Sunday, June 17, 2007

The art of hype

A colleague in our office recently underwent Human Factors' usability imporovement ceterification. She proudly published the link to her certificate on MSN Messenger.

A software company in Bangalore that I was dealing with was very excited about their Human Factors certification.

A colleague in the US who was part of the Flora2000 usability redesign team in 2004 also went thru Human Factors training and told me how her market rate has increased.

And recently the no. 1 newspaper in India, The Times of India, proudly advertised their newly redesigned website in their print ed
ition boasting how good it was and that Human Factors had redone it.

Want to rush in for Human Factors' training?

Hold on.

Now the fact, the sad fact, is that Human Factors' own website is extremely poorly designed, something that both my colleagues who underwent the course agreed. The Times of India is also a very poorly de
signed site, cluttered and with space wastage. Ditto with the company in Bangalore whose own website at that time was poorly designed.

Look at the New York Times site and compare it to Times of India; NYT is a clean, readable site, with attention paid to details such as spacing between letters to improve readability; TOI is extremely cluttered with everything shouting: click me 1st.

Who are these Human Factor people? Well they are experts at hype. They have published reams of papers and given seminars on their usability improvement techniques, they proudly label their technique the Schaffer- Weinschenk Method after their founders and pitch it as the leading usability improvement technique in the world. Unfortunately, whatever that technique is, it does not produce stylish, uncluttered, easy on the eyes websites. Their websites all have the look from sites we used to see in 1999 - 2000 with only a focus on information rather than the readability of the information.

This is what happens when you fall for hype instead of using your common sense.On one side is Human Factor's own poorly designed website and their poorly designed flagship projects:;, etc, on the other side is their own hype about how good they are. And you go fall for the hype.


Rima said...

fiesty!!! im the US collegue who once believed a year ago when i did the entire certification course that after doing it my market value increased. Well today i disagree. I think the Human factors course is a great way to formulate and put things into perspective so that you can go back and concoct your own theory and formulate it with as much ease and simplicity and draw your own chart and formula. But instead these courses and the propaganda of these so called methodologies is becoming a following or rather being stated and marketed as the only way to do it right.
What i like about the human factors approach is that they pay attention to detail and make sure that detail is simplified to the core so as to achieve optimum return on investment. But im a firm believer of inhale the knowledge but dont spurt it out in the exact fashion. Innovate, create and exhale your own understanding of it. Take what you agree with and leave the rest. So u see why i dont enjoy the UI field where projects conform to standards and standards only. So not a UI way of thinking. hahahaha!

Rima said...

Also about that increase in market value nonsens..nahhh I think its increased because I have my own opinion and view of things and usability and I stand by them!

RYK said...

but the fact is that the HF technique is not producing easy to use sites, just look at Staples and TOI designed by them inhouse... doesn't the end result count for anything? I am thus questioning the technique itself, detail oriented or not.

Rima said...

Thats what im saying that they get so consumed in their methodologies and models that the outcome is this boring dull spiceless website that in the process of sticking to their way and what they perceive as user friendly which i know they invest heavy research in the websites ends up giving one the feeling u have