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Role-Directed Design

One of the reasons designers do things like personas is to get into the head of the people they're designing for, to understand their goals. But as Marshall McLuhan told us 40 ago, people are focused on roles, not goals. And yet there's almost nothing about role-directed design, everything is about goal-directed design.

Which is not to say that GDD is faulty or wrong. Indeed, it's very useful in that it lets designers not get bogged down in the minutia of tasks, as we are wont to do. But GDD is problematic in that goals, especially long-term, big-picture goals, are difficult to determine and easy to get wrong. Indeed, some have moved away from the term "goal", instead focusing on the more tangible "intent." What does the user intend to do, not what is the user's goal (which might be very broad--too broad for use inside a particular project).

Maybe it would be good to start including some role information into our personas. Asking people not what their job titles are but what their role is, in an organization, community, or even household. And what role they'd eventually like to have. Since roles will likely have a cluster of tasks surrounding them ("I take the product specifications to the engineers"), the gap between the role people currently have and the role they want could be fertile ground for interaction designers.

This might be semantics, but could also be another means of design research.

Originally posted at Sunday, November 7, 2004 | Comments (2) | Trackback (0)

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