Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ten Ways to Kill Good Design

Watch out for these design pitfalls ...

"It's a given that we at Cooper—and most of you reading this article—believe design is the right tool for translating market needs into tangible product specifications. The people who hire us to design their products or who attend our Cooper U courses think the same thing. Unfortunately, the best designs and the best intentions won't always lead you to success, because the problem goes beyond your product and beyond your design or development process. Building better, more innovative, and more profitable products requires organizational change on a deep and difficult level.

When design pilot projects fail, it endangers everyone's willingness to adopt design methods. Over the course of doing hundreds of design projects and teaching our methods to more than a thousand people, we've seen that several reasons for failure keep showing up. A discussion of these reasons follows, along with some solutions to consider. Let's start with the easiest ones and work our way up.

1. Poor choice of pilot project
When you first bring design into an organization, you generally have to convince others of its efficacy. The best way to do this is usually to pick a pilot project and demonstrate how design helped it succeed. However, if you pick the wrong project and can't demonstrate success, you will certainly lose credibility and may also lose any further chance of persuading people.

Choose a relatively small project with a clearly measurable outcome. For example, if a particular part of your application causes 30% of your tech support calls, fix that part and track the decrease in calls. It's also a good idea to choose a type and size of project your company has done several times before, so you can show the savings in development time and cost. Also, avoid ill-conceived projects—if it's a product or function no one will ever use, there's only so much design can do to help.

2. Not having one consistent project owner
Every design project needs a business decision-maker associated with it—someone who can make trade-off choices between desirable design directions and difficult implementation issues, and will shepherd the product from concept to completion. In many cases, this is a product manager. Companies that try to do this by committee, with no single person responsible for the project's outcome, seldom succeed. Everyone thinks everyone else is responsible, so the process proceeds very slowly, if at all. Changing project ownership partway through the process is also an enormous risk, particularly if the new project owner has not been involved until now; you will need to revisit every project decision, and may end up throwing out quite a few and starting over. This will lead to a perceived project failure, and will devalue the design process in everyone's eyes.

So, senior managers, choose a single project owner and be sure that person is someone you're not planning to reassign in a couple of months."    (Continued via UIE)    [Usability Resources]

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