Monday, May 14, 2007

Windows Vista: Lacking in product conceptual integrity?

From the article Facing the full horror of Windows Vista at iTWire:

So far, Transit has been using Vista Business full-time for a fortnight. And so far, we've found nothing that works better than in Windows XP, dozens of things that are annoyingly different without being a functional improvement, and several things that work at best intermittently and at worst not at all. On the whole, we wish we'd never moved.

Is this what Alan Cooper meant in his book The Inmates Are Running The Asylum when a product can lack conceptual integrity if a team of competent designers don't do their homework, develop personas, create specifications and a storyboard?

Well, I actually remember Cooper bringing up conceptual integrity in the context of not letting users directly define the product with feature requests, etc. Instead, it seems to make more sense to first have a bottom-up research approach where data about the users turns into personas and models which then gives way to a top down design approach from there.

Having random feature injections in lieu of user/persona-driven design seems like a bottom-up design approach which could lead to clunky user experience. Bottom-up research guiding top-down design lends itself to focused, coherent user experiences. That's my take on it anyway.

All that research work is to presumably understand what the user aims to achieve and accomplish and then to allow that knowledge to guide design. A storyboard would show how Vista "works better than Windows XP" from a persona perspective and how the "dozens of things" that are "(annoyingly) different" would be actual functional improvements.

As for the "several things that work at best intermittently and at worst not at all," I'm wondering if that's the job for QA and usability testing.

I doubt Microsoft would embark on the production of Vista without "design due diligence" especially with their roster of notable and brilliant designers and researchers. I'd be interested in seeing what their data looked like and how it translated into product specification, interaction design, and the usability testing results.

It would be even more interesting as a case study if Microsoft technically conducted the entire design and development process appropriately and the iTWire comments are accurate. (I've never even tried Windows Vista so I have no bearing on the accuracy of the comments.)

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