Between a rock and an interface

Designers and developers should be consulting their psychologists, says BBC columnist Bill Thompson.

“Major sites like Facebook are constantly being redesigned on the basis of little real understanding of how people engage with their computers.

Vast amounts of work have been done in our attempt to understand human psychology, and the investigation of how we can use computer systems for co-operative work has been going on for decades. Yet few of today’s user interface designers seem to make use of the things we already know.

The research carried out by psychologists is important because it involves proper experiments, with control groups, null hypotheses and statistical analysis – all the things that focus groups and usability labs don’t have.

Making use of the results in the real world is not easy, but it is very worthwhile, despite the temptations to skip the hard stuff and just get on and build the website or launch the computer.”

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