Johnny Holland: Where Innovation Belongs In User Centered Design
Sometimes User Experience Designers play it too safe.
Usability is often viewed as being inherently risk-averse, and even at odds with innovative ideas. The usability practitioner seeks to meet users' expectations – or "mental models" – eliminate surprises rather than capitalize on them, and follow standards that provide consistency with outside interfaces. User experience designers employ design patterns that have been proven over time, and utilize prototyping tools that encourage the use of established pattern libraries. User testing also tends to focus on the first use, making it very difficult for seemingly innovative ideas to beat out the familiar and immediately recognizable user interfaces that employ well known design techniques.
As if to prove the point that usability hampers innovation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been quoted suggesting that the company best known for it's innovative products shuns market research and doesn't involve users in the design process. It seems as though these quotes are often misused to suggest that Apple doesn't perform user testing (which they certainly do), but the underlying assertion remains: don't listen to users because users don't know what they want.