Monday, May 21, 2007

Patterns for Interviewing SMEs--
At this year's STC conference, I attended a presentation by Larry Todd Wilson on Knowledge Harvesting. Larry is a knowledge management consultant who specializes in capturing knowledge from experts. Larry talked about patterns of interviews he would use, based on the situation he was in. One pattern that seemed appropriate for investigating software application screens that serve as status or dashboards was this one:
  1. What is the intent of the screen?
  2. What are its primary objects (what should the user look at)?
  3. What are the traits or attributes of the objects?
  4. How do you weight the objects?
  5. How do you integrate this screen into your decision making?

Another pattern I have found useful for investigating screens that require the user to enter a numerical parameter is the following:

  1. What's a good starting value (or what influences the starting value)?
  2. When would you make it higher?
  3. When would you make it lower?
  4. What happens if it gets too high?
  5. What happens if it gets too low?
  6. What indicators (e.g., reports) would you look at to evaluate if your choice was too high or too low?

I think as an industry, we would be well-served if we could categorize a set number of patterns like this to help us interview SMEs. If you have any useful patterns, please send them to me and I will share them.


Chris Collingridge said...

These are potentially really useful series of questions: the numerical parameters one could well be used when thinking about creating the parameter in the first place, particularly when giving some careful consideration to sensible defaults.

A possible addition might be "What's the benefit of setting it higher/lower?" Often, the benefit of changing a parameter isn't really very much, and the benefit of removing it all together is greater...

Mike Hughes said...

LOVE the benefit question! And I agree that these could be useful design questions as well.