Notes On The 37 signals Interactive Design Process

The following article is about Notes On The 37 signals Interactive Design Process. Below are some of the noteworthy aspects for designforseo’s readers of Luke Wroblewski‘s blogging on the Web App Masters Tour session where Jason Fried shared the design solution process at 37signals and how collaboration works within 37signals by revealing chat transcripts from an ongoing redesign project at 37signals.

Interactive Design Process

  • When looking at customer surveys, 37signals does not implement product ideas from users but instead tries to get an understanding of the problems people are having.
  • 37signals does not use documentation, schematics, or traditional user testing. They try to design the real thing right away and iterate until they get what they want.
  • It’s very easy to get stuck on things that don’t matter. Try to get the big picture ideas in place first, then work through the (details).
  • One of the best ways to respond to a design is with another design – working back and forth with pictures helps to remove misinterpretation.
  • Look for small, but impactful changes when you redesign (or design) something – what is the least amount you can change in a design to have the biggest effective difference?
  • Always try to use real information in your designs. Use real numbers, data, and names so you can think through the way a design will support actual content.
  • Solving your own (design) problems allows you to effectively judge them. Design (and redesign) for yourself if you can.
  • Kicking off projects with loose requirements and allowing the project to evolve, yields more insights as things progress.

I have always found moving from the information gathering stage to the creative postulation stage to be an important one, especially when I’m the one asking the questions or compiling the surveys. The reason is clear – it’s easy to respond to an impassioned plea from a user, to “hear” a groundswell for a kind of application/function a group wants to see, and to key on an desire defined at the executive level.

It’s much harder to read between the lines and hear the messages being delivered to you in subtler ways. It’s much more difficult to propose an solution that is more complete or more forward-thinking than what’s required. It’s tougher to say no and stick to your guns.

These are my thoughts on the highlights above from my experience:

  • Learn to think like a detective – when collecting information about an interactive design project, ask yourself, “Why are they telling me this?”
  • Shape your ear to hear disconnect – more great interactive design solutions come from what’s missing than from what’s already there.
  • You work in a visual medium – get used to doing your thinking and convincing with pictures.
  • As far as content is concerned, interactive design is not really much different from annual report design – you need to have it all before you can make realistic systems.
  • It’s not enough to “define” the users and visitors, you need to become one, think like one, understand their motivations.
  • Answering questions like, “What kind of information does the sales force need?” is better than starting with a statement like, “We need a form for lead generation.” Questions allow for more discussions at the margins – a form might not be the answer at all.

Whether you are designing interactive or redesigning interactive, time and energy should be allotted for “the discovery phase.” Rushing through or past this stage invariably leads to incomplete data, bad solutions, wasted budget, or worse, outright failure of the interactive design solution sometime in the future.

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