How To Not Suck At Design


Michael Shrivathsan just wrote an article presenting five tips for creating products with great design.

Michael’s List

  1. Start with the user interface. [Roger Cauvin adds, start with a working first iteration]
  2. Work closely with UI designers.
  3. Pay attention to details.
  4. Simpler is better.
  5. Be brave.

Our Thoughts

User centric design is the core of UX and interaction design. It is the most effective way to design something that is a pleasure to use. As Michael points out, almost no one does it. Kent Beck (founder of Extreme Programming) argues with Alan Cooper that all the up-front design work to understand the users is wasting time that could be used to build something valuable. Cooper argues that designing for the users is the most important thing. They are both right. There isn’t a black-and-white answer to that debate.

Simpler is the key to avoiding featuritis, where too many features actually make a poduct less effective.

Being brave. Great point. Great designs are product leaders. Many politicians try and predict where the population will be (test polling, trial balloons, etc), and then try to get there first – so that it looks like leading. Not very brave. Michael’s examples of the iPod and GMail are good ones. Both products demonstrate design departures from “everybody else.”

Our Additions

We would also add

  1. Have Valuable Innovation. Innovation for it’s own sake isn’t worth much. GMail uses tagging (instead of folders) because it is valuable. Folders require every email to only be in “one place.” Tags allow emails to be in more than one place. That’s valuable innovation. [Here are ten tips for preventing innovation too – one of the most-read posts at Tyner Blain]
  2. Focus On Killer Features. Prioritization drives the identification of what is actually important. Don’t do the other stuff. Combine this prioritization with Simpler Is Better to get the most bang for your buck.


Great ideas from Michael. Thanks!

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