Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What Do You Get When You Have To Assume? A Single Data Point Can Change Everything

Anthropology shares some common threads with User Experience Design. They both try to get enough data to understand how a subject lived, or lives to come to conclusions. There is a story from Wired that is about a rare Dinosaur that was discovered that is 67 million years old. What makes the find so rare is that it is almost intact, containing skin and possibly organs and muscle. This has many possibilities to produce data we never knew. One such tidbit it has already given researchers is that the vertebrae are spaced 1cm apart because of the presence of tissue. Why is this important? Because museums commonly stack the vertebrae together when assembling dinosaurs. By spacing them apart, the size of these creatures now has to be re-evaluated. Many dinosaurs may be a lot bigger than we thought.

This happens in User Experience Design. We assume a lot of things. We stack the vertebrae together. Then someone comes out with some thing and we have to re-think things in a big way. We have ideas of who our customers are and how they behave. Sometimes we unearth data that causes us to re-think major assumptions. It used to be a common theme to hear people designing web pages for "above-the-fold" viewing. Now it is common to see home pages that are thousands of pixels tall, and very usable.

One other interesting thing about the story on wired.com. The screen I grabbed had banners around it of "The world's most influential innovators" and the Zune. Seems to be a connection here...Research/Innovation/Lack of Innovation?

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