About Face
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About Face

The Essentials of Interaction Design

Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, David Cronin, Christopher Noessel

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eBook - ePub

About Face

The Essentials of Interaction Design

Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, David Cronin, Christopher Noessel

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About This Book

The essential interaction design guide, fully revised and updated for the mobile age

About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, Fourth Edition is the latest update to the book that shaped and evolved the landscape of interaction design. This comprehensive guide takes the worldwide shift to smartphones and tablets into account. New information includes discussions on mobile apps, touch interfaces, screen size considerations, and more. The new full-color interior and unique layout better illustrate modern design concepts.

The interaction design profession is blooming with the success of design-intensive companies, priming customers to expect "design" as a critical ingredient of marketplace success. Consumers have little tolerance for websites, apps, and devices that don't live up to their expectations, and the responding shift in business philosophy has become widespread. About Face is the book that brought interaction design out of the research labs and into the everyday lexicon, and the updated Fourth Edition continues to lead the way with ideas and methods relevant to today's design practitioners and developers.

Updated information includes:

  • Contemporary interface, interaction, and product design methods
  • Design for mobile platforms and consumer electronics
  • State-of-the-art interface recommendations and up-to-date examples
  • Updated Goal-Directed Design methodology

Designers and developers looking to remain relevant through the current shift in consumer technology habits will find About Face to be a comprehensive, essential resource.

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Part I
Goal-Directed Design

  • CH 1 A Design Process for Digital Products
  • CH 2 Understanding the Problem: Design Research
  • CH 3 Modeling Users: Personas and Goals
  • CH 4 Setting the Vision: Scenarios and Requirements
  • CH 5 Designing the Product: Framework and Design Refinement
  • CH 6 Creative Teamwork

CH 1
A Design Process for Digital Products

This book has a simple premise: If we design and develop digital products in such a way that the people who use them can easily achieve their goals, they will be satisfied, effective, and happy. They will gladly pay for our products—and recommend that others do the same. Assuming that we can do so in a cost-effective manner, this will translate into business success.
On the surface, this premise seems obvious: Make people happy, and your products will be a success. Why, then, are so many digital products so difficult and unpleasant to use? Why aren’t we all happy and successful when we use them? Why, despite the steady march of faster, cheaper, and more accessible technology, are we still so often frustrated?
The answer, in short, is the absence of design as a fundamental and equal part of the product planning and development process.
Design, according to industrial designer Victor Papanek, is the conscious and intuitive effort to impose meaningful order. We propose a somewhat more detailed definition of human-oriented design activities:
  • Understanding the desires, needs, motivations, and contexts of people using products
  • Understanding business, technical, and domain opportunities, requirements, and constraints
  • Using this knowledge as a foundation for plans to create products whose form, content, and behavior are useful, usable, and desirable, as well as economically viable and technically feasible
This definition is useful for many design disciplines, although the precise focus on form, content, and behavior varies depending on what is being designed. For example, an informational website may require particular attention to content, whereas the design of a simple TV remote control may be concerned primarily with form. As discussed in the Introduction, interactive digital products are uniquely imbued with complex behavior.
When performed using the appropriate methods, design can, and does, provide the missing human connection in technological products. But most current approaches to the design of digital products don’t work as advertised.

The Consequences of Poor Product Behavior

In the nearly 20 years since the publication of the first edition of About Face, software and interactive digital products have greatly improved. Many companies have begun to focus on serving people’s needs with their products and are spending the time and money needed to support the design process. However, many more still fail to do so—at their peril. As long as businesses continue to focus solely on technology and market data while shortchanging design, they will continue to create the kind of products we’ve all grown to despise.
The following sections describe a few of the consequences of creating products that lack appropriate design and thus ignore users’ needs and desires. How many of your digital products exhibit some of these characteristics?

Digital products are rude

Digital products often blame users for making mistakes that are not their fault, or should not be. Error messages like the one shown in Figure 1-1 pop up like weeds, announcing that the user has failed yet again. These messages also demand that the user acknowledge his failure by confirming it: OK.
Digital products and software frequently interrogate users, peppering them with a string of terse questions that they are neither inclined nor prepared to answer: “Where did you hide that file?” Patronizing questions like “Are you sure?” and “Did you really want to delete that file, or did you have some other reason for pressing the Delete key?” are equally irritating and demeaning.
Figure 1-1: Thanks for sharing. Why didn’t the application notify the library? Why did it want to notify the library? Why is it telling us? And what are we OKing, anyway? It is not OK that the application failed!
Our software-enabled products also fail to act with a basic level of decency. They forget information we tell them and don’t do a very good job of anticipating our needs. Even the iPhone—generally the baseline for good user experience on a digital device—doesn’t anticipate that someone might not want to be pestered with a random phone call when he is in the middle of a business meeting that is sitting right there in the iPhone’s own calendar. Why can’t it quietly put a call that isn’t from a family member into voicemail?

Digital products require people to think like computers

Digital products regularly assume that people are technology literate. For example, in Microsoft Word, if a user wants to rename a document she is editing, she must know that she must either close the document or use the “Save As…” menu command (and remember to delete the file with the old name). These behaviors are inconsistent with how a normal person thinks about renaming something; rather, they require that a person change her thinking to be more like the way a computer works.
Digital products are also often obscure, hiding meaning, intentions, and actions from users. Applications often express themselves in incomprehensible jargon that cannot be fathomed by normal users (“What is your SSID?”) and are sometimes incomprehensible even to experts (“Please specify IRQ.”).

Digital products have sloppy habits

If a 10-year-old boy behaved like some software apps or devices, he’d be sent to his room without supper. These products forget to shut the refrigerator door, leave their shoes in the middle of the floor, and can’t remember what you told them only five minutes earlier. For example, if you save a Microsoft Word document, print it, and then try to close it, the application again asks you if you want to save it! Evidently the act of printing caused the application to think the document had changed, even though it did not. Sorry, Mom, I didn’t hear you.
Software often requires us to step out of the main flow of tasks to perform functions that shouldn’t require separate interfaces and extra navigation to access. Dangerous commands, however, are often presented right up front where users can accidentally trigger them. Dropbox, for example, sandwiches Delete between Download and Rename on its context menus, practically inviting people to lose the work they’ve uploaded to the cloud for safekeeping.
Furthermore, the appearance of software—especially business and technical applications—can be complex and confusing, making navigation and comprehension unnecessarily difficult.

Digital products require humans to do the heavy lifting

Computers and their silicon-enabled brethren are purported to be labor-saving devices. But every time we go out into the field to watch real people doing their jobs with the assistance of technology, we are struck by how much work they are forced to do simply to manage the proper operation of software. This work can be anything from manually copying (or, worse, retyping) values from one window into another, to attempting (often futilely) to paste data between applications that otherwise don’t speak to each other, to the ubiquitous clicking and pushing and pulling of windows and widgets around the screen to access hidden functionality that people use every day to do their job.
The evidence is everywhere that digital products have a lot of explaining to do when it comes to their poor behavior.

Why Digital Products Fail

Most digital products emerge from the development process like a sci-fi monster emerging from a bubbling tank. Instead of planning and executing with a focus on satisfying the needs of the people who use their products, companies end up creating solutions that—while technically advanced—are difficult to use and control. Like mad scientists, they fail because they have not imbued their creations with sufficient humanity.
Why is this? What is it about the technology industry as a whole that makes it so inept at designing the interactive parts of digital products? What is so broken about the current process of creating software-enabled products that it results in such a mess?
There are four main reasons why this is the case:
  • Misplaced priorities on the part of both product management and development teams
  • Ignorance about real users of the product and what their baseline needs are for success
  • Conflicts of interest when development teams are charged with both designing and building the user experience
  • Lack of a design process that permits knowledge about user needs to be gathered, analyzed, and used to drive the development of the end experience

Misplaced priorities

Digital products come into the world subject to the push and pull of two often-opposing camps—marketers and developers. While marketers are adept at understanding and quantifying a marketplace opportunity, and at introducing and positioning a product within that market, their input into the product design process is often limited to lists of requirements. These requirements often have little to do with what users actually need or desire and have more to do with chasing the competition, managing IT resources with to-do lists, and making guesses ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for About Face
APA 6 Citation
Cooper, A., Reimann, R., Cronin, D., & Noessel, C. (2014). About Face (4th ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/998060/about-face-the-essentials-of-interaction-design-pdf (Original work published 2014)
Chicago Citation
Cooper, Alan, Robert Reimann, David Cronin, and Christopher Noessel. (2014) 2014. About Face. 4th ed. Wiley. https://www.perlego.com/book/998060/about-face-the-essentials-of-interaction-design-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Cooper, A. et al. (2014) About Face. 4th edn. Wiley. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/998060/about-face-the-essentials-of-interaction-design-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Cooper, Alan et al. About Face. 4th ed. Wiley, 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.