Where Do You Draw The Line Of Quality?

Jared Spool

August 20th, 2012

You don’t have to hang around me for very long to hear me utter my mantra, “Good Design is Invisible.” Good design, when done well, is invisible to users because it lets them focus on why they are using the product instead of how they are using it.

Thanks to the ongoing Apple / Samsung lawsuit, we can now see just how apparent this is. The Apple lawyers introduced a document into evidence produced by the Samsung Product Quality team showing just how invisible good design is and how visible it becomes when it’s not well done.

The document is a 132 pages of design comparisons, showing what the team believes are needed improvements to the Samsung Galaxy S1 design. Interestingly, the team is using the iPhone as their benchmark, suggesting in page after page places where the iPhone design team got things right and the Samsung team got it wrong.

In most cases, these are little things. For example, one issue is the display of OK and Cancel buttons when the pop-up keyboard appears. On the Samsung phone, they are partially covered up, whereas on the iPhone the fields and the buttons all are clearly visible.

The attention to detail that Apple’s designers put in becomes very apparent as you read each page. Things, little and big, are brought up as items that Samsung’s team feels they need to address.

What we see in the Samsung document is a debate that every team needs to have: What does it mean to be good enough? The Samsung team feels that Apple definition of good enough is better than the one they have previously chosen.

We like to think of the good-enough debate as a line in the sand: you don’t ship until you’ve crossed the line. Yet, that begs the question of where you draw that line.

The closer you draw the line, the sooner you ship. The farther you draw it, the more expensive the development process is. If you draw it too far, you’re spending time and money on things that no-one will notice. Yet, because good design is invisible, it might be the desire for nobody to notice is what the point was to begin with.

Where do you draw your line?

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