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This article makes a big, unsupported assumption that code is the medium of design. That doesn't make sense to me. The screen, pixels, interactivity is a much more likely candidate. The medium is something that a human user interacts with. That's why the Eameses' cared about plywood. Code is analogous to the industrial, high volume machines that bend plywood and manufacture chairs at scale. Did they know a lot about those? Certainly they knew something about them, but it wasn't their focus. For screen designers, there are many "machines" that can manipulate the medium. Code is only one—there are others that are just as good, if not better.
This reminds me of an article from a few years ago, about a class and race divide between Facebook and MySpace users. MySpace was perceived as more "ghetto": http://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-myspace-a-raceclass-divide/
Considering that Facebook is global, I wonder if she gave any thought to what ethnicity is symbolized by the new icons.
One last word about the danger of false positives: I think the worst that could happen, is that you're getting no (or inconclusive) results if you're testing e.g. an analytics tool with someone who has no idea about it. Identifying non-existent problems is not really a problem in my opinion.
I disagree. How do you know if a false positive is false? If testers can throw out any results they don't agree with, it defeats the purpose of testing.
There are cases where you don't need an exact match for your target audience, and it would be interesting to read an article that explained where it makes sense.
I'm guessing that UserBrain doesn't offer demographic targeting.
There are many good reasons to test with representative users. Age and experience with technology are two factors that are important to match with your user group. You probably don't want to test an Android app with iPhone users or vice versa.
Domain knowledge is often important. If you test an analytics tool with general users, you'll get a lot of false positives and waste time identifying "issues" that your users don't experience.
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In short, isn’t the type of argument you seem to be defending here — “I’m a designer, therefore [without any reference to the quality of my work] I know more than you and my judgement will be better than yours.” — exactly the kind of ad hominem argument you (rightly) say is unpersuasive?
I wouldn't say that's my argument. I think of design as a profession, i.e. a specialized skill requiring years of specialized practice and training. If you accept this definition, then its obvious that (in most cases) designers know more than clients.
The specific claim I was reacting to was that designers who assert their superior knowledge and ability and believe that clients need to be educated are arrogant. If you define design as a profession, that can't be right. That doesn't mean that designers know everything, just that they have a certain scope of expertise—but that fact doesn't exclude "stepping into the client's world" and so on.
Defining "designer" as someone with a certain job title casts a wider net. You mention people who call themselves designers but lack any real experience or training. Is it arrogant for them to say that they know more than the client? Probably. Should they defer to the client? That's hard to say. If you hire an untrained person to cut your hair, should they defer to you or should you trust their judgment? Either way, the result won't be good.
A second exception you bring up is designers who work for people who do have design expertise. This happens all the time. Lots of designers work for and with creative directors. Even if "the client" is a creative director, they still have to be "educated" on why a proposed design achieves its goal.
There are designers whose work fails basic usability tests. I see this most often with print designers who started doing digital design. Their work sometimes has weak affordances. I'd say this falls under print designers having the interaction designer title but missing some of the training and practice.
In design work that involves the company brand, there can be tensions between designers and non-designers in the company, who see the brand as a kind of mascot or personal emblem. Non-designers might say the work is too trendy, which means they don't feel comfortable with the style, they don't feel it is representative of them, they wouldn't wear it on a t-shirt, and so on. That creates debates about "why are the designers the only ones who get to decide!", and the notion that design is subjective is brought up. It sounds like a debate about aesthetics, but really its a debate about the audience for the design: for the client (or client's employees) or for the client's customers.
The first conceit is this incredibly arrogant presumption that being A Designer automatically makes someone superior in knowledge and ability to The Client
First, ad hominem arguments are unpersuasive.
Second, this is called the principle of division of labor. It's foundational to the way that modern societies are organized. Design is a profession (a specialized skill requiring many years of practice and training) and like other professions (lawyers, doctors, software developers), the professional knows more than the client.
So here, I suggest, is the real credible threat: hard data.
Empirically measuring the long term value of branding is quite difficult. Obviously its easy to test different logos and how they affect the conversion of a web page, but longer term studies of branding aren't quite so simple.
But your argument strikes me as motivated reasoning. You think hard data is the only important criteria because establishing that standard will offer you and your profession the highest level of prestige. Designers can offer other criteria which enhances their position. It's not a very interesting conversation IMO.
The fact is that designers get a lot of resentment because our contributions are so visible. Design tends to offend people who believe they're more deserving of the spotlight.
Yes, I'm familiar with responsive design, I have designed and coded responsive websites, and I have nothing against media queries, etc. as such. My problem is with the kinds of arguments that are made in favor of responsive design. I especially don't trust essays like the one you linked which rely on attacking designers' supposed immorality or character flaws instead of making the case for their preferred approach on its merits. There's quite a lot of this kind of very poor writing about design that relies on berating designers for failing to submit to business and technical constraints.
You say that giving people the same information on all their devices is good design, but that's not always true. My blog is responsive, because it's true for that particular problem. Does it hold for an ecommerce site where mobile users are comparison shopping in a physical store? Does it hold for a music streaming service where mobile users are on the bus? Does it hold for a hotel website where mobile users are checking in? It might be true. Or it might not. But you can't just assume that it is.
You're right that saving time, money and resources is important. It's also true that the most cost efficient website is no website. There are plenty of ways to save costs that also eliminate the value, so discussions about cost reduction without an understanding of value are not useful. And what's your time horizon for assessing value? Is it quarterly, or longer term? What are you going to do with the savings? It only makes sense if you can put those resources towards other, more valuable opportunities. Are you a startup? A retailer? An agency? A government? That makes a difference in terms of how and why to save costs.
Responsive design makes perfect sense in some situations, but some people treat it like the One True Way, and don't realize they're actually making a bunch of design and business decisions.
Why flat design was promoted is different from why Apple or Google redesigned their OSes.
And if you read the iOS HIG, you'll find that Apple doesn't embrace flat design to the extent that people think.
It states upfront that the three main themes of iOS are deference, clarity and depth. Here's what it says about metaphor: "When virtual objects and actions in an app are metaphors for familiar experiences—whether these experiences are rooted in the real world or the digital world—users quickly grasp how to use the app."
It even directly defends skeuomorphism: "GarageBand could have helped people make music without displaying beautiful, realistic instruments, but this would have made the app less intuitive and less enjoyable to use."
IMO design is more than the transmission of information.
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