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Better or just Different ?

By August 2, 20112 Comments

This visualisation of Crayola Crayon colours over the last century got me thinking.  If I were a kid, drawing things with my Crayolas, I’m not sure I’d need all those colours.  In fact maybe I’d be pretty happy drawing stuff with just the same 8 colours that had been keeping kids drawing stuff for 32 years, from 1903 to 1935.

Very often when we’re tweaking as part of a creative design process, or trying to figure out the best way to organise our agile boards etc, we make endless small changes searching for perfection.  And we’re not making things better, just different.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t tweak, test, adapt and evolve.  That’s exactly what you should be doing, but make sure you’re making whatever system you’re working on better, not just different.  Developers should be writing unit tests, plus monitoring code coverage and complexity metrics.  Usability folks need to be actively testing and measuring the impact of their changes through customer usability studies and managers need to be engaged with their teams, rather than ‘command and controlling’ them to know when they are just making a mess.

Today when you’re going back and forwards on some choice ask yourself – “Am I making this better ? Or just different ?”

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Steve Caddy says:

    It’s better to be better.

    Of course, being *much* better, is a point of difference.

  • Interesting… I saw that chart and thought “better, or just more?”, which is another perfect analogy to product and software design. Did the Office suite get better as Microsoft added all those features over the years, or did it just get more features?

    It depends on your perspective, but the answer is probably “better for the marketing guys to sell upgrades, worse for new users who get overwhelmed with complexity, better a tiny percentage of power users who really need that obscure feature, worse for the testing team, worse for the engineering team, better for short term revenue, worse for long term cost, etc”.

    To tie it all back before I stray too far off-topic, next time you’re changing or adding stuff, take a step back and ask “who is this better for? who is this worse for? are we okay with those trade-offs?”. It’s rare that everyone wins.

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