28 May 2007

Book Review: Thoughts on Interaction Design

After having the book on my desk for a few months, I just finished Jon Kolko’s, Thoughts on Interaction Design and really enjoyed it.

I first encountered Jon on a discussion board. His posit that an interaction designer’s job is to change behavior irked me. I spend a lot of time encouraging designers to evaluate behavior and build interactions that accommodate them. As a product strategy, the best diffusion situation you could ask for is a product that adds value while NOT changing behavior. After hearing Jon’s side, I think he is a bit idealistic. Few designers ever have the chance to change behavior, much less hold the requisite skill.

That being said, Jon presents many viewpoints with solid research and experience. What I like most about this book is that Jon takes on subjects that are too mundane, too esoteric or too difficult. I found a lot of similarities between his topics and those that tend to consume my idle time. Topics, mind you that I rarely find discussed. Jon touches on process, management and tactical implementation such as fieldwork and politics.

Jon is a good solid writer, but not a great one - partly due to the complexity of his subject matter. He supplements his own material with several articles by other professionals in the design field. This makes for a nice cadence and breaks the reading up nicely. I particularly enjoyed the final chapter in the book, a chapter entitled, “Getting design done” by Ellen Beldner. Ellen is a designer at Google and does not mince works. She has a straightforward style, does not hold back and yet I had no choice but to smile in empathy at multiple points in the read.

This book is an important step for the continued dialog in interaction design.