Strong Opinions Loosely Held, Design Rules vs Guidelines

Ben Peck
Ben Peck
Aug 22, 2018 · 18 min read
  1. Evolution story (Are we building on an existing feature?)

Designer’s Reaction to Innovation Stories…

When we think about that as designers, this is usually our reaction when we want to do an innovative thing. It’s just like, “Let’s throw away the thing that we have now and build something brand new!” Right? And it’s just how we think as designers. We just get super, super excited about innovation.

Engineer’s Reaction to Innovation Stories…

Engineers! It’s like, “Oh, I just went and built something, now oh, you’re going to go and erase it now, and I’ve just went and built something and now we’re going to erase it now.”

Product’s Reaction to Innovation Stories…

Product looks at it and says, “Okay, I’m gonna throw some money at it. Is it gonna come back? Or is it going down the drain? Am I gonna get it … are we gonna … where’s the benefit?” Right? When you talk to these people in these different organizations, that’s how they’re thinking and if we can work cross functionally in a way that we can improve upon that, that that’s where we can go.

  1. ProductThey decide and comunicate the research, business, market, and release strategy.
  2. DesignThey decide and comunicate the interaction, visual and usability.

A North Star is…

  1. A visual output (a video, a storyboard, a series of high fidelity designs)
  2. It is a method to get everyone on the same page.
  3. It is inspiration, so think six months out, a year out, maybe even farther.
  4. Achievable (shouldn’t feel like science fiction)

What an innovative North Star is NOT…

  1. Is the future set in stone. (I went and created this thing. Now we have to go figure out how to make it exactly the way that I showed it to you, the first time I showed it to you)
  2. A feature that we already know we need
  3. Just the design or just the redesign or a reskin of what we currently have
  4. Something users know they want.

Innovative Thinking

I’m going to jump into a case study here of an innovation story that we were able to do at Jane.com. So, JANE is a marketplace for sellers to sell online. It’s a daily deal marketplace. We have 600 new products that change every single day on our website. Our website is a whole new set of different products every single day. And the process to make that happen is, I won’t lie, it’s laborious for sellers to go through that process. And a lot of these sellers, they want to be more mobile or they are more mobile and they want to be able to submit deals. The goal was, okay, as a seller, build a native App that solves the needs of 80% of our Seller’s Jane experience … that Jane needs on the go. So, right now all of our sellers, we have thousands of sellers, they have to go to a desktop to submit deals to run products on Jane.com. But we can see that they’re trying to access those admin pages on their phone, so we thought, “What are the things that we can go build for that?”

Evolutionary Thinking

Now I want to kind of shift gears into evolution. This is a little less exciting for designers, right? I want you to go and evolve this little thing over here.

Engineer’s Reaction to Innovation Stories…

When you say evolutionary and an engineer looks at it, they think something like this, like “I’m gonna evolve into this amazing thing and I can see the path and I don’t need to worry about changing into a different animal.”

Product’s Reaction to Innovation Stories…

Product looks at that and they say, “I can take this small idea that we have and I can make it more money. More money! More money! More money!!” Until it just is lots of money.

Designer’s Reaction to Innovation Stories…

What I want and what I hope is that designers would still have this same reaction. Because it’s just an amazing reaction. And honestly it’s not what designers are usually excited to go do.

Evolution is…

  1. Constraints. We just have to embrace the constraints.
  2. Iterative. It’s baby steps. It’s additive.
  3. It’s measured incrementally.

What evolution is not…

  1. A reinvention of the wheel.
  2. Scope Creep.
  1. Setting clear org decision boundaries is very important
  2. Embracing constraints when we’re tasked with evolutionary design decisions
  3. It’s not one or the other. Sometimes an evolutionary strategy turns into an innovation strategy and sometimes you’re working on both.

Front Utah

A collection of articles related to Product Design, Product Management, UX, Entrepreneurship, and Technology, to collaborate, network, and inspire each other to create amazing products

Ben Peck

Written by

Ben Peck

Husband & Father of 4. Product Advisor (UX + PM) Cofounder of @front. Director of @product_hive. www.benpeck.com

Front Utah

A collection of articles related to Product Design, Product Management, UX, Entrepreneurship, and Technology, to collaborate, network, and inspire each other to create amazing products