User-Centered vs Activity-Centered Design: A Follow Up to “User-Centered EHR Design Considered Harmful”

About six months ago I wrote User-Centered EHR Design Considered Harmful (Try Process-Centered Instead). Healthcare Scene’s EMR and EHR blog gave it a mention and it rocketed around the Twittersphere for a couple days.

I recently stumbled on this presentation about Activity-Centred Design (British spelling). I thought several of its slides (adapted) would make a nice table about benefits versus drawbacks of user-centered versus activity-centered approaches to design.

Benefits Drawbacks
User-Centered Improved usability

Fewer errors during usage

Faster learning times

Humanises software processes

Minimises guesswork

Understands user’s cognitive style

Reduces user mistakes and improves recovery

Focuses on the user

Improvements for one group of users can be detrimental to another

Users are moving targets 

Users don’t always know what they want

Research is expensive, unreliable, time consuming

Tries to fix human mistakes rather than focussing on users accomplishing a task

Activity-Centered Users can adapt better than the technologies

Active observation vs passive observation

Internal data: Statistics, heat-maps, eye-tracking

Learn about user behaviour, rather than the user

Activity has purpose. User has behaviour. Purpose is more predictable than behaviour

UI evolves over time to facilitate user activity

Uses analytic and cognitve data from users

Solves problems instead of user mistakes

[I'm sure there are disadvantages to activity-centered design, but none were listed in this presentation]

Food for thought!

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