On functionality

Reading time – 4 minutes

TDLR – “If your product needs a manual to work, it is broken”

I scrapped the first version of this post 2 weeks ago after reading an Elon Musk article that summarized the idea more succinctly. Initially, I had a series of principles and examples like Apple’s decision to have everything accessible within 3 clicks but what I really wanted to impart is this – and I am paraphrasing:

If your product needs a manual to work, it is broken. – Elon Musk

Now, given that framework here are some things from the Universal Principles of Design to keep in mind:

  1. 80 percent of a product’s usage involves 20 percent of its features. Noncritical functions that are part of the less-important 80 percent should be minimized or even removed altogether from the design.
  2. Objects and environments should be designed to be usable, without modification, by as many people as possible.
  3. If something radically new is introduced, help people understand new information in terms of what they already know.
  4. Chunk information when people are required to recall and retain information, or when information is used for problem solving.
  5. Use color conservatively. Limit the palette to what the eye can process at one glance (about five colors depending on the complexity of the design).
  6. Prevent unintended actions by requiring verification of the actions before they are performed.
  7. Limit the possible actions that can be performed on a system. Proper application of constraints in this fashion makes designs easier to use and dramatically reduces the probability of error during interaction.
  8. People should be able to exercise control over what a system does, but the level of control should be related to their proficiency and experience using the system.
  9. An activity will be pursued only if its benefits are equal to or greater than the costs.
  10. There are five ways to organize information: category, time, location, alphabet, and continuum.
  11. The time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increases.
  12. In order for a design to be successful, it must meet people’s basic needs before it can attempt to satisfy higher-level needs.
  13. Good mapping between controls and their effects results in greater ease of use.
  14. All products progress sequentially through four stages of existence: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.
    The decline stage is the end of the life cycle. Product sales continue to decline and core market share is at risk. The design focus in this stage is to minimize maintenance costs and develop transition strategies to migrate customers to new products.
  15. Given a choice between functionally equivalent designs, the simplest design should be selected.
  16. The greater the effort to accomplish a task, the less likely the task will be accomplished successfully.
  17. The designs that help people perform optimally are often not the same as the designs that people find most desirable.
  18. Manage information complexity by only disclosing necessary or requested information at any given time.
  19. People are better at recognizing things they have previously experienced than they are at recalling those things from memory.
  20. Use of more elements than necessary to maintain the performance of a system in the event of failure of one or more of the elements.
  21. It is often preferable to settle for a satisfactory solution, rather than pursue an optimal solution.All are excerpt From: Lidwell, William. “Universal Principles of Design.”

Next time partner!

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