Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Design Strategies

I see two ways of designing a product.

The first is Technology-first design. This is where the group has a specific technology that provides some capabilities. The team takes a lot of time to flesh out exactly what the system is capable of doing, and how. This discussion gets pretty detailed (like talking about UX or implementation details). Once the team has a very good idea of how the technology can be used, they try to find a market for it. They try to "shop" around for problems in any industry that might be served well by this technology.

The other is User-first design. Here the group knows the overall capabilities of a technology, but they don't discuss the all the details. Instead, they focus on finding users first and then adapt the technology to the problem (instead of the other way around). Here, the group spends a lot of time discussing various markets and their problems. They talk to customers before they conduct in depth research into the technology itself.

Obviously, a successful project will need to consider both the use cases and the technological details, but the question is which one should a team consider first. In REAP, it seems that we are doing Technolgy-first design. That is, we are trying to fit a problem to our technology instead of the other way around.

While this approach is fine in general, I find that it might cause comprises in the final solution. If the team is focused on the details of the technology, they might be more inclined to morph the problem (and solution) to match the technology. A better solution would be to morph the technology to match the problem. This creates a better solution to the problem, since it is focused on user needs.


  1. Invention in general could be thought of as a "technology" centered (crap, rain, gotta close the window!) approach, in that we work with what we have to come up with great new things. Seems like that has worked well enough until now, though things could (theoretically) be better. It also shows how awesome programming is, where you can come up with any idea you want and all you have to do is choose the implementation technology of your choice to realize it. Imagine if physics was like that! Or architecture!

  2. Then again, invention can also be thought of as a creative process wherein inventors might take a "user centered" approach to come up with a unique idea. But somehow I think there are more ideas than inventions, and for something to be an invention it must be grounded in "technology". Anyway, that's a semantic argument I don't want to have, but perhaps there is a better word for it than "invention".

  3. But semantic arguments are the best. I'm sure it'll come up when I come down to Toronto. :P