15 May 2018

The knack of interaction design

Ganked from a Twitter thread I ranted in March 2017. I should turn this into a proper article someday.
Via @vgr I learn that some people cannot visualize things in their “mind's eye”

I am reminded of something I realized years ago about the Secret Talent Behind Interaction Design

When I present an IxD (interaction design) solution to clients or colleagues, they often challenge me with “but what if the user does XYZ instead?”

After showing slides with a walkthrough of some key behaviors, I answer questions about other paths with quick sketches at the whiteboard

“Oh, if a user clicks here in this situation, then these things light up, and this comes up in X case, or that comes up in Y case.”

For a while I thought clients were so often astonished at this because of the obvious brilliance of my design solutions.

Not so.

Then I thought they were astonished at my facility at quickly communicating IxD solutions through simple whiteboard sketches.

Not so.

(For the record, my whiteboarding hand is inelegant, though I know a lot of little tricks for using whiteboards well)

I finally realized that what astonished my client was that I had the behaviors of the system in my head at all

Then I saw @MrAlanCooper's early dialogue with @KentBeck with its astonishing disjoint of ideas

I realized:

Most people cannot picture the interaction design of a software system that does not exist. They must build it to “see” it.

As someone with the knack for it, it had never occurred to me that most people in the software industry could not “visualize” IxD.

And of course if you don't have the knack for picturing IxD, it would never occur to you that someone could.

Many software industry practices are predicated on the assumption that attempting to do too much planning of projects inevitably fails

(And I do not want to overstate the level of planning I think is possible. Software development is an unruly process.)

I don't want to make IxD visualization sound easy. It is hard work. It takes several weeks to lock down good IxD solutions in my mind.

And keeping even a moderately complex IxD solution in my head “fills” it; I cannot remember the details of past IxD projects

But I can really have the whole system in my head.

Part of how I know an IxD solution is good is that its logic makes this possible.

I think much of the skepticism about IxD and UXD in tech comes from a reasonable but wrong assumption that the core work is impossible

If UX designers’ “knack” were properly understood, I think it would radically transform the entire software industry

@archslide suggests that visualizing IxD is more skill than talent.

There is definitely a skill one cultivates doing the work ...

Good balance doesn't make you a tightrope walker. But if you don't have good balance, no amount of practice will make you one.

RT Chris Doyle <@archslide>:
I have the same skill wrt code. Probably v difficult to succeed as a dev w/o abstract visualization/organization ability
Ability to visualize deep software logic and interaction are similar skills, but don't seem to be coupled

I think many UXD projects are stillborn by not having enough time committed to them, leading to We Tried Baseball

RT @exiledsurfer
took me years to understand what i could see in my head & drew / explained to others was invisible to them until it was manifest.

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