Taskonomies and activity-centered software design


A few days ago I discussed with two students where to place some preference settings in a software tool. The students wanted to put it with all the other options for this software. Neatly arranged and all that, but far away (in numbers of clicks) from the task where those options are needed to be set. While cleaning out my email inbox, I just stumbled over an article by Don Norman, Logic Versus Usage: The Case for Activity-Centered Design (thanks, Martin!), who makes a strong case for being more task-oriented and for directly supporting activities, and against being too logical or taxonomic. He does not argue against taxonomic structures:

„Taxonomic structures are appropriate when there is no context, when suddenly needing some new piece of information or tool.“

On the contrary:

„But once an activity has begun, then taskonomy is the way to go, where things used together are placed near one another, where any one item might be located logically within the taxonomic structure but also wherever behaviorally appropriate for the activities being supported.“

In the discussion with the student, so I now recognize, I subconsciously took the same standpoint as Don in the above mentioned article, based on my experience in developing software systems.

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