User expectations in a world of smart devices
Expectations are the blueprint for how people try to interact with an interface — be it physical, environmental, or on screen. Our experiences with technology shape our expectations of the world, and the more technology permeates our world, the greater our expectations. Thus, knowing users’ expectations about an interaction is critical to designing it. And it may even be more important to meet expectations than to get the interaction perfect.
An animist outlook — one where people project behaviors that may have nothing to do with how objects actually function — means that knowing expectations becomes incredibly important.
Rather than focusing on matching people’s capabilities (what they can remember, understand, how well the software domain matches the users’ tasks, and so on), user experience design will have to be more sensitive to respecting, creating, maintaining, and selectively breaking expectations.
Amen. I like the ‘selectively breaking’ bit.
People use things in ways which are often unplanned and unforseen. By better understanding the expectations people have of certain functional devices we can plan for the context in which they’ll be used. And occasionally surprise them with things they weren’t expecting – like life itself. Hugh Miller makes a similar case in The Social Psychology of Objects. His main thesis is that arguments are important because of our relationship with them – they affect our behaviour, our ‘agency’, and our social interaction. Objects are often ascribed human traits and given names. This is certainly true of my experience with complex software – we are currently looking for a name to give our new CMS. The upshot of all this for designing computer systems is that we should try to mimic interaction which most people are experienced at – interaction with other humans. ie "how would this audience find this information in the ‘real world’? what ‘singage’ already exists? what established ‘hooks’ for this information are there? Do not impose a taxonomy and an information architecture on the audience – use one they already use. And while he does not say this I think he’d be up for the odd surprise too. 😉
I’m going to find time to elborate more on this subject from the pov of actor network theory which has a really useful methodological approach to understanding agency.
[thanks to Foe for the link]