Saturday, October 30, 2010

Focus on the Core Features and Invite Inputs By Keeping Your Boundaries Porous

When I was in school, my geography teacher taught us a neat trick for answering mapping questions. For example, when asked to map the sugarcane growing regions in India, he suggested that we use a collection of dots to indicate the area roughly rather than draw a definitive circle to indicate the area.

The reasoning was that the evaluator will see what they want to see rather than nit-pick on the specific areas covered by the definitive circle. In some cases the dots gave the evaluator an opportunity to provide partial credit and point out to you the areas where you went wrong. A testing experience also turns into a positive learning experience.

This applies to product design as well. When we design software applications, if we deliberately leave our design a bit rough and porous around the edges, we can invite users who did not participate in the design process earlier to participate in the design. They may even cut you some slack for at least recognizing that you do not claim to understand every possible usage of the product and are open to suggestions.

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