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  • Writer's pictureLoren Saunders

A picture tells a thousand "ah ha!" moments.

One of the most quick, fundamental lessons in lab (thought experiments) vs. field experience (throwing it out there to see what happens) is provided right here in this picture:

We've all experienced "badly" planned outdoor spaces, indoor spaces, places which are the result of when someone sat down at a desk or perhaps several people sat around a table and thought "wow! what a great idea!". After several iterations inside that lab, they came up with a design, decided to build it, got funding, built it, then put it out there in a shiny new package... or in this case perhaps a ribbon was cut.

Then the pedestrians (read: users/customers) said "meh" and walked right through the boundaries and rules and went straight for whatever it was they came for.

Same goes for software and the user experience. I've seen this happening to a lot of websites lately... namely verizonwireless, itunesconnect (an apple developer portal) and a few others where the visual design and ideation trumped functionality, usability and scalability. Unfortunately for web properties, we can't usually just walk around the boundaries and are forced to clunk through the badly designed functional interface that looks pretty but is more than pretty frustrating.

It's one of those lessons that often professionals overlook or don't talk about because it just seems so obvious to the users... "but it's so baaaaad!"

Question: how do we prevent this from happening?

In this book "4 steps to the epiphany" by Steve Blank ( he outlines a process to go through in startup design (building companies) to avoid the old way of "waterfall method to fail" that is surprisingly still prevalent.

I suggest to anyone in the profession of application design, applications architecture, product management (software) and user experience to read the first 33 pages or so of this book (the first part is a summary of the entire book) and try to understand the fundamental process presented.

That process is simply: Start small, get to a point where it works, then build on it, one step at a time.

I often use a metaphor for the same approach: "let's start where the light is shining".

So today, as I march forward inside my head full of ideas and plans... I myself will stop, get up from my desk and walk outside into the field to see what the users are really saying and thinking and see how they are really responding to my product.

'til next time.

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