I'm not a designer but I definitely consider myself a thinker, strategist, and decision maker. All of these roles have relevance in Scott Stevenson's blog post Measuring the Design Process. After posting a link to Scott's blog post on FriendFeed Deke Smith and I started discussing our thoughts in Facebook comments. The discussion got interesting so I decided to move it here in case others want to chime in. Here's where we are so far, feel free to post your own thoughts in the comments.

Aaron tweets...

Really enjoyed reading this article on Measuring the Design Process.
Deke responds:
That is good. I was trying to find a way to explain why designing computer systems for people must be iterative - why it is almost impossible to come up with the best design from the start. That really irritates some programmers.
Aaron says:
There were several takeaways for me but the best being making decisions based on data is not the end all be all. You must also include your perceptions, beliefs and experience. When all of the above are used you have a tendency to iterate less. Meaning, you get it closer to right the first time.
Deke says:
I have said in the past that the best software tools start off with a vision - a very concrete idea of the user and how it is going to be used. The "vision" thing is really hard to pull off. And sometimes it can be flat wrong. And very few companies have the culture that can accomplish it. The alternative is not just iterative, but really bad iterative. I have lived on the teat of a project since October that is iterative on two week cycles with each major cycle reviewed by focus groups and management. The vision gets muddied that way and the product becomes a list of features.

My background is painting. The best paintings I did had the basic design figured out ahead of time and then I tried to put down on canvas what was in my head. After something is down it usually needs some work to make it better, but there is a tipping point where I started to "work it too much" and it starts to fall apart. At that point it is good to call it finished and start all over.
Deke says:
I would say Apple's development model is "visionist" and Microsoft's can be more "revisionist." Windows XP and MS Word are a pile of features honed into a product. On the other hand, iMovie is a simple program that serves its purpose very well and simply if you do it in a way that Apple intended. Apple resists adding features that stray from the vision of the product so it can feel crippled if you try to do something beyond what it is intended to do.

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This entry was posted by Aaron West on March 29, 2009 at 11:30 AM. It was filed in the following categories: ColdFusion, Programming, Personal, Aaron Answers. It has been viewed 4714 times and has 1 comments.

1 Responses to Thoughts on Measuring the Design Process

  1. @Deke - I agree with most of your thoughts Deke except perhaps that a vision starts with a concrete idea.

    At Dealerskins we come up with ideas all the time. Notice I said "ideas" and not "good ideas." Most of our ideas are really basic to start and through creative discussion and brainstorming we give them substance and meaning. Rarely are these visions concrete.

    Many times we discover our ideas are bad or simply don't add anything of value for our customers. Where we find success however, is when ideas become visions through the efforts of strategists, designers, programmers, and our upper executives who understand the industry.

    With respect to Apple and Microsoft, I simply think Apple takes more risk. They're less guarded in the idea evolution and thus create (in my opinion) better products and services. They also fail more (ironically) than Microsoft. That's simply a result of putting yourself out there and be willing to try things.