Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Design for the Edges: Part 4

Part four of Design for the Edges ...

Dan Saffer
Depending on the type of product, you can design directly for the edge cases and edge users, because you know that if you accommodate for them, you will likely accommodate for the non-edge users. For example, I'm working on a project right now looking at a particular medical condition. Most people manage it sufficiently, but some others on the edge do not. If we can make this management system work for the edge users, it will also work for those with less trouble.

Of course, there are edge cases that are disruptive to the product you are making as well. Sometimes you have to throw those out in order to focus on the core of the product. Sometimes those edge cases are those that warrant their own product, but often they simply muddle the clarity of the product, forcing you to fit in all this special stuff in. You can end up with MS Word 2003 that way.

One exception to everything I just said is errors. Products need what system designers call requisite variety--the ability to survive under varied conditions. A user should ideally never be able to accidentally break a product, because doing so is a complete disruption of the experience. It's the designer's job to catch those errors and solve them, either by designing the system so it is impossible for the error to occur (the Poka Yoke Principle) or, if an error is unavoidable (such as from a part of the system the designer doesn't control), provide a means for the user to understand what they did to cause the error and, ideally, be able to fix the error.

Nick Finck
It is very common to consolodate personas when planning a strategy for a web site or web application. What is critical to this process is understanding the significance of edge cases. Sometimes seemingly insignificant edge cases could open new doors for a web site, web application, or perhaps even a business. Never underestimate the power of one-off randomness. Take LudiCorp and it's small exploration into photo tools as part of it's Game Neverending which was, at that time, the business's. This small edge case went on to become what we know today as Flickr and now part of Yahoo. Consolidate your personas for the sake of simplicity but explore your edge cases for the sake of innovation."    (Continued via Functioning Form)    [Usability Resources]

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