Beginning with the End in Mind: How to design for people's real goals

Paul Whitmore, E*Trade

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University November 8, 2002

The developing discipline of user-centered design has required certain idealizations. The notion of the "user's conceptual model" is a key abstraction; by directing designers' attention to actual cognitive processes, technology can be adapted to anticipate and support the fallible and limited minds. These minds are often called "users".

I have long been interested in the complexities underlying real people's attempts to interact with technology. Not only are they fallible and finite-information-processors; they frequently lack a clear articulation of their intentions and may have real problems when asked what they are trying to accomplish. My research examines the cognitive and emotional issues that face people at the moment they are asked to make their goals explicit, and the ways that explicit articulation can interfere with complete access to the true complexity and range of a person's values and aspirations.

By understanding these complexities, designers can undertake slight but powerful modifications in the way that they identify and support the personal goals of real people.

Paul Whitmore is currently the User Interface Visionary at E*Trade. He works with designers, data-miners, and marketing professionals. This presentation combines his doctoral research with industry experience. While at Stanford, he interned at Xerox PARC in the User Interface Research Group. Recently, he has started the BAYCHI Apprenticeship Program, which offers workshops to help bridge the divide between academic and industry preparation.

View this talk on line at CS547 on Stanford OnLine

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