HCI rant by Bill Buxton

Microsoft Researcher Bill Buxton has a good rant towards HCI in the last issue of Interfaces (the journal from the british HCI group): Buxton, William (2006). Who cares if you are dressed if you are alone? Interfaces, 66, Spring 2006, 5-6.

the CHI literature played no role in the development of what was perhaps the greatest contribution to improving people’s experience using computers. There was no CHI literature! (...) we were not wasting our time. No. We were doing hard and useful things. But they had far more to do with analysis, evaluation and engineering than with the design of new things. (...) One way that I would characterize this is to say that as a community we have been obsessed with learning how toget the design right rather than how toget the right design. (...) “Getting the design right” is largely what usability is about. And while ethnography helps inform “getting the right design”, it does not do it. Both ethnography and usability are important and worthy of respect, but they are not sufficient to do what needs to be done. Without either divine intervention or a competent designer, they will fail in doing so. (...) While the CHI community is fiddling around with our ethnography-usability dilemmas, Rome is burning, and has been doing so for years. If we believe the rhetoric about total user experience and value-based design, then perhaps we should spend a bit more time thinking about what makes products succeed, and how we can contribute to that, rather than how to get 10% better performance out of some menu. (...) may I point out that having not learned our lesson with the GUI, mobile computing (as manifest in the smart phone, for example), is following exactly the same track as the GUI towards self-destruction due to feature bloat.

Why do I blog this? some interesting and provocative thoughts about HCI are always useful to move forward, especially when you are in the process of writing a phd thesis that addresses some "implications for design" of field experiments.