This morning Donald Norman opened the conference with his key-note lecture entitled ‘Sociable Design’. As usual Donald knew how to captivate the audience with nice, clear and intelligent examples of everyday things and situations to illustrate his points.
Donald’s talk was about that traditional product design testing is done to make the design understandable and usable. Nevertheless, he argued that this is always done in a lab or artificial setting. This creates the situation where a person is (most likely) not using the product as he or she would have in a natural setting.
Donald claimed that being sociable requires system thinking: to look at the entire picture of human activity, in its natural, real context of everyday life. Sociable design requires understanding the context of usage, not just what other activities people are doing.
He gave examples of computers that are used at a public bank office. The front has been designed to look nice, for the consumers at home probably. But in the setting of the bank, where there is often a client on the other end of the desk, the back of the computer showing all the wires etc. is uncovered.
Another similar example he gave was the rooftops of buildings, that architects often neglect to make easthetically pleasing (they are mostly ugly). They completely forget the fact that people living in higher buildings (like Donald) and want to look outside, are exposed to these dreadful looking rooftops.
Sociable design is also about using social structures and behaviour in products. Donald gave the examples of social network sites or sites where products are put forward that are related to your search because other people bought them or recommended them (like Amazon). These are the advanced versions of the basic situation in where people realize whether they missed the train or not by looking if there are people waiting on the platform or not: social cue, if you missed it there is no one waiting. If you see there are others who purchased the product, you are more likely to buy it.
The examples and concepts in Donald’s talk were interesting and promising for his upcoming book “Sociable Design”, which I look forward to read.
Tomorrow morning I will have an interview with Don, that will also be published on this blog shortly after.