Design by enthusiasm

As many of you are most probably aware I work for Canonical and some of my blog posts from here are syndicated to design.canonical.com. I was asked a rather interesting question on that blog and partly due to the impatience of the asker decided to respond by way of a post. My other motivation for responding in this way because I didn’t want an interesting question to be lost in the comments.

The question: “I wonder if the ‘open for all’ in FOSS makes the design part suffer from ‘design by comitee’? What are your thoughts on this?” – Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo

It can be hard to avoid any design anywhere being subject to influence by committee. It is very hard to avoid being influenced by people who are louder, stronger, more powerful, more persuasive and to avoid giving discussions too much weight. Get too many stakeholders involved and things can quickly get messy. This is the very reason I am an advocate of user-centred design. Good data is the ultimate opinion neutraliser.

In open-source, it seems to me, we suffer from a proliferation of design by enthusiasm. A passing comment turns into a mock-up, which turns into some code and before you know it – KAPPOW! – ladies and gentlemen, we have a feature!

We definitely don’t want to curb our enthusiasm, but I do think we need to learn to direct it.

Ideas are cheap. Let’s learn to be discerning. Let’s get enthusiastic about building great things for a set of target users to fulfil a particular need.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted 30 July, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Great post – and such a such a great soundbite – “design by enthusiasm” – love it!

    Direction is needed but, particularly given the nature of FOSS, I’ve found that people/projects don’t take criticism well at all: “I can do what i want”, “if you can do better go ahead!” etc which is why projects like Elementary & Ubuntu have become so successful: they dispensed with the designers ego and replaced it with the users needs.

    I’d love to see the wider community – and in particular some of the really talented ‘enthusiasts’ – learn that if people point out flaws or opportune changes that could benefit the design that it’s not personal but because we want everything to be as ace as possible – particularly when those criticisms are, as you mention, usability related.

  2. Posted 30 July, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Of course, this is why benevolent dictators with a strong sense of design and UX are important:

    You’ve got enthusiasm driving “patches” and contributions, but you need a dictator to to say yes or no based on design goal, requirements and audience.

  3. Posted 30 July, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    “Ideas are cheap. Let’s learn to be discerning. Let’s get enthusiastic about building great things for a set of target users to fulfil a particular need.”

    This is the most refreshing phrase I have ever read out of Canonical, Ivanka.

    Amen.

    If we focus on the _who_, all of the bikeshedding, all of the tripe rubbish Fitt’s this and Hick’s that, all of the blind guesswork, and all of the frustrated energy dissipates in a puff of smoke.

    Bring it on. And bring it with an aesthetic and emotional experience.

  4. Posted 30 July, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for pulling up my ponder, Ivanka :)

    And I also believe that curation is key, also for FOSS. To many features and options gets stuffed in ‘just because’. I think a well curated application, that does alot of thinking on its own, is much better than one you have to fine tune to use.

  5. Hugo
    Posted 17 August, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I use ubuntu for now 4 years, and i am pleased to see that someone is especialy for for design, so here is a key for you, consider it as a present : the bigest impact of colors in humanity is what we feel when we see it. further more, colors delivers a message to the colective inconscience, for exemple every body will use pink for erotic business.

    and when i see you work i see that you don’t know those things, so here a little “reminder”
    plain colors :
    Blue : emotions, the mother, water, soul
    Yellow/gold : divinity, sun, light (that guide), trought
    Red : action, passion, the father, spirite, blood
    Black : death (and birth) the “no thing” from what things grow, mother of life
    White : justice, purity, innocence, peace
    secodary colors :
    Orange : vitality, whise action, material spirite
    Purple : spirituality, dreams
    Grey/silver : ash, indifference, humility, purity of imagination, beatifull heart,
    Green : vegetation, vital fluid, lust
    Indigo : meditation, experience, knowledge
    Brown : wood, traditions,

    Know, i suggest you to check a nice commercial application of those knowledge :

    http://komplettie.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/windows-7-initial-sales-outperform-vista/

    Congratulation for the touch of gold in the future ubuntu 10.10

    know, you know how to talk to the heart of every one, no mater is culture, language, religion…

    take care

    Hugo

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