coffee

Image ©Daniel Ansel Tingcungco – click on image for link to his Flickr feed.

I ruminate.

One of my favorite rumination subjects is UX.

While doing laundry, I think about the washing machine and how it could be better: why does the door open like that? What would happen if we switched it to the other side? What about a basket prop stick so the laundry basket hugs firmly to the side before sliding down and dumping all my socks?

I think about the traffic lights, and wonder why red has to be on top. Is this obsolete? Should we reconsider? Maybe green for go is more deserving of the top position at this point? And so on.

There is a lot of chatter about design thinking. I love it. I think it is fresh and fun, and I cannot get enough. I am thrilled that people are thinking about the user experience with such precision. Empathy within the design process is “in” and I like it. We, the user, matter at last.

But I feel the need to add a note of caution.

Sometimes ya’ gotta ignore your user and just try to surprise them.

I fear that reliance on too much calibrated feedback at every step may stifle the creative process.

I don’t think the inventor of the wheel queried the village to see if a wheel seemed like a good idea to them. I imagine he or she just kind of came up with it, and then it took off from there.

I can’t imagine the inventor of Pop Rocks canvassed the masses to see if they would like candy that explodes on the tongue. But suddenly everyone had to try it.

We have heard the stories of Apple’s development of the iPhone. It was shrouded in secrecy. I do not recall being asked if I would prefer a phone with a glass front to my trusty Samsung flip. The phone with the glass front just kind of appeared one day. And I was surprised. “What the hey is that?” And, “that’s weird… but I kinda like it.”

We the people were completely left out of the design process.

People are not always going to appreciate or fully grasp what goes into designing something new. This is not to reflect poorly on “people” but sometimes an idea is just too rough to present when going through the initial phases.

Once when I was art directing a series of books, I presented them in a rough format and received feedback. “What’s this? Why is that over there?” To my creative process, it was devastating.

From that point on, I never presented an idea until it was in near complete shape. I could still make as many changes as needed, but I felt better putting forth a more complete product. I was protecting myself and my ideas. Fragile ego? Maybe. Fiercely devoted to the vision of an excellent product? Indeed.

My favorite part of the design process is the inspiration,

…that super-cool idea that flashes into your mind while driving the kiddo to swim class: “a swim backpack with mesh sides and a separate zip pouch for your wet bathing suit!”

But these ideas can die on the table with the first “that’s cool, but they already have this or that which is almost the same thing.” Or well-meaning comments, such as: “sounds like it might be too heavy,” or “you can really just use a Ziplock for the wet suit.”

Design ideas sometimes need to be defended in their infancy. Build quietly behind closed doors on occasion. And you may truly surprise—and delight—your user in the end.