Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Usability and Design

Over at Bokardo, Joshua Porter asks, “Why do you think that usability and visual design aren’t often associated with each other?” The answer he includes from Luke Wroblewski is this: “Well Curt Cloninger once wrote that usability experts are from Mars and graphic designers are from Venus, so it could be that. But truthfully, I think it stems from the fact that many people aren’t versed in what determines how we make sense of what we see.”

My take on this problem is that the worlds are not intertwined. Too many designers are not versed in coding and usability and vice versa. In too many cases the process is incredibly fragmented. Information architects go away and work on architecture which a designer receives and then passes on final design to coders. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be able to do each other’s job, but they should at least be versed in all facets of the process. I’ve met web designers with no coding experience. That’s all well and good, but if a web designer doesn’t understand some of the basic limitations of the web its going to create serious issues.

On a deeper level, though, I think this is a problem with people’s definition of design. Everything that goes into the final user experience should fall under a ‘design’ umbrella. If you want to call it something else, that’s fine, but the point is that it’s a unified process. Usability/visuals/architecture/code all should act together to create something that a user walks away from feeling satisfied. Luke explains it like this: “the two disciplines of visual design and usability don’t have an opportunity to develop a shared language about the way they are communicating concepts to end users. Were more of those conversations to happen, I think you’d see more of a convergence between the two.”

June 23, 2006