Goal-Directed Design®

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Alan Coopers revolutionary way of software design is called Goal-Directed Design®.

A team of interaction designers will develop a set of so-called personas that they use as representatives for the software users. Different goals will be assigned to these personas. It is important not to confuse goals with tasks of the users, tasks are not steady and transient. To have a better understanding of the difference between tasks and goals, Cooper is giving the following example: "Our military's task is to wage war and destruction. Our goal is to keep the peace."

There are four different kinds of goals: personal goals, corporate goals, practical goals and false goals.
Personal goals are the most important objectives that users will have when they are using a program, like hoping not to feel stupid or to have fun while using the software. Costumers will not be loyal to software that fails to satisfy these personal goals.
Corporate goals are just as important to the company as the personal goals to the user. They include objectives like increasing the companies' profit or offering more products and service.
Practical goals are the bridge between the objectives of the company and the objectives of the individual user. They contain goals like handling a client's demands or creating a numerical model of the business.
False goals are often the programmers' goals, they focus on the needs of the code. Often these false goals are in fact tasks, features and tools, like saving memory or saving keystrokes.

The primary goal of the written software is to achieve the specified personal goals of the primary persona. The essence of good interaction design is to create interactions that lets the users achieve their practical goals without violating their personal goals.

Alan Cooper outlines his designing process as follows:

If you ask users how to design their software, they will ignore their own goals and describe tasks to you with the same alacrity as programmers. You must observe users to determine their goals, but don't be fooled by their own ignorance of their objectives. The process of designing for user's goals is one that begins with you, the software designer, and not with the user. You must identify the hygienic goals and the user's personal goals and design an interface that serves them directly, ignoring all other demands. If you don't, you risk creating yet another computer program that makes the user feel stupid, which will ultimately make them fail to achieve the goals of the business.

(Alan Cooper: Goal-Directed Design®, 1996)