Anybody Can Do It


Recently, Jakob Nielsen published one of his Alertbox posts with the title Anybody Can Do Usability. In this post, he made a comparison between cooking and usability.

According to Jakob, usability is like cooking dinner:

  • Everybody needs the outcome;
  • Anybody can perform the most basic activities;
  • Anyone can learn these basics pretty quickly;
  • There’s a level of excellence beyond the basics;
  • Skill levels form a continuum from beginner to expert.

The cooking analogy stretches even further:

  • Although multi-star gourmet restaurants are wonderful, there’s also a place in the world for modest neighborhood restaurants.
  • Even if you can afford it, you shouldn’t eat out every day.
  • Variety is the spice of life.
  • Sometimes it’s nice to have others do the work.
  • There’s value to being an outsider who’s not restrained by corporate politics or “the way things are usually done.”

So like cooking, anybody can do usability; the basic methods are simple enough.

Follow The Recipe


Ron Gagnier (IBM CAN) sees an analogy between the process of cooking with recipes and the process of user-centered software design. Almost just like we do.

From his article at UXmatters: “I may have taken my analogy of following a recipe too far, but I really do think the comparison is a valid one. Recipes exist to ensure cooks can acquire the right ingredients, follow a sequence of predefined steps, and prepare a dish consistently every time. The same is true of a software design process: By following a design process, an entire project team can know what steps to perform and what they’ll deliver. When your team must make substitutions, let experience and sound judgment guide you in making the most appropriate choices. Continue to learn and grow in your role as a designer, because this will help you make better substitution decisions.”

ACM SIGCHI References for Food Design & UX

During the Chi 2009 panel discussion (moderated by Patañjali S. Venkatacharya) on what user experience designers could learn from food designers, the following references were mentioned.

Lessons from Celebrity Chefs


Caroline Jarrett writes in Caroline’s Corner about the differences between The Heuristic Inspection (Gordon Ramsay) and User-Centered Design (Heston Blumenthal) on how to improve the restaurant experiences. On Ramsay “I realised that Ramsay is really doing heuristic inspections. He has a list of specific things that a good restaurant should do, starting with basic hygiene (he’s very keen on not killing the diners). He looks at the quality of service, level of organisation in the kitchen, portion control and profitability.” and on Blumenthal “Blumenthal watched the videos of the user reactions and totally changed his approach (now, doesn’t that sound familiar?). He started to think about the users, and not just the diners who already chose Little Chef.”

Web Trend Map 2008

“(…) the brand quality layer ‘Brand Experience‘ illustrates our perception of user experience and brand management of the main stations. We studied the usability, user value, and interface (simplicity, character, and feedback), and rated each site on a scale of eating at various types of Japanese restaurants. (…) We chose restaurants as the metaphor for brand experience because, from an interactive branding point of view, a visit to a website is like a visit to a restaurant in terms of service, feedback, content, pleasure, character, and memorability. And also because Tokyo has the highest density of good restaurants in the world.” – courtesy of ruurdpriester

Front and Back Stage Thinking in Service Design

Adaptive Path’s Experience Design Director Ryan Freitas published his presentation ‘A House Divided: Two Perspectives on Managing the Customer Experience’.

Restaurants experiment with the elements of the dining experience that are hidden from their customers. If it makes sense to move elements of production forward, consider it as a means to build a compelling experience.”

Also, he refers to an interesting paper by Robert Glushko and Lindsay Tabas. Great stuff!