I began reading Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton, and so far, after 40+ pages, I’m enjoying it immensley and learning a lot. It’s about the importance of designing something (a product, website, building, team, whatever) "in the wild" instead of in a laboratory with "idealized and unrealistic assumptions" (My snarky example: Windows Vista). The latter method, unfortunately, is too common and is the reason why we’re stuck with badly designed and unproductive merchandise.
In the part of the book I’ve reached so far, Bill explained the concept of "informed design". You know, gathering all necessary information in the field during the development stage. And field testing it in real, actual situations that your whatever is intended. In Bill’s words, "designing for the larger social and physical context in which it is intended" (this is why e-mail marketing still works).
It’s that context that Bill explains is vital to the success of technology. Bill uses the example of wooden maps carved by the Ammassalik Inuit of Greenland as they kayaked. They were designed to be worn in gloves keeping hands warm. Should they be accidentally dropped into the water, they would float. If they used a fold-out map, it would get wet. If they used a cellphone, not only could it get wet, there’d be no signal and it would be too cold for the phone to work.
Without a map, of course, you could get lost. That’s why it’s important that the map the Ammassalik Inuit designed worked in their social and physical context.
I’ll blog more about what I learned from Sketching User Experiences. There’s a lot more to learn including the importance of drawing out your plan (hence its name). I feel it’s not too premature, dramatic or bold of me to say that I can already tell that this book will change the way I design my whatevers.
Plus, he’s got scans of his squared moleskine.