Coming from comparatively different cultures, interface designers and computer programmers often benefit from working together, but in the context of experimental interface design, as opposed to the implementation of current best practices, the interaction requires some strategic negotiation. There are several factors involved. First, the academic culture of computer programmers has developed in such a way that there is a chronic fear of “vaporware,” or software tools that are discussed before they actually exist. This healthy caution has the unfortunate consequence, however, that computer scientists cannot receive direct academic recognition for design work, but need to produce working prototypes as quickly as possible. Second, GUI technologies have advanced in such a way that each platform provides a stock of ready-made components – a library of bits and pieces of interfaces. Third, there is a well-founded belief that people work best with tools that they know. By incorporating standard interface components, systems stand a better chance of being comprehensible to the people who will be using them. Fourth, every discipline tends to inculcate a disciplinary perspective that privileges its own domain knowledge.
Combining these factors with the necessity of actually making something work, the result is that some programmers develop a certain conservatism that takes the form of preferring design solutions that capitalize on standard existing interface components. For the experimental interface designer, this conservatism is contrary to the full spirit of innovation, which seeks to produce something other than what is available out of the box. It also can grate on the designer that the stock interface components are not of an aesthetic quality that is suggestive of careful attention to detail. We therefore proposed a number of strategies that can assist in this ongoing dynamic collaboration, including an emphasis on innovation, customizable technologies, and additional programming resources. Finally, we have begun to adopt an approach of introducing a radical design at the beginning of the collaboration, with the knowledge that this will often result in an ultra-conservative response.
Ruecker, Stan, Milena Radzikowska, and Susan Liepert. “The Introduction of Radical Change in Human-Computer Interfaces.” Invited presentation at Deutschland Telekom, Berlin, February 19, 2008.