World is full of unusable objects. We encounter many things in daily life which creates frustration because lack of usability or we are not able to make information out of it. My favorite examples are filling demand draft slip, pay slip, etc., in the bank, the funny thing is the number digits in the account number mostly do not coincide with the number of boxes in the slip and it is so confusing. How times you got frustrated on entering building or office (especially government offices) because you are unable to locate a person or any other information? Like these there are many small things that disturb our harmony because of the lack of usability in the objects we interact.
From usability perspective the object has three properties. Useful – satisfies the user needs, Usable – satisfies the needs, engage and entertain the user (basically, easy and error-free), Desirable – apart from all it empowers the user (you love to have that product). To design any product it involves two aspects, (I called it) left-aspect and right-aspect. The left-aspect involves the design of the logical aspect of the product, addressing the ‘useful’ goal of the product and the right-aspect involves the creative part, addressing the ‘usable’ and ‘desirable’ goal.
Let me clarify this left- and right-aspect more. The left-brain is involved in logical and analytical thoughts whereas the right-brain is involved in creative and artistic thoughts. To formulate in ‘He-She’ principle, the right (nostril)-breath corresponds to male which controls the left-brain and the left-breath corresponds to female which controls the right-brain. As per our design principle, ‘he’ forms the center. So the product encompasses the left-aspect as the core and the right-aspect as the interface to handle the left-aspect. (The best supporting example is the designs in the dress. Men dress designs are mostly plain or checked showing the logical aspect and the women dress designs will have flower designs or some artistic design.)
Often we leave the right-aspect and satisfied with left-aspect as it satisfies the ‘useful’ goal. But the right-aspect plays an important role because an user experience the right-aspect first when interaction occurs.
The above picture represents Napoleon’s disastrous march on Moscow. It a famous graphics created in 1861 by Charles Joseph Minard, capturing four different changing variables that contributed to the failure, in a single two-dimensional image: the army’s direction as they traveled, the location the troops passed through, the size of the army as troops died from hunger and wounds, and the freezing temperatures they experienced. (We can also create reports and model the information like this, which helps others to understand and infer easily.)
All we need to do is to balance our left- and right-aspect while modeling or designing or developing anything.
The logical aspect (left) need to be colored with the imaginative or creative aspect (right). Most of the people are good at the left-aspect and we have the problem at the right-aspect. Let’s see the working principle behind these aspects.
We understand how to interact with an object based on the knowledge of the conceptual model of that object. So the idea is, the [user] interfaces (right-aspect) should represent the conceptual model of the [internal] system (left-aspect). The correct conceptual model allows user to understand the system through good interfaces, like by seeing the above model you can infer it won’t work. Once you understand the conceptual model, it becomes easier to use and achieves the ‘usable’ goal.
Conceptual model deals with abstraction modeling. Brain receives lot of information through sense organs, but it tries to throw away as much as possible by persisting the abstracted information. Later imagination is the process through which we try to construct the stored abstraction into any visual image. The creativity of a person depends on how well one can connect and fills these abstractions. (Kaleidoscope images can be a good analogy for this.)
So how we can perceive the abstraction of mind? It is tough question, but I can give a metaphoric answer, “Abstraction is the attribute of sixth sense. It is the sight that perceived by the blind person. It is the sound heard by a deaf person. It is the song sung by the tongue-less person.” I can provide a practical experiment to demonstrate this. Just show two persons to your friend who are strangers to your friend and tell their names without telling which name belongs to which person, and ask your friend to identify the right person with their names. In this case your friend uses his/her abstracted data (from past experience) to guess the matching and that is moment where the sixth sense is used in a relative manner.
To summarize, design or develop for others with the whole-brain thinking approach. Often we leave the right-aspect for various reasons. Doing anything is an art of navigation from left (-aspect) to right (-aspect) and it is an act of balancing between left and right. It comes by practice and try to apply in all the activities (that makes life more interesting). As Albert Einstein quotes, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”.
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