Book Notes: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

  • Cognitive friction: the resistance encountered by a human intellect when it engages with a complex system of rules that change as the problem changes.
  • “#1 goal of all computer users is to not feel stupid.”
  • Larry Keeley’s three qualities for high tech products:
    1. Capability: what can be done? Supplied by technologists.
    2. Viability: what can we sell? Supplied by business people.
    3. Desirability: what do people want? Supplied by designers.
  • Need and desire are not the same. Desire leads to loyalty.
  • Designing for a minority of users leads to success rather than attempting to accommodate all users. Specificity is key. Find a common denominator and work off of it.
  • Personas are a key to successfully designing a product/service. They must be specific more so than accurate in order for development not to get carried away with edge cases. Don’t average them because that saps the power of specificity. Specificity directs what should and shouldn’t be done in the system. Personas need to reflect users, not buyers or other characters that are close to the product, but not actual users of it.
  • Goals and tasks are not he same. Goals are stable while tasks can change with circumstances yet still achieve the goal.
  • After personas are created and goals outlined, create scenarios. Scenarios should outline user tasks (as uncovered by research and user testing) that achieve goals. You want to eliminate steps to complete tasks and make goal achievement as easy as possible.
  • Two kinds of scenarios: daily use and necessary use. Daily use are most useful and important. They’re the main actions a user performs and also the most frequent. One or two is typical- more than 3 is rare. Users will go from newbie to shortcuts to customization quickly. Necessary use must be performed, but not frequently. Typically more necessary scenarios than daily. Necessary uses don’t require shortcuts or customization since they’re too infrequent for the user. As such, they can safely be less thought through from an interaction perspective.
  • Edge cases can safely be ignored from an interaction standpoint. Include the necessary things needed to do the jobs, but don’t spend much time on them. Edge cases are the place where time and budget can be saved.
  • Less interface and design is better for the end user. An interaction designer’s fingerprints should be nonexistent in the best cases.
  • Inflecting the interface: controls for daily use scenarios should be easily found and used. All other controls for necessary and edge cases can be move to secondary locations.
  • Perpetual intermediaries: the idea that most people will be intermediate level users of a product/service. Beginners are important but people grow out of it quickly. Experts are rare.
  • Ensure vocabulary doesn’t get in the way. Semantics matter. Define things up front so everyone is talking about the same things.
  • Conceptual integrity: from Frederick Brooks, meaning that a single minded vision of a program is the most important ingredient to success.
  • Don’t become a customer driven company doing whatever your customers say to do. Instead, become a vision driven company that allows itself to be informed by customers, but not dictated to by them. Take a longer view of the business, take responsibility, take time and take control.
  • “The central recommendation of this book is that the interaction designer should be the ultimate owner of product quality.
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