Here is an issue that pokes at me on a daily basis. It is the philosophical aspects that describe, in a colloquial way, the reason that specific UX decisions are made. While we get our data from observation, testing and heuristic analysis, and add to that aesthetic elements that are hopefully appropriate to the user and not too biased towards the designer, we often are not given the proper opportunity to explain the philosophy behind those decisions. So, how do I go about including the philosophy of UX in my UX presentations, designs and strategies?
It’s important that I clarify this by referring specifically to the philosophy of decisions made in the context of a specific UX design. I’m not talking about the overall philosophy of UX because, besides “preaching to the choir”, it often digresses from the matters at hand. Going to the overall philosophy of UX also can weaken the argument for the exceptions needed for a specific UX design since it often casts such a broad net that these specifics can appear contrary to the matter your trying to clarify to begin with.
This issue always concerns me because when the philosophy of the decisions made are stripped from the explanation, it opens the decisions to being easily overridden by a consensus of shareholders rather than the far more important users. Unfortunately when its a battle in the boardroom between users and marketing/vendors/resellers, it is the user that looses. This is often because selling a feature is more important than using it. For example (keeping in mind that the vast majority of end users in business are not the buyers), a new feature is added to a product that will be compelling to 90% of the buying market, but used by <20% of the end users and confusing or unnecessary to the rest will often be implemented as a primary/top-level feature. The reason that these features are so compelling is that they seem to be great additions but important aspects are not considered. Typically the feature is dependent on the availability of other resources that are not available or require an additional investment in hardware, software or services that are not within the existing budget. An example might be when Apples ‘Facetime’ feature was available. Many people thought this was a great idea, but it took a long time to gain traction in actual use since it required that both parties have Wi-Fi in order to use it. So the idea of talking to Mom long-distance face to face was a great selling point until you realized that Mom needed but didn’t have Wi-Fi.
Sometimes the philosophy is based on actual data, but the data was for a different product with enough similarities in paradigm to apply it, with fair accuracy, to the decision at hand. In this case, the philosophy is often dismissed simply because it is referring to a different product. Without the appropriate philosophical description and comparison that helps verify its validity, it is dismissed before it is applied. This is more so the case when the example is a competitive product. In this case, it is usually only accepted when the competitor has completely overrun your company. Then the philosophy gets implemented and hopefully it’s not too late. (e.g. Blackberry).
What I personally try to do is apply the philosophy of UX in a proleptic and simplified way, so as not to have to start from scratch defending the user on every UX decision that’s made.
I’m curious as to others’ experiences in this area of presentation of UX designs.