Review of Jared Spool’s Keynote at the IA Summit 08

My boss sent me an article the other day entitled “IA Summit 2008: User-Centered Design is Dead“. I was surprised by the title (which I’m sure was part of the intended shock value of the writer). While I myself did not attend the keynote speech (I actually locked my keys in the car and didn’t arrive until the second presentation, sigh) I felt it was important to check out the recording for myself. Here is my interpretation:

Jared did make some very good points, but I don’t think his intention was to say the UCD is dead. Instead my interpretation is that UCD is important, but not the sole factor of success. While it is important to know who your users are, and he highly advocates user testing. I believe Jared is simply reminding the UX community that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. UCD is a very important piece of the puzzle, but the size of this puzzle piece is only one variable to the project, and it is by no means the only piece. To continue with my puzzle analogy, he explains how sometimes UCD isn’t even a piece of the puzzle, but rather the picture of the finished puzzle on the box, a picture that can be used for explanation and buy-in from stakeholders of what the designers may already know. He used eye-tracking as an example of this, a way to prove to the business why designers make certain layout choices. In his presentation Jared uses the story of the Stone Soup for this analogy.

Some other good points I think Jared reminds us of, is that there is no set list of directions or recipes for creating a good user experience. Rather that it is a combination of tricks and techniques that practitioners call on as needed. Those who try to follow a rigorous and structured methodology loose the capacity to be flexible to the issues and needs at hand, and therefore are more apt to failure. The successful design team must be compromising, creative, and flexible enough to change with the non stop advancement of technology, and the ever growing list of user needs and business challenges.


  • – A team vision ( goals for the short and long term that everyone shares)
  • – Feedback (user testing, at least every 6 weeks)
  • – Culture (Acceptance of failure, innovation, and the ability to compromise process)

Your can watch the slides while listening to the presentation for yourself on SlideShare.