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UI13: Kim Goodwin’s “Where Usability Meets Desirability: Goal-Directed Visual Interface Design”

I attended Jared Spool’s keynote “Journey to the Center of Design” on Day 2 of UI13, but since I had already live-tweeted it when I saw it at IA Summit 2008, I decided just to sit back and watch.

In the afternoon, I attended Kim Goodwin‘s “Where Usability Meets Desirability: Goal-Directed Visual Interface Design”. My Twitter notes from the session are below:

  • Cooper sought to solve 2 problems: ppl judge visual design subjectively (idiosyncratic tastes), lack of collab bw UX & visual designer
  • Visual interface design: enhances brand (by providing 1st impression and ongoing emotional exp) & usability (comm content & behavior)
  • VD enhances usability by adjusting visual weight of interface elements based on relative priority, indicating relationships/meaning…
  • …through shared visual properties, improving legibility and readability of text and other elements
  • Kim is going really fast. It’s impossible to keep up
  • Visual interface design is not graphic design. Different constraints, greater emphasis on info des & behavior, less on style
  • Visual interface design also different than graphic design in that content changes state over time
  • IxDers good at visualizing systems and structures; well-versed in usability. VDers good at visually clarifying behavior & comm brand
  • Distinct roles, each should be literate in the other. Most ppl are better at 1 or the other. If you’re responsible for both, 1 suffers
  • There’s a productive tension between the roles. When you don’t have both, hire IxDers with strong VD skills, send to design courses
  • Contract visual design help at key points
  • Goal-Directed Interaction Design: by focusing on accomplishing goals, we get to breakthrough design ideas
  • GDD: Research > Modeling > Requirements Definition > Framework Definition > Design Refinement > Development Support
  • Stakeholder interviews with ppl responsible for: overall product vision (prod mgr or sr exec), brand strategy (CMO), GUI developers
  • User interiews: IxDs look for workflow, mental models, environ issues, tasks, info needs, frustrations, exception cases
  • while VDs look for environ &display issues (lighting), user characteristics (poor vision), how brand resonates, how users want to feel
  • Interesting to hear about Cooper Methodology from Kim’s perspective. This is what I practiced for a year and a half at Liquidnet
  • Visual designer collaborates on process or concept visualization, ensures that personas include emotional and brand perspectives
  • Can accomplish this by going beyond just a persona photo, instead building a collage to express the persona’s lifestyle
  • VDers rely on exp attributes: synthesis of what co wants to convey about its brand, influence of competition & how users want to feel
  • Why not use co’s brand attributes? Often too broad for product, may not consider how users want to feel, not optimal for guiding VD
  • How: review docs & stakeholder interview notes, list attributes on whiteboard, look for patterns & distill to 3-4 concepts…
  • …do the same for user interview notes & refine into set of visually-oriented words that best synthesize biz & customer exp goals
  • Optimal set of attributes: tells comprehensive story, creates some boundaries/tensions, balances needs of biz and users
  • Visualization & anti-attributes are useful: Brilliant but not bleeding edge [I’ve done these exercises many times before & they work!]
  • Frame the solution. Create high-level sketches/studies, validate concepts/scenarios. Translates goals into concrete vision
  • Visual style studies: 3-5 possible directions based on VD req’s. Include color, type & widget treatments. Shown independent of IxD
  • W/ IxD, scenarios tend to suggest 1 dir that’s most efficient. W/ VD, you’re employing diff strategies by emphasizing diff attributes
  • All design team members review visual style studies. Don’t show studies to the stakeholders that you don’t think are viable

  • This isn’t an a la carte option: the buttons from one study and the colors from the other. It’s about the dominance of the attributes
  • “Focus group preferences do NOT indicate buying behavior” — Kim Goodwin. Amen!
  • Iterate/refine/validate. Collaborate w/ developers. More accurate schedule, visibility into end product, tells you when you’re done
  • VD is creating a visual system reduces complexity, makes dcisions easier as you design, gives you basis for consistency checks, …
  • …lets multiple ppl lay out screens, aids implementation efforts, provides guidance for later expansion
  • Cooper now using Fireworks (yeah, baby!). Better for communicating states
  • Visual system created iteratively as VDer improves layout, simplifies, drafts style guide, challenges inconsistencies
  • Style guide: color palette’s uses, type/size/styles, widget & icon library, how states are depicted, grid specs and pixel measurements
  • [I’ve done my fair share of these style guides. They’re incredibly tedious to create, but an invaluable resource for the team]
  • Style guide is not a set of guidelines for engineers to use in layout out their own screens, or a substitute for IxD
  • Support development. Designers provide consultation on priorities & trade-offs. Ensures consistent vision throughout implementation
  • “Illustrator not a good tool for final design because it doesn’t encourage designers to think in pixels” — Kim Goodwin
  • “Photoshop v. Fireworks. Fireworks has richer ways of dealing in frames. Define symbols in a way Photoshop can’t…
  • …Most importantly, Fireworks is a combination of vector and raster graphics.” — Kim Goodwin
  • Kim strongly encourages to separate the two disciplines: interaction designer and visual designer. But don’t treat them as islands

  • IxD & VD diff strengths/perspectives. Certain amount of tension healthy. Conflict means neither party is right, look for 3rd solution
  • ·

  • Kim Goodwin & Alan Cooper’s new book: “Designing for the Digital Age” coming out next year. A hefty 800+ pages!
  • Session done. Interesting to hear this stuff from Kim’s perspective. I’m so beat. Head spinning. Work or lie down?

[Other UI13 sessions I attended: Peter Merholz and Andrew Crow; Dana Chisnell; Scott Berkun]

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