June 16th, 2011
“Innovation isn’t about saying YES to 100 ideas. It’s about saying NO to 1000 ideas.” – Steve Jobs
As we study how teams can best use design principles, we’ve discovered that project specific principles are far more useful than generic overarching principles, which many teams develop. Take Facebook’s published principles, which include generic phrases like clean, human, and universal. Good thing to strive for, for sure.
But how do these principles help the design team? How does a team decide if a design idea is human enough? And if they aren’t for the design team, who are they for?
What we’ve realized is good principles don’t tell the design team what to do. They tell the team what not to do.
A good principle clearly draws a line in the sand, telling you exactly why the majority of ideas you’re looking at won’t cut it. It helps you say, “This isn’t quite there, let’s try again.”
One team we’ve worked with recently was working on a point of sale system for appointment-based businesses. Several operations, such as rescheduling appointments, took time. Watching the receptionists during a rescheduling, the team realized that they had a problem. If another customer called or tried to check out, the receptionist had to make the second customer wait until the rescheduling was done.
The team realized, for their redesign of this functionality, they needed to follow a principle of “Allow for multitasking to handle interruptions.” It’s a simple principle, generated completely from the problems the team saw in their field observations.
What’s beautiful about this principle is it helps the team say NO to ideas. Any design proposal that can’t easily be interrupted for a new appointment or to check a customer out is immediately out of the game.
Sometimes, it might only take a few tweaks to go from “not meeting the principle” to “meets and exceeds.” And that’s perfect — the principle is doing its job of guiding the team to a better design solution.
Years ago, we found when you gave a team of designers a specific problem to solve, they had no trouble coming up with solutions. Solutions are the easy part. Understanding the real problem is the hard part.
An actionable, research-based set of design principles helps a team define and understand the problem. That gives them the power to come up with solutions that really work for the users.Tweet