From ACM's TechNews (subscription may be required) comes this abstract for an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):
Chair of Washington &
Jefferson College's information-technology leadership program Charles
Hannon writes that over the past decade he has worked with numerous
academic information systems that were all consistent in their failure
to deliver the advantages they promised because neither designers nor
developers consulted users to determine what they desired from those
systems before designing them. Typical results of such designer
ignorance are inefficient user interfaces, marginally useful features,
and a scarcity of applications that users assumed would be included.
Hannon cites as a recent example an online registration-and-advising
system Washington & Jefferson adopted last spring, which boasts a
clumsy interface and cannot facilitate the delivery of emails to all
the users' advisees, or schedule appointments to meet with new
students. Hannon contends that designers often disregard users' wants
because the customer who asks for the system in the first place is
usually looking for an affordable, easily deployable solution that
interoperates with other campus systems, rather than fulfills users'
needs. "Ease of use" is not highly prioritized by the customer on the
list of system requirements, while user satisfaction is hardly ever a
major criterion used by CIOs to assess the performance of integration
teams. Hannon refers to Alan Cooper's book, The Inmates Are Running
the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore
the Sanity, which posits that users either assume creating better
software is impossible, or are willing to accept bad design as long as
the software relieves them from the burden of dealing with paper-based
systems. Hannon suggests that highest-level academic administrators
should refuse to do business with software companies that do not
interview potential users at the beginning of the design process, while
users should only participate in feedback sessions held by systems
integrators if they were interviewed during the design stage.
Note the operative phrase: "should refuse to do business with. . ."