IA Summit Keynote: Journey to the Center of Design

Jared Spool

April 23rd, 2008

On April 12, I gave the keynote at the IA Summit. It was my second time keynoting this event and a real honor for me. The audience was great and it lead to some very interesting discussion, both at the conference and on blogs and discussion lists everywhere.

I’ve posted the slides above and have synched it up with audio from the conference. (Unfortunately, there was a mic-input problem during the recording and they ended up using the built-in mics instead of the sounds system. So, the recording is noisy and unintelligible in places. Sorry about that.)

Here’s the description of the talk:

Journey to the Center of Design

User-centered design was born in the 1980s, amidst a world filled with frustration with blinking VCR clocks and computer command lines. Up until this time, developers focused on making the devices work, giving little heed to how they’d be used. Terms like “user friendly” and “easy to use,” buzzwords for the UCD movement, soon became as common as “new and improved” on laundry soap.

Fast forward 25 years and it now seems the foundations of user-centered design are now disintegrating. Notable community members are suggesting UCD practice is burdensome and returns little value. There’s a growing sentiment that spending limited resources on user research takes away from essential design activities. Previously fundamental techniques, such as usability testing and persona development, are now regularly under attack. And let’s not forget that today’s shining stars, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the iPod, came to their success without UCD practices.

Is it time for user-centered design to evolve into something else? Or is there something else happening in our world of experience design that makes UCD obsolete? Should something else occupy the center of design?

These are just the questions that this year’s keynote presenter, Jared Spool, likes to answer. Especially after a few drinks. And while a Saturday morning keynote may seem early for the kind of heavy drinking these particular questions demand, Jared will have just arrived from Italy, a nation with a long tradition of philosophical intoxication. This will set the perfect stage for an entertaining and insightful presentation to open our conference.

We guarantee a journey that shouldn’t be missed.

You can download the slides (without audio). On the Slideshare site, you can view this presentation full screen to see the details.

What do you think of this presentation?

34 Responses to “IA Summit Keynote: Journey to the Center of Design”

  1. Bulgarian Experience » Blog Archive » links for 2008-04-24 Says:

    [...] IA Summit Keynote: Journey to the Center of Design » UIE Brain Sparks it now seems the foundations of user-centered design are now disintegrating. Notable community members are suggesting UCD practice is burdensome and returns little value. There’s a growing sentiment that spending limited resources on user research takes (tags: usability process) [...]

  2. Michael Zuschlag Says:

    The talk says that UCD is undefineable, but I think practitioners roughly agree on what it is: UCD is designing things to be compatible with capabilities and goals of the users, which is accomplished through user research and iterative design. In others words, it’s informing design by observing users and learning from failures, two of the key elements that UIE’s research associates with the most effective design organizations. Far from never actually producing anything, UCD is associated with success. We learn, for example, that the iPhone design team conducted many hours of user observation.

    The real message of UIE’s research is that, in conducting UCD, you shouldn’t get too rigid in your process (e.g., for each project you feel you must _always_ use personas which must _always_ be completed and delivered before scribbling down a potential design). Flexibility in the process is probably important for any effort at creative problem solving, even plumbing as Spool relates.

  3. Patricia Garcia Says:

    I tried listening the presentation but the audio appears to be in fast forward. Please don’t tell me I have to use IE (currently use firefox). Anyway, just posting this comment in case others are having the same problem. I did view the slides, too bad no audio would have loved to hear why people are laughing (I listened to the whole presentation in chipmunk mode thinking my brain would eventually catch up and start understanding.)

  4. Brian Christiansen Says:

    Patricia, I just checked the audio here, and we’re not getting the chipmunk/fast-forward effect. The widget is flash-based, so browser choice shouldn’t be an issue (to be honest, we didn’t even check it in IE.) There is a nasty echo present, due to an unfortunate recording error, though. Headed to slideshare.net, the site seems to be down, so it was probably something broke on that end. Hopefully it’ll work for you soon!

  5. Jared Spool Says:

    Unfortunately, Slideshare, who hosts the presentation is getting hit hard because of hacker attacks from China, according to this TechCrunch report.

    That may explain the problem, which others have reported. Closing your browser and restarting the presentation may just fix the problem. (The few times I’ve tried, it has worked great in Firefox on my Mac.)

  6. IA Summit 2008 Slideshows | @mariobourque Says:

    [...] Journey to the Center of Design (Keynote) – Jared Spool What do innovative intranets look like? – James Robertson [...]

  7. User Experience Sux » Vortrag: Journey To The Center Of Design Says:

    [...] des IA Summit 2008 hat Jared Spool eine interessante Keynote zum Thema Design bzw. dem Wandel des User-Centered Design gegeben. Seit den 80er Jahren existiert UCD, entstanden in einer Welt aus blinkenden [...]

  8. chadvavra Says:

    Awesome.

    I also commented on 37 signals after that Wired article ran.

    http://www.chadvavra.com/blog/2008/02/27/cloudcity-to-basecamp-come-in-basecamp/

    I like the notation of “informed design” but I’d rather call it “intelligent design” because that is really what we are all striving for. Loyalty, Confidence, Integrity, Passion are all ways I would describe an intelligent person, or subject.

    http://www.chadvavra.com/blog/2008/02/18/design-for-intelligence/

  9. Gale Alcorn Says:

    I’m using IE and also getting the “Chipmunk Effect”. Any ideas on how to correct it? I’ve tried closing/restarting my browser….I really want to hear it. Thanks!

  10. Chris Baum Says:

    For those IE folks still hearing the chipmunks, you can download the mp3 from our page on B&A:

    http://boxesandarrows.com/view/ia-summit-2008-day-1

  11. Jeff Parks Says:

    Hi all,

    My name is Jeff Parks. I’m the Podcast editor for Boxes and Arrows. My apologies to Jared about the sound quality. This was my first effort at such a massive initiative for recording and publishing the presentations from the IA Summit. Made some mistakes, learned a great deal for next year’s event.

    I had never experienced issues with IE that have been described in this discussion – I will look into possible fixes for that with the tech team at Boxes and Arrows.

    In the mean time, you can download Jared’s talk directly by following this link: http://www.boxesandarrows.com/files/banda/ia-summit-2008-day-1/2008_IA_Summit_Keynote_Address.mp3

    If you’d like access to Jared’s and other presentations you can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link:
    http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=275459507

    I’ll post more over the coming days as I can find time between other contracts / projects.

    Kindest Regards,
    Jeff

  12. Experience is Everything » Journey to the Center of Design Says:

    [...] design that makes UCD obsolete? Should something else occupy the center of design? – Jared Spool’s IA Summit Keynote May 4, 2008 Link var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : [...]

  13. Cheena Says:

    Hi,

    The audio for this particular post seems like a high speed dubbing…can you share a clearer version?
    http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/ia-summit-2008-day-1

    Thanks!!!

    - C

  14. Book Review: Subject To Change « Experiencing Information Says:

    [...] points made in Jared Spool’s recent keynote speech at the 2008 IA Summit in Miami entitled “Journey to the Center of Design.” His company, User Interface Engineering (UIE), investigated what development teams that create [...]

  15. Rebekah Says:

    Would it be possible to get a copy of the brand questionnaire posted somewhere online?

    Thanks!

  16. ia play :: squeezing more from the fans? Says:

    [...] midst of Jared Spool’s gadfly-esque “UCD never worked, maybe we should retire it” opening plenary at the IA Summit was a rope prop. The rope represented the number of visitors to a website. It had [...]

  17. Zusch Login » Blog Archive » Apple: I Call BS Says:

    [...] Steven Jobs has to do with it. We hear that Apple does no research for its creations, specifically, no user research and  no user testing. That Apple has replaced its user interface design teams with a single Great [...]

  18. Dimitri Lundquist Says:

    I saw you give this talk at SXSW and really enjoyed it, thanks for the great talk!

    I did have a question for you about the second core UX attribute – Feedback. Asking whether a design team has spent two hours or more within the last six weeks observing someone use their (or a competitor’s) design sounds an awful lot like usability testing. Is the takeaway from this that of all the UCD techniques, user testing still retains the most value?

  19. Jared Spool Says:

    Dimitri,

    In the talk, I never suggested that the individual techniques for usability testing aren’t valuable. What I tried to say was that the dogma of UCD — that all designs *must* put the user in the center of the design process — was no longer serving its purpose.

    Instead, I suggested we focus on informing our design decisions. Collecting feedback about our users, including through usability testing techniques, is very valuable and will inform the design, whether we claim we’re using UCD or not.

    Jared

  20. björn | AMHERD | Vortrag: Journey To The Center Of Design Says:

    [...] des IA Summit 2008 hat Jared Spool eine interessante Keynote zum Thema Design bzw. dem Wandel des User-Centered Design gegeben. Seit den 80er Jahren existiert UCD, entstanden in einer Welt aus blinkenden [...]

  21. Partial Recall » Interaction Designers are Idiots Says:

    [...] addition, he and Jared Spool emphasize is that there’s nothing more important than observing users. Nielsen argues that even [...]

  22. Agile 2009 « Web Strategy Consulting Says:

    [...] recap the entire talk, which will hopefully be made available online, I want to emphasize a point I’ve heard Jared make before. In order for a company to produce a great product, three things need to [...]

  23. Zusch Login » Blog Archive » Chicago School of Design Says:

    [...] In large projects, that stuff is mostly for you to communicate with others on the project, to convince clients, developers, and managersthat you know what you’re doing and what should be done. If you are an accepted member of a [...]

  24. Columbus Self Storage Says:

    that slide show is the coolest thing ever Columbus Self Storage! But seriously. I couldn’t really hear it too well. can you repost this in better quality?

  25. On design process | my computer geek Says:

    [...] his speech from 2008, Journey to the center of design Jared Spool compares process with methodology and eventually a dogma. But he also emphasizes the [...]

  26. On design process | Putra Kuningan Says:

    [...] his speech from 2008, Journey to the center of design Jared Spool compares process with methodology and eventually a dogma. But he also emphasizes the [...]

  27. ThemeDigg » On design process Says:

    [...] his speech from 2008, Journey to the center of design Jared Spool compares process with methodology and eventually a dogma. But he also emphasizes the [...]

  28. On design process | webtopx.net Says:

    [...] his speech from 2008, Journey to the center of design Jared Spool compares process with methodology and eventually a dogma. But he also emphasizes the [...]

  29. Closing the feedback loop with a little help from your friends | redbey Says:

    [...] Jared Spool likes to talk about the three things that define an customer-centric organization: [...]

  30. Is user experience relevant where you work? | AgileProductDesign.com Says:

    [...] your context when putting together a process – which is also a stolen idea from my friend Jared Spool who finally picked up the subject again in his battle against dogma in his recent IA Summit [...]

  31. The product context model shows how the product you're building makes user experience more or less relevant on your product Says:

    [...] account your context when putting together a process – which is also a stolen idea from my friend Jared Spool who finally picked up the subject again in his battle against dogma in his recent IA Summit [...]

  32. My Stream » On design process Says:

    [...] And, very likely, not repeating previous success using the same steps.In his speech from 2008, Journey to the center of design Jared Spool compares process with methodology and eventually a dogma. But he also emphasizes the [...]

  33. What can stop Lean Startup from becoming dogma? | Leancamp Says:

    [...] Bob Marshall points out the benefits of learning as an organisation and the necessity of a “playing by the rules” stage to become better.  This answers what individuals and organisations can do to avoid the traps within their own dogmatic attitudes. Jared Spool has a great outlook on this in the Design community. [...]

  34. Zusch Login » Blog Archive » Name calling Says:

    [...] of venerable gurus, in what looked like an attempt to re-assert their relevance, tried to rebrand UCD to convince everyone they had a new breakthrough design method. Not that there isn’t [...]

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