Leaving a legacy — Designing the super component

Live, Love, Laugh, Leave a Legacy — Steven Covey

Most interaction designers hope to create something new, that leaves a mark on design language. I have so much respect for people who designed the scroll bar and hundreds of other design patterns that today, form the basis of how we solve business problems.

This happens more often when you are comparatively new in design, you look at a problem and come up with a whole new way to solve the problem. Everything looks promising, till a stakeholder kills the idea, citing some corner case you hadn’t though about before.

I have spent abundant time doing the same in my early parts of my career and continue to do the same today. I still want to do something better. But my approach has changed. Thanks to my ideas getting rejected a hundred times, i am able to pre-empt why something might fail. I have also seen some brilliant innovations come to the fore and that has taught me, Yes you can!

Here is a my conversation starter, how do you approach solving a interaction problem! My comments are only aimed at improving design and not on how to design.

  • Start: Know the old
  • Shape: Use cases
  • Fine Tune: Design heuristics

Know the old, understand what was the current way of solving the problem. For instance if you are trying to create a solution that is currently solved scroll bar, try learning what does a scroll bar do effectively?

  • Display where you are
  • Display how much is left
  • Provide a mechanism to navigate
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist — Pablo Picasa

Use Cases, this is the most important and difficult part. Start listing all the use cases you need to solve. List down the use cases you are not able to solve. Do a comparison with the current and other solutions to solve the problem. In the case of a scroll bar you could think of pagination for instance.

Draft a statement of sorts. A problem statement. “Provide a solution for web based interfaces that have too much items to scroll, where scroll bar (lazy loading) is not effective”

Design Heuristics, this was the secret i would like to really share. You need to need to check if you component is that good. Take Jackob Nielsen’s heuristics, or any other design principles that you like, there is no-dearth of reading material on what is good design.

Understand how does you design solution score on various heuristic. For instance for a scroll bar, How would it be a match between system and the real world? How would it prevent errors by users? Aesthetic and Minimalistic design etc.