The more we understand the design process, the better we can design genealogy software. In a previous post titled “More Design in the Genealogy Community”, we discussed the development process. In this post, we will look specifically at the Design Process that was represented as Phase 0.
Design is represented by a funnel showing that more ideas exist at the beginning of the phase than at the end. Much of this information can be found in “Sketching User Experiences: getting the design right and the right design” by Bill Buxton.
Genealogists as well as designers and developers must work together as part of the design process. In the early part of this process, it is important to generate as many ideas as possible. No idea should be held back as it might be a stepping stone to a much better idea. Ideas tend to generate more ideas. As the two-time Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, once said:
The best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas.
The diagram indicates that no matter how many great ideas enter the funnel, there will be less at the end. Not all ideas survive.
On page 144 of “Sketching User Experiences”, a slightly different visualization by Paul Laseau is presented which shows two opposing funnels: one for idea generation and the other for idea reduction. My modification of the diagram is as follows:
The process begins with a single idea or a few ideas. This leads to more ideas. Ideas are explored quickly and cheaply and can be discarded just as fast – easy come, easy go.
At some point choices need to be made and ideas need to be refined. After all, idea generation cannot carry on indefinitely. We must create something to ship. If we do this correctly, we won’t just have something we will have the right thing. Ideas are refined roughly at first and then with more granularity. More ideas might still surface but they are more fine tuning of existing ideas than radical new ones. More choices are made as we approach the final design. If you think of these two funnels superimposed, it’s not too difficult to visualize the single Design funnel represented as Phase 0.
To make this point a second time, designers, developers, and users (genealogists in our case) are involved in this process. Everyone’s ideas are important. Designers share their ideas and also guide the others through the process.
The subtitle of “Sketching User Experiences” is “getting the design right and the right design.” This process of working together to generate ideas and refine them into a final design is part of getting the “right design.” When this process is not followed or those who use the software are not involved, a design will result but quite possibly not one that will provide an effective, usable, and enjoyable experience.
This blog is a place where we can have a conversation about design and go through the process together. I want to listen to your ideas. All ideas are welcome as we are at the starting point of design. We can change the world of genealogy software. Innovation can happen.
In a future post, we will explore the technique of sketching and how it can be used to quickly capture and share ideas.