Scott Berkun – Innovating on a Deadline » UIE Brain Sparks

Scott: The “saying no” thing is interesting. I think that a lot of people listen to this podcast or work in user experience and work in design. We all know about simplicity.

We understand that there are lots of good ideas, even for a dialogue box, or a simple part of a web navigation structure — the top of a website’s navigation — that we know there’s lots of potential ideas.

But only a small number of them can be used if we want the whole Gestalt of the thing to be good and to be simple and to be coherent to people.

We all intuitively know that, but the problem is that there’s so much pressure in most organizations to kowtow to marketing, and the notion that more is better.

The same thing is true with ideas. I think that to end up with something that feels simple and something that looks good, you’re going to have to reject lots of ideas that are viable. There’s nothing wrong with the idea.

It’s just that in the product, or in the release, or in this particular design approach, that there have to be things that don’t fit so that the other things can shine. That’s just a side-effect of wanting to make something that’s really good. If it’s really good you’re going to make big bets on a few ideas.

A lot of very good ideas that could be big bets for other projects are going to have to be rejected. I think Apple has exemplified for us the cathedral view of a great product. The people who work at Apple often work on a very small part of a very large, important thing.

They’re willing to work on that small part because they know there’s a coherence to the whole thing. They’re willing to make sacrifice to their ego about how large their contribution is because they know the entirety of it is going to be great.

At most organizations it’s the opposite. People don’t think that the entire website for their company is any good. They think the Gestalt is bad. They want to take more ownership of a small part because they want to feel like they worked on something great.

It was a constant tension at Microsoft about this where Microsoft was notorious for having lots of features, and some of those features might be really designed well, not all of them, but some of them.

That was a side-effect of the fact that the people who were in charge of those features didn’t think the whole product was good. They wanted to work on something that was really good, so they put all their energy into making a small part of it shine, even if that meant it was inconsistent with the rest of it.

I think Steve Job’s quote is true about making anything great. You’re going to have to reduce. There’s going to be good ideas that you reject. There’s going to be good speakers who you might want to have speak at UI18, but to make it good you want to have a small number that get the most attention.

So it’s just a natural tradeoff of trying to make good things.