open-graph

Don’t ignore the squishy bits!

I recently had the opportunity to attend UI19 in Boston, a long-running conference focused on user experience design and ways to be more effective in a UX role as part of a larger team. One of the presentations in particular stuck with me as I returned to Boulder thinking about VictorOps and our evolution as an early stage startup.

Presented by Kim Goodwin, her talk on Principles, Values, and Effective Design Teams touched on a number of challenges we’ve experienced first-hand here at VictorOps as we strive to balance the delivery of a great product with the necessity to move quickly, while also working to create a culture that reflects our values as an organization.

In many companies, especially early on, trying to articulate shared principles can be hard. When it seems everything should be measured and quantified, it’s easy to look past the “squishy” parts of the business that can’t easily be expressed in a report or dashboard.

In terms of UX, this squishiness makes it even more important to have explicit conversations about what constitutes good design. In the absence of clear principles, design can become the exclusive territory of specialists working in isolation, or at the other extreme, becomes fragmented and disjointed as it evolves without a clear intent.

What do good design principles look like?

Strong design principles can have a big impact on the way teams interact with each other and negotiate the tradeoffs that come with building a complex product. Ideally, your design principles should be:

  • Aspirational
  • Specific to your context and your audience
  • Stated from the customer perspective
  • Constantly tested and re-evaluated

In turn, these principles can:

  • Help frame the problems you’re trying to solve
  • Demystify your internal design process
  • Provide a basis for evaluating design
  • Facilitate saying no when appropriate
  • Help align your organization around customer needs

Nail these and you’ll not only have a strong foundation to work from, but you’ll also differentiate yourself from competitors in the process.

Next time…

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll introduce the design principles we’ve developed here at VictorOps and talk about how we arrived at them.