Designing the opportunity

1. At the top of the product design process, you have the surface-level work of designing the interface — the visible manifestation of the design process in layouts, colors, styles, and interactions. Organizations that only focus on the top layer won’t succeed because the underlying structure, function, and features haven’t been considered thoughtfully and systematically.

2. More success comes when you dig to the middle layer — designing the experience. This means applying design thinking to understanding the problem, goals, and users, and then designing the right set of features and product architecture to meet those needs. There are plenty of products that do reasonably well by only addressing the top two layers.

3. But the products and companies that have true success, the ones we look to as revolutionary, are the companies that go one level deeper and apply design innovation. I think of this layer as designing the opportunity.

Designing the opportunity means understanding the system itself, the people who use it, and the external landscape in which that system exists. By comprehensively looking at all three of these factors, one can start to identify hidden opportunities and gaps.

Alexis Lloyd: Designing the opportunity: the deep layer of product design


OKR summary

OKRs are usually attributed to Google, but while reading this book, I realised that in fact, they originated here. Andy Grove developed Peter Drucker’s Management by objectives into OKRs, and then John Doerr learned them at Intel and took them to Google. Reading them here was the first time that they actually made sense to me rather than feeling cargo-culted.

Objectives are what you need to do; key results are how you know you are on your way. The example that really made it clear to me was: your objective is to reach the airport in an hour. Key results are: pass through town A at 10 mins, B at 20 mins, C at 30 mins. If after 30 mins there is no sign of town A, you know you’ve gone off track. So they need to be clear enough that you know you’ve met them, and that you are on track.

He points out that the system requires judgment and common sense. Objectives are not a legal document. If the manager mechanically relies on the OKRs for the review, or the report ignores an emerging opportunity because it wasn’t one of the objectives, “then both are behaving in a petty and unprofessional fashion”.

And finally, a very important point: you should not have too many! “To focus on everything is to focus on nothing”.

Anna Shipman in her book notes from High Output Management by Andy Grove

MVP issues

The fundamental challenge we are up against is that doing the right thing well is generally more expensive and time-consuming than doing the least you can get away with and figuring out how to defend it. For example, the Lean methodology and the Minimum Viable Product technique are supposed to help reduce waste and increase the timely flow of useful feedback. In practice, they are used as cover for rushing to a less thoughtful solution without considering the context or the long-term implications.

Designers have found themselves having to fit their work into these popular methods without an opportunity to critique their place in the surrounding system. And critiquing the elements of a system is a fundamental tool of design.

The concept (value centered design) I’d like us all to agree on is that we need to design products and services that make their users better off, make money, and don’t fuck up society or the planet.

Erika Hall: Thinking in Triplicate

The Effect of Aesthetics on Web Credibility

Experiments have shown that users can judge a web site’s credibility in as little as 3.42 seconds merely on the basis of its aesthetic appeal.

Recent studies have shown that judgments on web site credibility are 75% based on a web site’s overall aesthetics. [citing Fogg, B.J., Soohoo, C., and Danielson, D. 2002. How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility?: Results from a Large Study. Consumer Reports Webwatch. DOI=

Farah Alsudani and Matthew Casey: The Effect of Aesthetics on Web Credibility  (PDF)