Usability 2.0

Borrowing from the elements of user empowerment of Web 2.0, Usability 2.0, would be a user experience defining layer that would empower usability practitioners to define and design user experience to truly reflect and meet human needs across the whole spectrum of design.

Usability 2.0 would go beyond defining, designing and measuring efficiency, effectiveness and user satisfaction. It would strive to define boundaries under which human needs can be met by a design, it would strive to equate all humans, rather than users, and thus design systems that cater and nurture human psycho-social well being.

Usability 2.0 will approach design problems as interconnected to other spheres of design rather than look at them as separate entities that can be solved by technology and its use by a few users irrespective of its efficiency and effectiveness. It will acknowledge that nurture and not nature alone defines psycho-social values and needs and thus give a priority in designing environments that contribute to those values rather than expect human to find satisfaction in systems despite disparity in how they meet their needs and fulfills their psycho-social values.

Concepts defining Usability 2.0 ought to include but be limited to:

  • Identifying, upholding and defending human psycho-social values
  • Employing a holistic view of elements leading to problems and solutions
  • Embracing universal design principles as the way forward
  • Embracing a cause and prevention approach rather than effect and cure
  • Catapulting technology to free humans from monotonous, repetitive, dangerous, boring and non-fulfilling tasks – if work is be thought of as empowerment
  • Empowering humans to build on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivations.
But for what reasons?

#1  Self empowerment and fulfillment are more than just being pleased and satisfied with a product/service interface

The employment of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a very few simple operations; frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments.

The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects, too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, had no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. 

He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind render him, not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. – Adam Smith

Intrinsic motivation and autonomy featured in the pursuit for happiness would result to more personal fulfillment as effort would not be overshadowed by extrinsic motivation, external pressure to be productive or meet deadlines. That would be for the machines to do. Engagement methods that result to or involve getting people to take actions that are not always in their best interest, without the use of force, in a predictable way undermine intrinsic motivations and lessen desired experiences.

#2 Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors

Usability as a science maybe fatally flawed but for business and institutions it sure provides an edge, giving you incremental evolution of the status quo. Usability methods are usually employed for the benefit of a company selling products and its own immediate customers. This inhibits it from looking into the overall impact of its efforts that extend beyond the two private parties. These extends beyond the design of computerized systems into the design of everyday societal systems whether or not they are computerized.

For 2 hysterical instances, the design of weapons no matter how much usable ignores the human experience that is imparted on 3rd parties on whom the weapons are used on, leave alone the user experience of the users themselves.  Similarly, to punish humans who do not abide by a systemic design that does not address their needs is absurd to say the least. Furthermore, it is dangerous to expect them to be fulfilled when a systemic design especially if it has left them to fend for themselves.

A systematic understanding of how environments affect people can be used deliberately to create environments to suit human adaptation – Carroll

If the design, production, use, maintenance or disposal of some system, service or product results to the erosion of psycho-social values (human and environmental) then the design is a failure. But only if we were to accept the notion that technical achievement should not be at the expense of human and environmental values. Usability, if it is to be of value to society must adopt a holistic view when addressing design problems. Its concern must not only be for users but also for humans who may directly or indirectly come into contact with a design.

It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man’s blessings. Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors – Albert Einstein.

#3 To break the status quo that prevents design from meeting its obligations and objectives

It is surprising or rather not, how our mindsets as societies, are ingrained in authoritative institutions, tenacity and intuition mostly because we have been conditioned by traditions and notions and are unable or unwilling to question or attempt new ideologies. With guiding notions such as design for all and universal design, it would be illogical to think that any design employing these methods would result to disparity.

On the contrary, disparity is not only the norm but it is so entrenched in society to a point where we have come to accept it as natural and thus as something that we cannot or should not attempt to change. This very fact prevents design from engaging in formative methodologies but rather continue practicing normative approaches nurturing business as usual and thereby preventing it from realizing its potential.

It is essential to release humanity from the false fixations of yesterday, which seem now to bind it to a rationale of action ending only in extinction – R Buckminster Fuller.

Formative approaches focus on identifying requirements that need to be satisfied if a system is to be usable. And although those requirements may not uniquely devise a new design, they are highly informative and thus valuable as they can be used to rule out (falsify), many design alternatives - Vicente. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth – Peter Abrahams.

In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, Art must show the world as changeable and help to change it. – Ernst Fischer.

Usability today in some cases, is more about aesthetics rather than addressing real life issues yet so many remain unsolved, leave alone widely acknowledged. Current practice is always tied to the status quo, thus embodying current practice in future systems is a fundamental error. New practice should strive to support psycho-social values and derive groundbreaking experiences. Current practices reflect inadequacies and limitations in the existing systems and at the same time hides potentially valuable but unexplored ways of life.

What is considered web design today is not really design. It is styling, pixel coloring or whatever you’d like to call it. Real design is about solving problems. It is way more holistic and deep than the actual work we do in Photoshop.

Usability and user experience may not just be about enabling people to close caption their lives. Because even though they get new experiences, those experiences may as well be distractions for their real life experiences.

Science must be bold enough to devise and demonstrate that usability can have an impact on society but must at the same time not be misled by economic and political ideologies otherwise it becomes ingrained in the art of maintaining status quo and thus lose meaning in doing so.

#4 The value of human to human interaction ought not be at the expense of human computer interaction

Rather than glue workers to screens, the elderly to robots and the young to toys, automation of labor should enhance human to human experience and thus psycho-social well being.

On the contrary, technology should embrace automation of labor and be used to perfect robots in order to decrease working hours, and increase leisure hours for arts, family time and other personal interests. The fact that a task is routine enough to be measured suggests that it is routine enough to go to the robots.

Moreover, technology should not be used as an art form for perfecting the robotization of humans, watching, tracking, eavesdropping, and bombarding them with useless information, just so that they can be part of and snugly fit in some production/consumption conveyor belt.

#5 There is a human (experience) beyond the user (experience)

If usability is to be practiced as a science with real concern for man humans and their fate, its potential would result to a new social fabric that would empower people and societies to realize their potential and perhaps lead to a paradigm shift in mindsets, leave alone societal setups, enabling a profound understanding of social phenomenon and ways in which it can be best addressed.

But if the foundations of the science are rooted only in cognitive psychology and resist influence from the wider field of psychology then usability, will continue to embody objectives that perpetuate the status quo and decay in human experiences even in the face of technical advancement.

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One thought on “Usability 2.0

  1. Pingback: The future – massive technological unemployment, what will become of us? | User experience

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