users, vision + architects /4

29 November 2006, 23:32

Today we cover the section in the article by Don Norman, titled ‘static screens versus dynamic sequences.’

‘The methods of HCD seem centered around static understanding of each set of controls, each screen on an electronic display. But as a result, the sequential operations of activities are often ill‑supported.’
Don Norman

This matches my experience. My usability colleagues seem to perceive the initial screen/page/window segmentation as set in stone. That is,

  • how a system is segmented into particular screens;
  • how a website is segmented into particular pages;
  • how an application is segmented into particular windows.

In my experience this segmentation is in 99.9% of projects either very technical; very functionality oriented; or simply bollocks—but always inhuman.

meanwhile, upstream…

Instead of starting with incremental improvement of layout and display within the given screens/pages/windows, I find it much more rewarding to focus on flow.

That is, user flow. Focussing on elegant flow for essential user activity is a very powerful tool for arriving at a natural screen/page/window segmentation.

As a side effect, a lot of the initial layout and display problems have by then simply disappeared, and the right approach for the remaining ones has become obvious.

don’t call me a…

Every now and then I am mistaken for an information architect. Or worse, information architects imply we’re all one big family.

Interaction architects add the dimension of flow, to the two‑dimensional world of information, and that makes all the difference.


…stay tuned for the fifth article, on dealing with user requests.

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