Interface design discussions

It happened all the time at ArsDigita, and it just happened to me again.

If you’re developing software, you probably know them: The inevitable, endless, mindless, useless discussions about this or that feature of the user interface. When they’re at their worst, there are two alternatives, and two parties. One side says it must be this way, the other side says it must be that way. There’s no movement in the positions. Eventually, someone suggests “we can’t design, why don’t we make this an option”. That isn’t a solution, it’s just deferring the problem. I hate it.

What I hate about the whole setup is that’s it’s so Win/Loose. You win, I loose, or I win, you loose. How can this type of discussion be transformed into a Win/Win? How can we come up with a solution that we’ll both be perfectly happy with?

One option is to defer to outside expertise. Perhaps we’ll say that we’ll see if we can find advice from Jakob Nielsen on this. Or we could go find some popular implementation of something similar, such as Yahoo! or Amazon or YABB or whatnot, and agree that we’ll do whatever they do. But what if we each find contradictory Nielsen quotes? Or what if Yahoo! and Amazon does it differently?

Is there a way to transform this all too common type of discussion into a Win/Win state of mind?

Writing well


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