Convention versus innovation

23 Apr 2004 - 3:34pm
10 years ago
8 replies
1097 reads
sandeepblues
2003

Consistency is touted as an important principle of UI
design. Arguments are made about focusing on user
needs, and avoiding stringent adherence to external
and internal consistencies. But, nonetheless, taking
advantage of user habits is a good thing for ease of
learning and intuitiveness etc.

What is the criteria for choosing an innovative design
over a conventional one? In addition, how does one go
about convincing non-designer, decision makers
(product managers etc) to take a chance with an
innovative design? How does one challenge the
statement: "But Microsoft doesn't do it that way?"

To complicate matters, let's say that the context is
UI design jobs where contact with users is limited and
it isn't easy to get evidence from the field.

Views on this discussion topic will be much
appreciated.

SAndeep

Comments

23 Apr 2004 - 4:11pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Apr 23, 2004, at 1:34 PM, Sandeep Jain wrote:

> What is the criteria for choosing an innovative design
> over a conventional one?

Usually it is long term benefit. (Both to the business bottom line and
the user's use of the innovation.) Innovative designs that are well
thought out, test well over long periods of time, and have been through
an extensive iterative design and prototyping process tend to last the
test of time. Conventional ones tends to last only as long as the
convention is considered appropriate. In some cases, that may only be
months or just a few years. How many times have Microsoft and Apple
changed the conventions for OS controls and interface directions since
1984?

> In addition, how does one go
> about convincing non-designer, decision makers
> (product managers etc) to take a chance with an
> innovative design? How does one challenge the
> statement: "But Microsoft doesn't do it that way?"

Extensive, iterative testing. The only successful way I've ever been
able to influence these types of coworkers is with fully-formed
prototypes that have been tested with a consistent pool of users over a
long period of time. (3 or more months at minimum.) Spot testing with
innovative designs (the behind the mirror stuff) will only provide more
fuel for the conventional fire, as most users react poorly to something
that is different only because it is different.

> To complicate matters, let's say that the context is
> UI design jobs where contact with users is limited and
> it isn't easy to get evidence from the field.

Then I think you might be out of luck. You really need both time and
extensive prototyping to get innovation through the process.

I also tend to think that's ok, and shouldn't be any different. It
would be irresponsible for any product manager to approve a change or
take a chance on "innovation" if it fell flat on its face and hurt the
business. They have to be concerned with the bottom line, as rightly
they should. As such, they need to be given as much data on the long
term benefits of any innovative design direction before accepting it on
behalf of the business

Andrei Herasimchuk
andrei at adobe.com

work: http://www.adobe.com
personal: http://www.designbyfire.com

23 Apr 2004 - 4:27pm
sandeepblues
2003

Thanks for the response. What you say makes sense.
Let's say the 'innovation' is to improve usability.

For example: the size of toolbar buttons. There is a
certain size of toolbar buttons that is standard in MS
office applications. Now suppose that I were
re-designing an application, and I wanted to create
much larger toolbuttons, because there were fewer of
them, and I wanted to re-design to convey a "IT's
SIMPLE AND HAS BIG BUTTONS" message...plus the Fitt's
Law advantage.

Now big buttons isn't exactly an innovation, but it
does violate a graphic design convention in Windows.

Now, how can I argue my case? How did the Netscape
designer argue for big, unconventional toolbar
buttons?
Let's assume that I didn't have browser examples to
give.

Sandeep

--- Leigh Allen-Arredondo
<Leigh.Allen-Arredondo at gettyimages.com> wrote:
> As a lead UI Designer, these are some questions I
> would ask to determine the idea's validity:
>
> 1) What is the need behind trying a new approach?
> Does it make functionality faster/easier/more
> visible to the user? Does the need outweigh the risk
> that it might not end up being as usable as the
> 'conventional' design?
>
> 2) Do you have any data that the more 'innovative'
> design is as usable or more usable than the
> conventional design?
>
> 3) Do you have any evidence that your users want
> something 'innovative'?
>
> 4) What are the generally accepted 'UI standards'
> around the functionality you're designing? Are those
> standards changing, or becoming more ingrained? Are
> they different in different countries? Are they
> dependant on technology? All of those questions
> could help you determine whether or not straying
> from the 'microsoft' way might be either helpful or
> a hinderance.
>
> 5) Is there any published material dealing with the
> item you're designing? That is often a good place to
> get support for a new design if you don't have much
> data yourself.
>
> Also I would add that if you're unsure of a design's
> usability, and you're comparing it to a
> 'conventional' design that has a known level of
> usability, you'd better test it before you go too
> far down that new path. Business folks are going to
> be wary of change because there IS a risk involved
> -- you have to show that the risk is justified or
> that it isn't as much of a risk as they think. Your
> best argument will be user data!
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
>
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
>
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com]
> On Behalf Of Sandeep Jain
> Sent: Friday, April 23, 2004 1:34 PM
> To: id-discuss
> Subject: [ID Discuss] Convention versus innovation
>
> Consistency is touted as an important principle of
> UI
> design. Arguments are made about focusing on user
> needs, and avoiding stringent adherence to external
> and internal consistencies. But, nonetheless,
> taking
> advantage of user habits is a good thing for ease of
> learning and intuitiveness etc.
>
> What is the criteria for choosing an innovative
> design
> over a conventional one? In addition, how does one
> go
> about convincing non-designer, decision makers
> (product managers etc) to take a chance with an
> innovative design? How does one challenge the
> statement: "But Microsoft doesn't do it that way?"
>
> To complicate matters, let's say that the context is
> UI design jobs where contact with users is limited
> and
> it isn't easy to get evidence from the field.
>
> Views on this discussion topic will be much
> appreciated.
>
> SAndeep
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
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> get announcements already)
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> http://interactiondesigners.com/
>
>
>
=======================================================
> This email and its contents are confidential. If you
> are not the intended recipient, please do not
> disclose
> or use the information within this email or its
> attachments. If you have received this email in
> error,
> please delete it immediately. Thank you.
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23 Apr 2004 - 4:44pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Apr 23, 2004, at 2:27 PM, Sandeep Jain wrote:

> Now big buttons isn't exactly an innovation, but it
> does violate a graphic design convention in Windows.

Exactly. That gets at your definition of "innovation." I don't consider
changing the size of icons or buttons innovative to be honest.
Innovative is a *very* strong word, so use it sparingly.

If you find yourself debating design issues like this with product
managers, it tells me you haven't earned their trust or respect yet,
and need to re-examine what you do and how you have done it in order to
find a way to get that trust and respect. Designers that have the
respect and trust of their co-workers rarely find themselves having to
justify issues like icon size in a design.

So, don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you have some
work to do either to build a reputation as a designer who excels and
can be trusted with the overall design of the product for the business
with little interference, or you need to re-examine how you interact
with your co-workers so they begin to trust you more with this sort of
decision.

And then you have to pick your battles. Only go to the matt for things
that really are going to make a difference in a design. Ask yourself,
is the size of the icons really that big of a deal? When I look back at
this project five years from now, will it be one of those things I'm
glad I fought for because it really mattered?

> Now, how can I argue my case? How did the Netscape
> designer argue for big, unconventional toolbar
> buttons?

She didn't to my knowledge. She just made them bigger because they
looked better at a bigger size (and had more resolution for detail) and
everyone at Netscape was fine with it. But I honestly don't know. I
could always ask her. My wife is visiting her this weekend. Would be
good little bit of history to know anyway.

Andrei

24 Apr 2004 - 12:47am
pabini
2004

Hi Sandeep

I agree with what Andrei Herisimchuk said about validating innovation design
solutions through usability testing. There is one powerful appeal you can
make to the product management people on your team: product differentiation.
It's where they live. Also, innovative designs are usually the ones that win
awards. So, if you're working with some forward-thinking people who trust
you, you should be able to persuade them to let you innovate.

Sandeep Jain asked:
How does one go about convincing non-designer, decision makers
> (product managers etc) to take a chance with an
> innovative design?

Pabini
________________________________________

Pabini Gabriel-Petit
Principal & User Experience Architect
Spirit Softworks
www.spiritsoftworks.com

23 Apr 2004 - 3:58pm
Leigh Allen-Arr...
2004

As a lead UI Designer, these are some questions I would ask to determine the idea's validity:

1) What is the need behind trying a new approach? Does it make functionality faster/easier/more visible to the user? Does the need outweigh the risk that it might not end up being as usable as the 'conventional' design?

2) Do you have any data that the more 'innovative' design is as usable or more usable than the conventional design?

3) Do you have any evidence that your users want something 'innovative'?

4) What are the generally accepted 'UI standards' around the functionality you're designing? Are those standards changing, or becoming more ingrained? Are they different in different countries? Are they dependant on technology? All of those questions could help you determine whether or not straying from the 'microsoft' way might be either helpful or a hinderance.

5) Is there any published material dealing with the item you're designing? That is often a good place to get support for a new design if you don't have much data yourself.

Also I would add that if you're unsure of a design's usability, and you're comparing it to a 'conventional' design that has a known level of usability, you'd better test it before you go too far down that new path. Business folks are going to be wary of change because there IS a risk involved -- you have to show that the risk is justified or that it isn't as much of a risk as they think. Your best argument will be user data!

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Sandeep Jain
Sent: Friday, April 23, 2004 1:34 PM
To: id-discuss
Subject: [ID Discuss] Convention versus innovation

Consistency is touted as an important principle of UI
design. Arguments are made about focusing on user
needs, and avoiding stringent adherence to external
and internal consistencies. But, nonetheless, taking
advantage of user habits is a good thing for ease of
learning and intuitiveness etc.

What is the criteria for choosing an innovative design
over a conventional one? In addition, how does one go
about convincing non-designer, decision makers
(product managers etc) to take a chance with an
innovative design? How does one challenge the
statement: "But Microsoft doesn't do it that way?"

To complicate matters, let's say that the context is
UI design jobs where contact with users is limited and
it isn't easy to get evidence from the field.

Views on this discussion topic will be much
appreciated.

SAndeep
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This email and its contents are confidential. If you
are not the intended recipient, please do not disclose
or use the information within this email or its
attachments. If you have received this email in error,
please delete it immediately. Thank you.
=======================================================

24 Apr 2004 - 2:21pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Apr 23, 2004, at 1:58 PM, Leigh Allen-Arredondo wrote:

> 3) Do you have any evidence that your users want something
> 'innovative'?

Why is this important? Users are the last people to ask about
innovation, just as they are the last to ask about good design. They
more often than not have little to no understanding of what
"innovation" would mean without actually using or seeing the product.
It's a chicken and egg problem.

> 4) What are the generally accepted 'UI standards' around the
> functionality you're designing? Are those standards changing, or
> becoming more ingrained? Are they different in different countries?
> Are they dependant on technology? All of those questions could help
> you determine whether or not straying from the 'microsoft' way might
> be either helpful or a hinderance.

To play devil's advocate... in the past 20 years, what "ui standards"
exist? Most of the momentum surrounding standards built to a point in
1994, then the web browser killed everything. Now... you have to argue
with people over how something like a pop-up menu is *supposed* to
function.

Andrei Herasimchuk
andrei at adobe.com

work: http://www.adobe.com
personal: http://www.designbyfire.com

24 Apr 2004 - 4:08pm
ji kim
2004

hi,

yes, I have also heard - "But Microsoft doesn't do it that way?" - from both product managers and even other designers.

I try to answer this from business point of view.
For most of us working for commerical software companies, our employers are lot smaller than microsoft in size and money. Microsoft is known for releasing softwares with lots of usability problems and bugs (well in the beginning), but they fix the problems during their later releases,which can take years. They have the money and influence to do this - most companies don't. If we took this approach, we'll quickly be out of business. So whoever tells you about "doing it the microsoft way" don't really know about software business world.

ji

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24 Apr 2004 - 4:17pm
whitneyq
2010

Change does not always have to be breaking platform standards, but might
simply be changes in the way the UI is currently designed.

I was part of group that completely redesigned the "framework" UI within
which an entire suite of inter-related applications ran. This was an
enterprise application, and each company using it might have over a
thousand customer service operators trained to use the software.

The question the manager posed to use was not "is this better?" but "how
long will it take to retrain all of those users, and how can I present this
with confidence to the customers?"

So we did usability testing aimed at understanding how hard the transition
would be.

It turned out that with a brief explanation and a small job aid that showed
how the hot keys they were currently using mapped to the new UI (that is,
we maintained functional parity, even if the visual interface and
interaction changed significantly) it required only a brief explanation and
a relatively short period of use to get back up to speed.

At 10:47 PM 4/23/2004 -0700, Pabini Gabriel-Petit wrote:
>Hi Sandeep
>
>I agree with what Andrei Herisimchuk said about validating innovation design
>solutions through usability testing. There is one powerful appeal you can
>make to the product management people on your team: product differentiation.
>It's where they live. Also, innovative designs are usually the ones that win
>awards. So, if you're working with some forward-thinking people who trust
>you, you should be able to persuade them to let you innovate.
>
>Sandeep Jain asked:
>How does one go about convincing non-designer, decision makers
> > (product managers etc) to take a chance with an
> > innovative design?
>
>Pabini
>________________________________________
>
>Pabini Gabriel-Petit
>Principal & User Experience Architect
>Spirit Softworks
>www.spiritsoftworks.com
>
>_______________________________________________
>Interaction Design Discussion List
>discuss at interactiondesigners.com
>--
>to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
>http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
>--
>Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
>--
>Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements already)
>http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
>--
>http://interactiondesigners.com/

Whitney Quesenbery
Whitney Interactive Design, LLC
w. www.WQusability.com
e. whitneyq at wqusability.com
p. 908-638-5467

UPA - www.usabilityprofessionals.org
STC Usability SIG: www.stcsig.org/usability

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