Cutting Room Floor
Kevin Cheng  

The Optimal Design Roadmap

May 13th, 2005 by Kevin Cheng :: 7 Comments

Steve Jobs is often attributed with the quote, “real artists ship”. No matter how much of a perfectionist you are, to be successful you need to ship your product and that means cutting some features so you can ship it in time.

It’s often quite difficult to gauge what is too little or too much. Using our comic analogy, you could easily find less detailed artwork in more popular comics online or elsewhere. South Park is proof that animation need not consist of millions of polygons and light rendering engines to succeed.

As interaction designers, we often have to deal with what interaction pieces to include in a product. At some point, we come to a discussion with project management and it goes something like this:

Designer: “These interaction pieces need to be in this product for it to be usable”
PM: “Well we don’t have the time/money/people to do all of that.”

At which point you have to choose what to cut, or more accurately, what gets to stay. While it’s great to come up with what we believe to be an optimal user experience, it’s easy to forget that when realities of project schedules hit, something in the experience needs to be sacrificed.

Which begs the question, should a unified interface, designed to fit perfectly together, be done at all? Perhaps we should design something more piece meal, where we can prioritise how much each piece impacts the experience and thus elect to not implement certain aspects and mostly keep the experience at the best it can be.

The answer as always, is somewhere in between. When I design, I always look towards the optimal experience. This act is not to be unrealistic or utopian. Showing a vision of where the experience needs to be helps communicate for those building the blocks en route. Programmers already do this: they recognize the end product milestone they are trying to achieve, and build releases towards it. As designers, we not only need to build the optimal user experience, we also need to create a roadmap on how to get to there, whether through three steps, five steps or whatever the number of releases dictates.

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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?