Thursday, March 25, 2010

Analysis of a Diagram

Just because you like something you created, it doesn't mean:
  • It's any good
  • You have a big ego
But it can be useful to stop and ponder something you did that you particularly like--so that you can understand your own design priorities a bit better.

I recently created a diagram for an article in UXmatters that I liked:

The article was about the differences in the roles of User Interface (UI) developer and User Experience (UX) designer. I wanted a diagram that showed that each had distinct areas of expertise and that there were areas of overlap as well. Duh, Venn diagram, that's the easy part. My normal instinct would have been to abstract the areas and give them awful nominalizations probably. I decided to use concrete examples instead and to leave the abstraction to the reader. In the article I said:

The area that tends to fall under the exclusive domain of UI development includes the programming skills and knowledge. If you had a pin labeled Ruby on Rails, the UI development role would be a good place to stick it. The area that tends to be the exclusive domain of User Experience relates to user research and usability testing. Thus, if you had a pin labeled card sorting, the UX side of the diagram would be its predictable home. The area of shared expertise between the two roles includes knowledge of UI patterns and standards—the widgets and elements that make up a user interface—as well as knowledge about the software development process.
I like the simplicity of the diagram and for some reason, I especially like the stick pins. I'm reminded of a story about the famous educator John Dewey. He was visiting a classroom once as a superintendent, and the teacher asked the class, "What is the center of the earth composed of?" The students eagerly raised their hands and the teacher called on one. "Igneous rock," came back the answer. Dewey then interrupted and asked, "If I could reach my hand all the way to the center of the earth, what would happen to it?" No one could answer.

My "If you could put a stick pin labeled..." approach seems to have the level of concrete understanding that Dewey was looking for. I like that a complex classification has been explained in terms of a physically familiar task such as putting stickpins on a board.

Doesn't mean it's good.
Doesn't mean I'm being egotistical to say I like it :-)

1 comment:

Margaret said...

The diagram accomplishes its stated purpose: to show the unique knowledge areas and the overlap between the UX and UI domains. What you are probably feeling about this diagram is satisfaction. You (as well as the diagram) met your goal to find a way to illustrate the concept you discussed in the article. Feeling satisfied by an accomplishment is not an ego trip; it's the feeling we all should have after a job well done.