My very good friend, Daniel Szuc, of Apogee HK recently published an excellent article titled “Designing for Positive Impact”. It’s a great look at how UX skills and perspectives can be applied to the longer term to help businesses create a more positive vision. It seems the way our brains work is becoming quite valuable.
What struck me about the article was a thread that wove through the text with words like “holistic views”, “coherent vision”, “long term sustainability” and “design thinking”. These have been recurring themes that I have noticed brewing over the last few months. My initial foray into this “thinking view” was the work of Roger Martin in “The Opposable Mind” where he talks about a holistic thinking paradigm that designers use as being a valuable tool for business problem solving.
Here’s the good stuff before you get bored:
Moral of the story? Envisioning the whole to support individual parts is the key to creating a sustainable UI/UX.
Long term? Lower costs and happier users. Win, win, win, win.
So where am I going with this? It’s important to develop a coherent vision for your user experience to create sustainability. Let me explain…
Here’s what Roger talks about when we approach design solutions as single items to be addressed:
“…the Frankenstein approach to design … a negative thing that happens when integrative thinking is not employed …a bunch of disjointed, disassociated parts and details being plunked onto an object.”
In fact I find this particularly in Agile situations where the software has been born out of many different threads that are then integrated to produce a whole. As you might imagine that can result in a very disjointed user experience.
An approach that I have found to be tremendously effective to beat the “Frankenstein” pitfall, whether in an Agile environment or not, is twofold:
1. Develop a “medium term” model for your UX - hopefully based on a long term vision - that will provide direction over a 9-12 month period.
2. Empower developers with understanding and a solution library.
By developing a model of your user experience to be reached over a medium term period you provide the “coherent vision” that your developers can work towards. I’m not recommending that you then fall into a waterfall approach (pardon the pun!).
What this model will give you is the integrated thinking that allows developers to make decisions about individual parts with an understanding of the whole. That’s the key to avoiding Frankenstein. In addition to the model, a library of best practices solutions(widgets, UX definitions and principles, etc.), that developers can choose from when in need of, say, an edit process or how to implement search, will support a strong UX at the micro interaction level within the product.
What this does is to give developers the ability to just “run with it” knowing that it WILL all fall into place in the UI. That’s efficient and empowering.
Now for the sustainability part. I know “sustainability” is all the rage these days with our eco-crisis. Here’s the definition:
The most widely quoted definition internationally is the “Brundtland definition” of the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development – that sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.“ from http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/basicinfo.htm#sustainability
What does that mean then in terms of software development? It means that by creating a UX that has a solid foundation you can continue to build upon it. It is sustainable in that you aren’t compromising future development efforts with a UX that has to be rebuilt or deconstructed each time you want to release a new version or add features.
Now your dev efforts are focused on value add projects rather than re-hash, rebuild tedium. It’s a much better and “sustainable” place to be.
Interested in how this can work for you? Drop me a line, let’s chat. email@example.com