— 3 July 2005 —

Don’t Dread the Design Walkthrough

While I was sitting through the TiVo session at the conference I noted the following:

They do design walkthroughs with all main “stakeholders” in the same room. hm. I find it easier to do walkthroughs in different meetings so the specific agendas can be focused on.

I’ve done walkthroughs with 50+ people in the room, and I’ve done it with 5 meetings of 10 people. I much, so much, this________much prefer the latter.

It’s more work on my part, but it’s less headache and it takes less time. Less time? Did I just say that? Oh hell yeah. It works because I break things up by external agenda.

My business partners have one agenda: to see that their vision of the system I designed matches their mental model. What happens when I try to meet the mental model needs of the users and it doesn’t mesh with the vision? More meetings. So when I can focus on only one agenda in a walkthrough, it makes it easier to focus on design compromise.

The developers want specifics, and who besides me could blame them? They want to know what components interact with what systems. What’s the screen flow? Where does this pop-up happen? Think the business partners care about this? Yeah, they do when you have them in the room with the developers, but if you keep them separate they don’t ask questions about the use (or lack there of) of JavaScript. So when it comes time to the inevitable answer of, “We can’t code that,” I can have a compromise conversation with the developers about the difference between can’t, won’t, and don’t-know-how.

And so with the QCers, the project team in general, the peer reviews…

Now, at TiVo they are basically letting only 3 or 4 people in the room: the leads that represent the business factions and the technology factions. Which is a really good idea, but then those leads have to go back and translate what was said in the walkthrough to the rest of their team. Overall, I’d rather avoid translation and talk directly to each team.

I doubt there is a best way to do it. Well, the best way would be 5 people in a room responsible for all decisions and all work. That’s not always the reality. What are the downsides? Is there a better way to do it?

I guess I go about it “the Bard way.” Telling the story of the interface to all who will listen. Wandering Cubeland with my lyre and parchment… Seriously, someone fund me to go back and get a masters in comparative lit. What would I compare? Medieval European and Tang Dynasty writings. What does that have to do with usability?

Absolutely nothing.

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