“It seems to me that you have been brainwashed with this usability stuff” That was the response of a TU/e professor in a meeting scheduled to explore possibilities to conduct usability studies in the visual analytics domain. Really? it seems so, then! a BA, MSc and a doctorate in the topic might have successfully brainwashed me in the subject. This is not the first comment of the sort I get, and for that reason, I did not feel offended, or sad, or… actually, I didn’t feel much since I think I am immune. Studying Human Factors is a given that having to lobby for a voice in any design matter is part of the job description.After that, off I went to Boeing, where of the thousands of employees, only about 30 of them carry the “Human Factors Engineer” title, and where you would be better talking about religion, politics, or sex to any Aerospace Engineer than usability. Moving to Europe (supposedly so advanced in ergonomics!) and to a USABILITY program I was expecting a different attitude, but it didn’t take long before most of my technical mates (who shall remain nameless) started with the jokes: So, this usability thing… it’s bs, right? It is! is not a hard science! as I laughed at the comments with them, and thought of Three Mile Island, I nodded my head. Yes, it is all BS, glad that you are so open about it! Off you go, hope you can design good stuff (programs?) that do not interact much with humans.
The neigh sayers are everywhere, and the more I face them, the better prepared I feel to work in the field, so I welcome them with open arms! And I can tell a few other HF fellows are doing the same. My favorite is one of my twitter followers, Fake Usability. She posts small comments as reminders of how we don’t need usability. A good example (from a recent post) reads:
If your customers have a hard time understanding how something works on your site, try typing very… slowly…
Jasper van Kuij from UseLog.com wrote in a t-shirt: ”hmmm maybe we need smarter test participants” hahaha! (I need to get one of those) and Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi draw comics about usability in their site okcancel.com (veryyyyy funny, btw). I like their approach of showing with humor the importance of our role, it might be much better than strapping engineers and designers to chairs and showing them bloody bodies as they slowly die from catastrophic HF related accidents (my approach), or grabbing upper management’s attention by telling them just how much they could save if [insert here] implemented (most large corporation’s approach). Whatever the approach, just one thing is for sure, once you step out of the cave, and realize that not only you will be contributing to making things easier to use, but also safer, that your role in any project is to benefit users from insignificant aspects to their lives as a whole, in this battle, there will be no way back, and even if you feel that you can’t beat them, you will never join them.
Oh yes, I have been brainwashed, thank goodness!