May 17, 2004

Explicit Design: The Set Up

Though I've been blogging since 1998, it turns out I'm a "guru" and not a blogger. One of the things gurus must have is a drum to beat. A meme to promote. A conceptual hammer for the world's nail.

Mark's got "customer experience."

37Signals guys have "contingency design" (or "defensive design.")

BJ Fogg says "the web is about persuasion."

Jakob, of course, has usability.

None of these are wrong or right. They all provide a lens through which to perceive the situation, and perhaps better understand it.

Well, I've got a Hurstian oversimplification. Through my work, what I've observed is that the web is all about managing expectations. Setting expectations, and then fulfilling them. That's it. You do that right, and you're golden.

The term I have right now for dealing with this is Explicit Design. This does not mean that it's only for people over 18. It refers specifically to the primary definition:

fully revealed or expressed without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity : leaving no question as to meaning or intent.

Pretty much any digital design, be it web, software, mobile device, etc., must be *explicit*. Objects have an advantage, because their physical form makes explicit what it does, what to expect. Digital design, which tends to be screen-based, requires the development of explicit cues of use, since the physical form suggests little about what you can do with it.

This isn't new. Don may have moved on, but I'm definitely re-treading on issues raised in The Design of Everyday Things. Affordances. Mapping. Mental models. etc.

Where things do shift a bit, when considering the web, is that the emphasis shifts from the physical to the semantic. The web is still mostly about meaning, information, yes, even persuasion. All of which, by nature, are abstractions. And which makes explicitness all the more important, because it must be performed consciously -- it can't be the by-product of a concrete design.

Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about. We'll see where it takes us.

Posted by peterme at 08:30 AM | Comments (14)


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