builder.au’s Interview with Larry Constantine

Ashley McKee

July 6th, 2007

I just read an interview that builder.au conducted with Larry Constantine, Chief Scientist at Constantine & Lockwood, in 2004. While the interview is a few years old, the principles and techniques Larry discusses, such as usability and UI design in open source software, usage-centered design, and developing the skills to create great UI design, are just as pertinent today.

Question: How does usage-centred design help designers and developers focus on what is important?

Answer: The whole nature of usage centred design is all advised to focus on those relatively few things that have the greatest impact on getting a good user interface design. The fact that it starts out as the user role means that you have already narrowed your focus from users in the broader sense to the relationship with the system.

The task modelling using task cases keeps your attention on what it is your users are attempting to do from their perspective. If you do this modelling process it leads you straight forward from nowhere to a design that will work well for your users.

Question: How do developers go about learning good user interface design?

Answer: I think there are lots of different ways and it depends on the developer. I think its good to get hands on training from a university or one of the commercial organisations but then you have to practice. That means ultimately doing designs that see the light of day and getting them tested and deployed to real users. Doing exercises is good for a start.

Not everybody is cut out for visual interaction design, just like not everyone is cut out to code in C#. People who are good at visualising things and visual problem solving have a head start on doing user interface design.

You can read the full interview here: Developer Interview — Larry Constantine

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