Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Whose call is it anyway?

I am looking for a dressing table. For the first time in the 20 years since we got married, we finally have enough space in our bedroom for me to have one... and I can't find anything that (a) I can afford and (b) is fit for purpose.

I have googled the matter till I'm blue in the face. I have seen more dressing tables than I could have imagined. I wouldn't have thought it possible to make them out of such a wide range of materials. Plastic, wood, metal, glass.

I have one question, though.

Why do the designers of dressing tables insist on incorporating tiny little drawers in their products? Up to 8 of the flipping things! What do they think I want to do at the dressing table? Collect stamps? Where's the cupboard bit with the standing space for my lotions and potions? I mean, wake up, dressing tables are primping stations. Don't they know this?

It got me to thinking about learning solutions. I wonder how often users grind their teeth in frustration and say to themselves "Why don't these designers get a clue?"

It's the end user who gets to decide how a thing should be and what constitutes good, bad and indifferent.

Over the weekend, our family was having a Led Zep fuelled debate in the car (I love that our sons enjoy much of the same music we do). Is their all time greatest song Stairway to Heaven or Whole Lotta Love? I was reading the sleeve notes of the Mothership album, and discovered that when when questioned about the former and its status as the definitive Led Zep number, Robert Plant (or was it Jimmy Page?) insisted that it wasn't. Kashmir was.

Now with all due respect, I don't think it's their call to make. Kashmir might have been the band's favourite. It might even have been the song that they felt defined them, but I reserve the right, as a listener (and therefore a consumer and customer) to say that they're wrong. For me, while Stairway is a unique, standalone song which will endure the test of time, the song that encapsulates Led Zeppelin is and always will be Whole Lotta Love.

Just as, when I buy a dressing table, I get to say what constitutes good design, and what it utterly useless.

Just as my users get to say when I have designed a resource that is the cat's whiskers and when I've designed a lemon.


Anonymous said...

The design has to suit the needs of the user. A simple statement Karyn but I love the way you have put this across. I read in Jay Cross's learning blog that we learn more socially. All this makes so much sense. I find myselflearning more when I am reading the way a particular person likes. If I start liking the person I abosrb the things even more. Learning it seems has so many factors working. When there is less stress involved learning stayes for long it seems as the initiative is through interest in the topic. Karyn I love visiting here as everytima I learn more and more about this wonderful process, not just for the work but this is applied everywhere.Opening up the faculties of brain in a very different way. Thanks and regards.

Anonymous said...

@rina I feel flattered to have been grouped together with Jay! If you haven't already read his book on Informal Learning, I strongly recommend it.

I recognise that, culturally, you're up against a strong loyalty to behaviourist learning and the view of the learner as a passive participant or an empty vessel to be filled, and I hope that you're able to remain motivated to explore more social learning approaches.

Anonymous said...

My younger son wishes to make it known that the all time, definitive Led Zep song is Immigrant Song. Hmmm.

Developer said...

Hands-down, Stairway to Heaven. Whole Lota Love does have a signature feel in my head, and I might actually like Kashmir more. But when I think of Led Zeplin, I think of ...Heaven and Jimmy Page.

Probably has a lot to do with my first days away at college, and Stairway' drifting out of every open dormitory window. It was a formative time for me, and still fuels a bit of my '60s-fringe mentality.

Also has a lot to do with my sense of design style. It's flavored by my experience.