02 Aug

Human-Centered Design Considered Harmful

Don Norman’s rethinking of Human-centered design.  He proposes that activity-centered design is in fact more useful as it avoids the trap of having to accomodate all user feedback.  Tools don’t adapt to the user, users often adapt to tools.  And this, he points out is not always a bad thing. 

Yes, we all know of disastrous attempts to introduce computer
systems into organization where the failure was a direct result of a
lack of understanding of the people and system. Or was it a result of
not understanding the activities? Maybe what is needed is more
Activity-Centered Design, maybe failures come from a shallow
understanding of the needs of the activities that are to be supported.
Note too that in safety-critical applications, a deep knowledge of the
activity is fundamental. Safety is usually a complex system issue, and
without deep understanding of all that is involved, the design is apt
to be faulty.

In short, he asserts that giving people want they want isn’t always the most innovate approach to design.  Consider teaching.  Do we give students what we want, or do we give them what they might not know they want?  There’s a fine line here that may be clarified with ACD.

Link: Human-Centered Design Considered Harmful.

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