NYC Mayor Bloomberg advocates UCD
Developers of technology products need to listen to user concerns and requirements from the beginning, and the user relationship should continue after a product is delivered, he said. "The best days are yet to come for your industry, but only if we are customer- and client-sensitive and we put ourselves in a situation of understanding what people need, and have the openness to go and see after we do things whether we were right or not."
He cited an example from his own experience in the business world to show why it's important to consider the customer from the start. He recalled an occasion in which a receptionist was charged with making name badges for all visiting customers. Because the fields in the program she was using were so small and required so much unnecessary information, the line of customers waiting for badges was often intolerably long. So Bloomberg went to the IT department, found the programmer who had developed the software, and forced that programmer to work the reception desk for two days. Needless to say, the software usability was quickly improved, Bloomberg said. But it was a situation that could have been avoided if the programmer had thought about the product from the user's perspective before designing it.
It's great to see someone of this notoriety advocating a user-centric perspective. My only critique is that it's not just "thinking about it from a user's perspective" that would have helped. A few unanswered questions remain: Did the programmer ever receive training on how to design user interfaces? Did the company have UI guidelines in place? Was the project given proper budget for doing it right the first time? User Centered Design goes much further than just "thinking like a customer" -- good design involves a design process, not just a thought process.
Full article: InformationWeek - NYC Mayor Bloomberg Talks Up Customer-Centricity
(Update: The "Great Google" turned up Jakob Nielsen's comments on this article as well. Note Jakob's page doesn't offer "permalinks", so you have to scroll to March 15, 2002...Jakob, needs to convert to blog software for better functionality for his spotlighted links page.)
Other similar statements from Bloomberg:
"I've learned that change is always evolutionary and is virtually never revolutionary. There are no simple solutions to complex problems. ... everyone says that they're going to revolutionize the world with a little piece of software. The press writes about such things because they're interesting. And the public would like to believe that you can get something for nothing -- but that's just not the case. ... Our customers don't care about what their suppliers sell, they only care about what we have that can help them. Our focus has always been to explain how we can improve their lives -- make them more efficient, more pleasurable -- as opposed to selling what we produce."
From Fast Company - Smart Steps (March 2001)