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am 5. März 2000
Alan Cooper, author, is a veteran software designer. He is focusing his current practice in an area he calls "interaction design". His book, "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum", describes his belief in the need for the inclusion of "interaction design" in the software development process. Cooper campaigns for interaction design to be adopted by software development companies as a way of creating customer satisfaction in software based products.
This book is presented in five parts. Parts I and II, "Computer Obliteracy" and "It costs You Big Time" describe the difficulties encountered by the average consumer when using software driven devices. Several creative terms are introduced that are developed throughout the book. These terms include "cognitive friction", "apologists", and "survivors". Part III, "Eating Soup With a Fork", describes the current process of software development. Cooper characterizes most software companies as having hierarchical structure and control. Despite company architecture, Cooper alleges that these companies are ultimately controlled by programmers who code the software. Hence the title, "The Inmates (programmers) Are Running The Asylum". Part IV, "Interaction Design Is Good Business", describes "interaction design". This rather new discipline is put forth by Cooper as the way to save the U.S. software industry dominance. Later in Part V, "Getting Back Into The Driver's Seat", the role of the interaction designer is more fully described throughout the stages of the software development process.
Cooper acknowledges that incorporating "interaction design" in the software development process will necessitate significant changes in the software companies. "Interaction design" inserts a design phase at the beginning of the development process long before programmers begin their coding. The design team works with all of the stakeholders who are involved in the project. Stakeholders include marketing, consumers, programmers, and executives. The designer takes the ultimate responsibility for the quality of the projects and acts as a "go between" among the stakeholder groups. The design team is given credibility and decision-making authority by the corporate executives. Success using this process is enhanced when all stakeholders have a common vision for the project. The corporate culture is changed when interaction designers are given responsibility for everything that comes in contact with the consumer. Cooper validates his beliefs by showing how "interaction design" as a part of the process of creating software will save a company time and money while developing products that will be friendly to the consumers.
As a novice in the area of software design, I enjoyed hearing an insiders point of view of this specialized business. The interaction designer is presented as the consumers voice in a process of product development. I agree with Cooper that this voice is needed since most products that we use have digital coding somehow embedded in their operation.
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am 26. Februar 2000
Alan Cooper does a good job of explaining why we experience difficulty and frustration when we operate a computer or device with a microchip or computer program built in. He describe this problem as "cognitive friction", the resistance encountered by a human intellect when it engages with a complex system of rules that change as the problem permutes (19-20).
The theme of this book is that interactive products need to be designed by interaction designers instead of by software engineers, the inmates who run the asylum (21). Cooper prefers using the term "interaction design" over the term "interface design" so that programmers and software companies take more responsibility in placing design at the forefront of the planning stages. He defines interaction design as the selection of behavior, function, and information and their presentation to users, end product design being the part he wishes to take from programmers and put into the hands of dedicated interaction designers (22).
Cooper describes two types of computer users, apologists and survivors. He defines apologists as those who fight their way through program design and interaction making excuses for the programmers. These people are generally computer literate. Survivors do not think of computers as being simple to use and make up about 90% of those who use computers.
Cooper proposes that companies not rush to put products on shelves, that programmers not test their own code, that corporate managers take a more active role in understanding how people will effectively use their products, to throw prototypes of existing code away and build from scratch with the end user and interface in mind, and to incorporate interaction design before programming starts.
The book is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at what takes place in the software industry. For those of us, really everyone who has used a computer or electronic product, consumers who have become frustrated at "dancing bear" products and who simply wish to turn on their VCR to record the Super Bowl or use the computer to send e-mail, the book is a comforting piece of knowledge in realizing that we are not the problem.
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am 25. Februar 2000
Beginning with the simple understanding that anything combined with a computer will result in a computer, Alan Cooper argues that it is time to break the engineer-centric design of computer hardware and software. As anyone who has had to deal with the sometimes-foreign logic of computer human interfaces would attest, what should be intuitive becomes unintuitive in practice, and clear interfaces and design are surrendered for engineering and coding. Cooper takes software and hardware designers and engineers to task and reminds them of the importance of designing for the rest of us.
While Copper's book appears to rankle the pride of professional software and hardware designers, his logic speaks to what may be the vast majority of computer users. Rather than a complex and technical argument directed to the professionals, Copper focuses on the human friendly aspects of computer equipment design: intuitiveness, politeness, usability, and control. While his argument's support is academically weak, his perspectives voices the concerns often heard within mainstream America about computer design. And while his evidence appears to be more antidotal, it is antidotes that are recognizable and experienced by the general population.
For the general population and non-professional, this book is thought provoking and refreshing. To the professional designers, however, this book does little more than show you the mirror and forces you to see what wrong with computer interfaces today.
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am 23. Februar 2000
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum By Alan Cooper Review by Linda Larson Pepperdine University Doctoral Student
Anyone who has bought a new high-tech product only to find that they cannot operate the high tech marvel will relate to Alan Cooper's book The Inmates are Running the Asylum. As I read the book, it reminded me of the many times I've wanted to take a baseball bat to my computer. Increasing in our society, we are "paced off" in this man vs. machine interaction Cooper calls cognitive friction. Human beings can experience this friction from operating a simple appliance, to operating a complex computer software program. The high tech industry is in complete denial that that high tech computerized gadgets are too hard to use. According to Cooper, the designers add so many features the common man cannot even figure out how to use many of these features, or for that matter, the end user does not even want these endless lists of features.
Cooper's book goes beyond just simply verifying that cognitive friction exists. He explains why products are developed this way in the first place. He adeptly explains that it is not the technology that is causing the friction but the people who design the technology. The designers use themselves as a reference and design a product whose interaction is expressed in the terms it was constructed. As an end result, we get products that would make bravest hero cringe as he sets out on his quest to try to make his new product function.
Cooper offers an insightful explanation on why the products are sometimes impossible to use. He explains what happens in most shops is that most of the programming is done where no one has a clue on how to design for the end user. Can we escape this imprisonment? Cooper's book offers an alternate way. He believes that what he calls an interaction designer should be part of the process because the interaction designer bases his decisions on what the end user is trying to achieve. In other words, the goals of the end user and the programmer are dramatically different. The programmer is concerned with the construction and wants this to be smooth and efficient on the other hand the user wants their interaction with the program to be smooth and easy. According to Cooper, "These two objectives almost never result in the same program. Cooper believes that "interactive products need to designed by interaction designers instead of by software engineers."
This book offers many insights into the area of software development and interaction design and is a must read for anyone interested in designing effective interfaces. In the words of Cooper, we have to stop letting the "Inmates Run the Asylum."
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am 23. Februar 2000
Yes,The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Allan Cooper Reviewed by Frank W.Cornell - Pepperdine University
This book is written for those who love the changes that the new technologies provide, but just can not tolerate the way products are easily usable. In his discussion of cognitive friction, he indicates that the consumers are polarized into one of two groups. Either we are an apologist or a survivor. We either "adopt cognitive friction as a lifestyle, or go underground and accept it as a necessary evil." Much of his book discusses the ill conceived fact that programers are put to work before a design is completed. When this path is followed and errors are found later on, the program must be altered which in turn upsets the entire development process. Cooper's example of a carpenter cutting boards by eye until he finally gets one that fits the gap in the wall. Microsoft spends over $800 million dollars annually on technical support which is about 5% of their net revenues on technical support - Why? In another example used by Cooper, he divides the human race into two categories, by using this analogy. Imagine boarding an airplane; if one turns left they head for the cockpit giving the desire to control and understand how technology works. Then the ones that turn right strongly desire to simply their thinking and sit back and enjoy the success of the flight. What Cooper is trying to develop and make work he calls "Goal-Directed Design" or in other words to develop a precise description of our user and what he wishes to accomplish. If these simple and basic elements are followed one will not end up with an unusable product from a cognitive and performance standpoint. I highly recommend this book to those who are frustrated with today's technology. This is not a highly technical book, but the reader will find it easy to read and very enjoyable.2/14/00
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am 15. Februar 2000
In Inmates are Running the Asylum, Cooper gives words and wings to the frustrations many of us feel with products that may be technically sound, but that drive us crazy. The main premise (and title) of this book comes from Cooper's notion that the inmates (the software engineers and programmers) are dictating not only the technical content, but the user interface of the products we use. The design of the product frequently evolves (by intention or accident) to reflect the needs, interests and perspective of the programmers rather than the intended users.
Cooper believes that "we can create powerful and pleasurable software-based products by the simple expedient of designing our computer-based products before we build them." (preface) To do that, Cooper recommends the user of an interaction designer. Not a technical programmer--but that will certainly help you work with programmers--rather an interaction designer is someone who considers the user, her needs, habits and circumstances, and designs the product for her and with her in mind. Cooper uses the second half of the book for suggesting tools and techniques that have worked for him and other interaction designers. One recommendation I particularly liked, was the idea of creating several personas as "concrete" representations of the users; then using these personas throughout the project to keep the entire project team focused on the user.
Cooper is clearly a man with a message he believes in; and he presents it in an engaging manner. As a former programmer turned interaction design consultant, Cooper has the perspective and credibility to tell this story. As an instructional designer, I found it a "good read,"chock full of tools, techniques and ideas that more than once sent me off writing in my "good ideas" notebook. I recommend it.
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am 15. Februar 2000
The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Allan Cooper Reviewed by Frank W.Cornell - Pepperdine University
This book is written for those who love the changes that the new technologies provide, but just can not tolerate the way products are easily usable. In his discussion of cognitive friction, he indicates that the consumers are polarized into one of two groups. Either we are an apologist or a survivor. We either "adopt cognitive friction as a lifestyle, or go underground and accept it as a necessary evil." Much of his book discusses the ill conceived fact that programers are put to work before a design is completed. When this path is followed and errors are found later on, the program must be altered which in turn upsets the entire development process. Cooper's example of a carpenter cutting boards by eye until he finally gets one that fits the gap in the wall. Microsoft spends over $800 million dollars annually on technical support which is about 5% of their net revenues on technical support - Why? In another example used by Cooper, he divides the human race into two categories, by using this analogy. Imagine boarding an airplane; if one turns left they head for the cockpit giving the desire to control and understand how technology works. Then the ones that turn right strongly desire to simply their thinking and sit back and enjoy the success of the flight. What Cooper is trying to develop and make work he calls "Goal-Directed Design" or in other words to develop a precise description of our user and what he wishes to accomplish. If these simple and basic elements are followed one will not end up with an unusable product from a cognitive and performance standpoint. I highly recommend this book to those who are frustrated with today's technology. This is not a highly technical book, but the reader will find it easy to read and very enjoyable.
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am 14. Februar 2000
When computers and computer programs were esoterically a part of our lives it was O.K. to leave the design of their functionality to those pioneering souls clever enough to do it. And, as the sophistication of computing functionality developed, so did the sophistication of the requisite developmental skills and computing languages. Out of this growth of sophistication arose the divide between developers/programmers/users (the inmates) and those who were not.
However, now computer technology applicability is becoming ubiquitous and the divide is arising between developer/programmers and the rest of us as users. Cooper does a good job of outlining the requirements claimed on both sides of the divide and explaining the ramifications of the divide's existence. He makes a case for usability as a part of design and not as an afterthought in the form of a "cognitive friction" producing interface tacked onto an application.
The book is written (due to Cooper's extensive experience) from the vantage point of someone who's been a programmer practitioner as well as a frustrated user. Cooper promotes the notion of an "Interaction Designer" who would function as part of the software design team to help ensure that a user's experience with a computing facility(hardware and software) would be positive, as useful as required, and free of frustration. "The Inmates Are Running The Asylum" is written in easy to read prose and liberally sprinkled with illuminating humor.
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am 14. Februar 2000
Cooper is right on the money with many of his descriptions regarding the grafting of computers into various facets of our lives. Throughout the book he addresses the daily issues "apologists" (whether they are willing admit it or not) and "survivors" alike struggle with and put up with, such as Microsoft* software, (need I say more). The section of the book that really struck a chord, as I work with engineers to create product training, was the reference to the use of "bribery by chocolate" and how it resulted in cutting overtime of a Technical Writer by more than half. This not only showed the human side of the programmers/engineers that many of us don't get to see, but it validated my methods. Bravo!
Cooper also has a clear process flow for creating successful technology-enabled products, which he compares to that of the filmmaking industry. Design first, program second, user test and bug test third, and finally tweak. In order to keep the vision and goals clear in this process Cooper creates personas to clarify and better target the product's user. When the design and programming team is able to keep this in mind with a constant visual of the pre-determined persona(s), the product plan is in control and the product will be a success.
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In The Inmates are Running the Asylum, Cooper has given us a vehicle to articulate our frustration with today's technology. He does so in a humorous, down-to-earth fashion that puts us at ease with our confusion with today's feature-happy electronic devices and software. He offers an empathetic stance, leading the charge against all the new features we have grown to hate or ignore, thrust on us by overzealous engineers (the inmates) ignoring the pleas of designers and consumers alike. This is quite an admirable task considering he is a guru in the field of technology and one of it's prime developers. He gains his authenticity from his experience within the computer industry. If ever there was someone who should be savvy about technology, it should be Alan Cooper, but he is right there as frustrated as we are with products which require manuals bigger than most dictionaries.
In this book, Cooper offers us an insider view of the world of product design and software programming. The world of computers and everyday appliances are merging and, Cooper contends, the merger is not necessarily in the best interest of consumers. He offers some sound advice to designers, engineers and programmers on how to improve the design of products. Although I did not agree with all of his solutions, I still highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever wanted to throw a VCR out a window or designed a product somebody else wanted to throw out a window.
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