Dead simple is not Stupid Easy … or why the idea of Pair Designing

Easier to keep things simple when working with a pair

Easier to keep things simple when working in a pair!

When I have a choice to make, if I am uncertain, I try to always choose the simplest of all the options I have. I basically look at the several paths and try to evaluate their complexity to pick the simplest. It is not only that I am lazy but more importantly that I realize it is often what works best.

Over the last years, in all fields, this has been working  well. More than that, the (not so) few times where I did not do that, usually I would realize things didn’t go well. Or let me say it differently: when things have not been good, I could have had them good by picking a simplest option…

Now making ‘things simple’ is not that simple! I was at this web meet-up and was hearing this guy using the “Dead Simple” and “Stupid Easy” phrases every two minutes, this made me rethink this all-simplicity thing in the context of my work.

I am currently spending a good share of my time reworking user interfaces, with the only goal to improve the User Experience of our software. This is a domain where having things simple is really super important and tough, as the software we work on is actually quite complex. I am working with a talented UX consultant on that project and its working pretty well. I am the product owner and he is the UX designer, but truth be told I am also designing a good share of the UI and he is owning a good share of the product.

The collaboration works fairly well, even if I am sure we could improve. One of the reasons why I think it works well is because, alternately, when one of us gets enthusiastic about a solution or a feature, in many cases he would tend to forget the importance of keeping things at their simplest. Working in a duo helps you achieve this better. Designing a product is a work that is tricky: you can’t design a good product if you are not inspired and passionate, and it is almost impossible when you are passionate to keep this external neutral view on things that is required to keep them simple. Even the more talented product designers can tend to lose this. As much as we are all conscious of the risk of the ‘feature creep’ virus, we are never really sure not to catch it, especially when we try to solve complex problems.

Of course, products should be designed not only involving 1 or 2 persons but much more, involving all end users, as they are the ones who know best what simple means. Actually it should be understood “simple to them”, not “simple to us”. I still think you can’t go through inception with too many people involved. This would take you back to the risk of designing the things people “want” not the ones people “need” (thanks for the early lesson on that Mister Jobs…)

So that was my thought on this Saturday morning. As much as in coding, where it is now a clear statement that Pair Programming (the practice of having two developers writing the code at the same time) is what leads to the best code (if you do it right), designing with two might be what leads to the best design! I am not an expert in the field and some folks surely already use that technique and name, but if ever this is not the case, I would be very happy to be a pioneer of using it. Pair Designing helps you keep things simple; that is its first value!

And to conclude on simplicity, isn’t it, in all things, what makes them great or not? The simplicity of silence in music, the simplicity of pure lines in art or of empty spaces in architecture, and don’t get me started with food and wine. Even more than anywhere, the simplicity of relations and communication between persons. And not forgetting to quote one more time one of the masters:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
— Leonardo Da vinci

Happy Weekend!

One thought on “Dead simple is not Stupid Easy … or why the idea of Pair Designing

  1. Dirk Porsche

    Well put. I’m often rather alone designing products, may it be only some inhouse apps. I’m searching advice and a second viewpoint often, especially when complexity looms. I’m engaging other coworkers, well annoy them, might put it better. But for the sake of the product it’s OK for me and they could send me away.

    I would be glad to have a constant peer.

    Reply

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