… Continued from this previous post.
The previous post ended by asking a few questions. One of these was: Do we really need designers anyway?
Bill Buxton would answer that we need designers. Just because we are able to add up our grocery bill doesn’t make us all mathematicians. There are principles and practices of design that must be learned and honed. I know that Carnegie Mellon University has an acclaimed Human-Computer Interaction Institute whose mission is to create effective, usable, enjoyable experiences with technology. Are graduates in this area finding their way into genealogy software development?
Both authors (Bill Buxton and Alan Cooper introduced in the previous post) share a similar view about design’s place before development with users contributing significantly to the process. Typically the development process is Design, Engineering, and then Sales. Design is shaped like a funnel to indicate that the number of ideas or concepts at the beginning of the phase is greater than those at the end. The arrows indicate involvement from the other teams in the design process. Bill also accounts for the need sometimes to do engineering (or in the case of software: programming) before design as an input into the design process:
Let’s discuss the advanced Research and Development team for a minute. What is it purpose? Sometimes there are enough unknowns that you must do something first to determine what you do and don’t know. The question might be if something is technically feasible. Or maybe we want to try out a concept some people who will actually use the product. There are three main places that I have seen this: Google Labs, Microsoft Research, and FamilySearch Labs. What is the purpose of all those free applications that Google develops? One reason it to try out concepts and explore possibilities? The same goes for Microsoft and I would propose it is the same for FamilySearch Labs. Some projects that started in Phase -1 have later passed through the other phases to become a real product.
Take the recent example from FamilySearch Labs. The Pedigree Viewer prototype has recently been incorporated into Genetree (which I wrote about in this post). This same viewer in combination with the Life Browser is now part of another FamilySearch Labs project, called Family Tree that can be used with the new FamilySearch.
It appears that some organizations in the genealogy software field understand the importance of design and are taking advantage of current principles and practices. I hope many others will see it too. It is my desire to encourage innovation in genealogy software. We need better experiences with the software. It needs to help us more. These types of experiences must be designed. Working together as genealogists and family historians, software developers, user experience designers, and management is the way to improvement. We need to better connect as a community. We must share ideas and knowledge. We need to care.
Ideas. Design. Experience. Innovation. Are these words also buzzing around in your head?