I've been tasked with creating a new UI standard for my company. I
thought it would be a great project for me, one that would allow me
to exercise my usability skills and give me the means to convince
people about the virtues of user-centered design (something lacking
here). But, nine months later, I'm wondering if I'm going to be
fired when the new standard is applied to an application, and
everything falls apart. I knew this wouldn't be easy, but I didn't
know it would be this hard. I seem to go through periods of feeling
like I know what I doing and other periods where I feel like I'm
Right now, I'm drowning.
The standard itself seems to be moving along, the layout and control
set have been determined. The colors and icons have been settled.
But how is this going to help design all the hundreds of application
pages? How do I make sure the standard helps teams design? I have
visibility to only two projects, out of the 5 or 6 that are currently
in progress. I see the way these two do design, and it doesn't look
a new standard is going to help them design a better product. They
come to me with the usual question, "how should this screen look?"
and I respond with the usual answer "what is the user trying to
accomplish here? what information do they need to accomplish that
task?" I know that I'm just one person, and I need to create some
templates for various screens. It will help the other designers pick
a screen design that is known to work and solve the problem, and it
will maintain consistency between the dozens of web applications that
we develop. But there are so many screens, many with different needs
and different audiences, where do I begin? I've started with
something simple, grids, and began creating a library of different
styles of grids and editing paradigms and when to use which one. But
the task feels so impossibly large that I don't feel like I'm making
I find myself asking, all the time, what is the correct next step?
What should I focus my time on? One way or another, this thing is
going live in a few months and it doesn't feel ready. I know I
don't have the skills I need to solve this problem. People who know
what they are doing typically have the answer, and usually know
multiple ways of solving the same problem. I only seem to have more
questions and very few answers. Questions like, is the standard
going to solve the minutiae of screen design details? When should we
apply a novel design, versus comglomerates of standard dropdowns and
radio buttons and input fields? How much leeway should be allowed in
designs? How far can it go before one app no longer looks like it
"belongs"? Who will be the authority to make that decision? How
do I show the benefits of user-centered design when I can't even get
the opportunity to test our applications with real users?
I don't even know what help I need. I guess I just need some
direction, hopefully from someone else who has attempted to design a
standard that will be applied to many applications, which do not all
share a common design to begin with.