Designing for Success

SignsI have been reminded over the past few weeks of why so much attention must be put into designing things and processes.  I don’t know where I heard it or who said it but it took me a while to understand the following statement “a properly designed road shouldn’t need traffic signs”.  If you drive, have you ever seen a sign that was only needed because the road was not designed right or because of it’s surroundings was forced to be built in a way that required some form of instruction?

Some years back when I was in high school and college, I had the opportunity to work in a millwork shop.  When we would build a cabinet door, we would usually install a door pull handle.  Many times the door was easily opened without the handle, but by adding it anyone opening the door nows how it will open and which side to pull on.  Same types of things applied to my IT positions.  Lots of coders and interface designers try to write software and design interfaces that don’t require a user manual.  Now as a producer that works with volunteers, I am constantly refining my processes and equipment to help the end user succeed.  Something as simple as the order of the channels on a sound console can make a big difference is the success of the audio engineer.

If you are the designer and the end user then you have a fairly easy task.  It never ceases to amaze me how something that I think makes perfect sense can be a challenge to some one else.  So what is the key to good designs and processes?  Observation and revision.  My Grandfather told me about serving in the Pacific in World War II and the developments in anti-aircraft shells.  A new shell was developed that could detect if an aircraft was in it proximity and it would explode.  This is great stuff and eliminated the need for altitude fuses.  The problem was if the shell didn’t find a plane it would not explode in the air and on its way down if a ship was in the area it would explode.  The designers didn’t think of this issue and only after observing it in action, did they decide to make a modification so that it would explode at a set altitude if no planes were detected in it’s proximity. 

Take the time to review your designs and processes in action with an open mind and make the necessary updates so that your users will succeed.