Having focused on research and planning in previous chapters, Cooper et al, move into discussing the actual design. The chapter is divided into two sections, one on design framework and the other on refinement.
The Design Framework “defines the overall structure of the user’s experience, from the arrangement of functional elements on the screen, to interactive behaviours and the underlying organizing principles, to visual and form language used to express data, concepts, functionality, and brand identity” (pg. 126). The authors divide the design frame work into three concurrent categories. The first category is the interaction framework – in which screens and behaviours are created based on the scenarios and requirements and through the following non-linear six steps:
1. Define from factor, posture, and input methods
2. Define functional and data elements
3. Determine functional groups and hierarchy
4. Sketch the interaction framework
5. Construct key path scenarios
6. Check designs with validation scenarios
A second parallel category is the creation of a visual design framework, which is done through:
1. the use of developed visual language studies which include “colour, type and widget treatments, as a way of assessing the overall tone and suitability of the general interactions and to see whether the interactions can distract the users
2. By applying the chosen visual styles to the screen archtype through a rendering of one or two selected key screens (pg 136).
The third component of the design framework is the Industrial design framework which includes the:
1. Collaboration with interaction designers about form factors and input methods,
2. Development of a rough prototypes, and the
3. Development of form language studies
as a way of creating something physically tangible that can be utilised and evaluated.
The beginning of the evaluation process is what the author refers to as the refinement phase, “where the design is translated into a final, concrete form” (141). This is accomplished through the refining of form and behaviour as well as through design validation and usability testing.
Although the refining process is very critical, the authors cautions that “it is at its core a means to evaluate, not to create. It is not an alternative to interaction design, and it will never be the source of that great idea that makes a compelling product. Rather, it is a method to assess the effectiveness of ideas you’ve already had and to smooth over the rough edges” (pg. 143).
In accordance with their emphasis on the use of full and comprehensive Personas’ the authors, urge the reader to pretend that the product being created is human because “pretending the system is human is a powerful tool to structure interaction-level detail” (pg. 129).
Although the above is sound advice, I am curious as to whether the questions that the authors encourage designers to consider are appropriate when it comes to designing educational software. The questions that a designer is asked to consider are: “what would a helpful human do? What would a thoughtful considerate interaction feel like? Is the primary persona being treated humanely by the product? In what way can the software offer helpful information without getting in the way? How can it minimize the persona’s effort in reaching his goal?”
The aforementioned questions would yield different responses depending on what product the interactions are being created for. Educational product I believe can by their very nature be at times frustrating to the user so as to not overly simplify or obstruct learning. If the tool continually gives away the answers or is exceedingly intuitive, one has to question whether or not learning is taking place, or simply a conformation of existing knowledge.
The questions that are posed and the encouragement to consider the product as human are amply relevant for products such as mobile telephones as illustrated by an example offered in the chapter. However they are not always appropriate for educational software because at times as a way of teaching, it is important to present challenges to learners that may be frustrating, (or perhaps what the authors may term “inhumane”) as a way of facilitating learning.
Reference: Cooper, Reimann, & Cronin. (2007). About face 3: The essentials of Interaction Design. Wiley.
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