand and speak for “the rest of the designers,” perhaps there’s the cold division.

    There is no reason to get defensive. I didn’t come hear to argue or impose ideology. I happened to really enjoy Sharon’s article and it was very timely as I was pondering these notions.

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  4. really enjoyed the article and the many comments. perhaps craft is something that is at once subjective and objective. I’m not a designer but I am an artist to a certain degree. I know what I like but other people make different choices. Craft not always what catches the eye. Sometimes it is in what you don’t see. you can look at a house and admire the structure without ever understanding the craft in building and designing the structure. You can admire a beautiful textile without understanding the mathmatical craft it took. The structure of words is as important to the message as the message itself. So is the tone or other elements in the message. It’s the “objective” to influence the “subjective”

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  5. Chris, let’s talk offlist?

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  6. “The principles of good human-to-computer interface design are simplicity, support, clarity, encouragement, satisfaction, accessibility, versatility, and personalization.”

    Sharon you weave a beautiful statement of your principles.  I have been studying design from the perspective of a wonderful old IBMer, John Zachman.  I always thought his ideas were dull and mechanical until I read the work of Alan Cooper and a light came on.

    According to John there are six focuses in a system:

    1. Goal
    2. Formal
    3. Functional
    4. Spatial
    5. Temporal
    6. Personal

    John Zachman is a form centric designer and it fits with his IBM background.  The structure of the database guides the entire design.  Alan Cooper is a self-professed goal centric designer always thinking about the objective of the users of the system.  I would say you are a persona centric designer.  You want the user of your sites to come away with a positive personal experience.

    There is nothing wrong with these emphases.  However, I want to recognize the centrism of other design philosophies and see how they cater to different audiences.  A fully balanced design would be boring and serve no one well.  I wish you much success in your design pursuits.

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  7. Hi, I find your article closely relates to a recent research on consumer behaviour online I did for uni last month. Looking forward to read your next article. Thank you!

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  8. May be it´s time to think about the Scolari´s notion of transparency. Everyone is thinking about human and machine, but not too much about human to human. Can I use it as a start of one of my blog posts?. Thanx

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  9. An excellent article that makes one think of how they build their web site. I would just like an example of how one can better the human-to-human interaction.

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  10. I believe in increasing the user experience but it is important to talk to your users when possible and do testing as you design the site. Scenarios and use cases are useful, but if you create a rich, engaging experience that no one knows how to use or find you’ve wasted a great deal of time. Substituting one’s own imagination to predict how users will respond is something I’ve done myself and seen a great deal.

    I would have really like to have seen something about testing designs and changes made before the site is completely programmed. Interviewing, getting feedback, and actually seeing how people act on your site as it’s being built is probably treating them the most like a human being because you’re involving them in the process with you.

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  11. In the section about telling a story, I think you made a good point by saying that one of the advantages of the web is that it is non-linear.  However, I think the most engaging sites are those that allow the user to contribute to the story, by providing them with the tools to be heard.  Features such as the one I’m using right now—ability to comment—are key to a web site’s success.

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  12. It was certainly an interesting article. My own principles of good human-to-computer interface design stops at simplicity and clean design. All the other factors you mentioned should come into play without having to think about it.

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  13. This topic has been one of debate for years now, and in the end, we would all agree, that a good design will engage the visitor. The stupid gimmicks and widgets that some of my clients initially ask for in the design is the only way they know how to do this.

    That is why they hire us – we are creatives. What we bring to the table, besides making a project look nice, is to create something unique.

    There is no magic wand that makes this happen – we are the magic wand.

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  14. Perfect.

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  15. Perhaps its just me, but I’m noticing that there is a plethora of websites that are just there to dazzle and overstimulate. It’s been hard to find an affordable designer that has an interest in creating a site that is simple and clean—which lends itself to being more attractive and inviting—and thus, more interactive. I’ve been trying to find one so I can market my business more effectively and my efforts have been to no avail.
    If you are interested (or know someone who may be), drop me a line:

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  16. (I just read this article (July 27th) although it was published a little while ago.)

    Thanks for the interesting article. I agree with your perspective and have enjoyed reading the other reader’s responses as well: Both pro and conn.

    As always, A List Apart has inspired me.


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  17. Your audience!
    That’s probably the message which I understand.

    So, We often develop to develop the idea of the century on beginning, that may bring up your brand… On forgetting the end users who may build your image, your personality.

    Indeed, it’s sometimes good to remember us that the human-machine interface mustn’t be the easiest to design but the easiest to use.

    Interesting article.

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  18. Good article. The problem with websites generally is that it’s tricky to provide different sites for your different target groups. Let’s face it. All sites try to target about 3 or 4 sub-groups. The problem is that the web ‘experience’ can really only be tailored for ONE of those sub-groups. I mean, you could have differetn links like ‘click here if you want the flashy version’ or ‘click here for a guided tour’… but that doesn’t really work, because the experience for the user has to be seamless and integrated naturally into the site, and those examples don’t do that.

    The design has to strike a balance between all your sub-groups. Not being to verbose for one group, while not being too simplistic for another. That’s a really tricky balance to get. Very few sites get that right. Not even the large companies with big budgets. The ‘experiences’ they provide are not seamless and intuitive for EVERYONE.

    There isn’t a definite answer for it, but it’s a tricky subject all good designers face at some point.

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  19. designs ARE to be made to what the eyes like but search engines do not like flash websites

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  20. Our interfaces may be digital, but our audience is always human. Failure to consider the User—what she thinks, what she wants, what she wishes she could do—is both arrogant and nearsighted. When both the design and development are tailored to actual people, the closer we get to “human-to-human” design.

    Once upon a time, the world of Direct Marketing taught me something valuable: never underestimate the power of data. I was always surprised by the valuable information it provided. “Do people really think that way?” Yes they do. And either set about to understand them or get out of the business.

    The same applies to interfaces. Put the User first. Then learn how they really think. Great Websites will radiate from there.

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  21. I never tried such a case, but it is still not satisfied, maybe I should learn more from your blog again

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  22. Brilliant idea =) Thanks for that interesting article. I really having enjoy reading your articles. It make me think more.

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  23. I think that reading articles like that while trying to implement in practice is a very good education. Thanks Sharon! This article will help me begin a new project with an unexpected interesting direction.

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