Interaction designers and usability experts have a specific role to fill: to Know What To Build, Know What Makes It Great, and Know The Best Ways To Implement It.
When you work to meet these goals in the real world, you have to be able to make decisions in the interest of producing tangible results. Real applications have real design problems with real design solutions. Decisions must be made constantly in an effort to create these solutions and get things done.
Decisions are not always easy. Sometimes they're snap decisions based on very little information. Sometimes they're well-informed decisions based on long hours of usability testing and research. Whatever the case, the decisions need to be made.
Even though the most accurate answer to a design problem is usually, "It depends," the only way to move forward and get things done is to say, with great authority, "This is how it must be done."
When no one is willing to step up and say this, software is designed by accident, according to the whims and snap decisions of developers, managers, marketers, and anyone else who has an opinion. History has proven this is the wrong way to go. It's why we end up with so many bad applications and so few great ones.
No one really has all the answersnot even me. Every project will contain at least one design problem that lies outside the scope of this book, rendering it useless as an aid to help you make a decision right when you need it the mostwhen you need a little truth about the best way to design your application. But I offer you one simple fact:
Truth is a moving target.
What's true right now will very likely not be true forever. What's true for one solution will not be true for another. Design patterns will change. The capabilities of the Web will change. The way people interact with the Web will change. So you may not be able to be right 100 percent of the time, but your ability to make decisions and get things done will get you through every project. Use that.
Don't be afraid to make decisions. It will hurt you in the long run.
Next time you find yourself saying "It depends," pretend you have no options but one. When you determine, and you will, which option you are most afraid to lose, choose that one. Make the decision.
Almost everything about design is subjective. It's very difficult to quantify results in the field of design. The only way to really know if your design is working is to put it out there and see what happens. Great designs fail. Terrible designs succeed. Almost nothing goes as expected. But sometimes, a great design sneaks through and gets noticed.
When that happens, it's because someone was unafraid to make the tough decisions and design the obvious.
That person can be you.
I leave you with this note:
Web application designers are not screen designers, usability experts, researchers, or visionaries. They are all of these things. Great software requires great understanding. Only then can designers be in a position to say, with great authority, "This is how it must be done." And only then will they be right to do so.
Now, go forth . . . and design the obvious.
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To continue reading my thoughts on designing the obvious, visit my site at www.rhjr.net. You can even use the contact form there to email me directly.