"Move Fast and Break Things," once Facebook's infamous mantra, referred to the company's emphasis on speed over perfection. The company was satisfied if new features on the platform were not perfect when rolled out, as long as they were created quickly.
But that was 2014. Since then, the company has taken a step back from iteration and is working harder to get things right the first time. Why? Ask Captain Hindsight and he'll give it to you straight: "You know what you should have done? Not that."
Although Move Fast and Break Things was meant to spark innovation, the company's well-publicized missteps that followed revealed the drawbacks of this particular way of thinking. While innovation is essential, it isn't everything. And, not all things can be haphazardly approached. Some things take time and a specific, proven, methodical process to succeed. Like design.
To create effective design, we need to slow down a bit, pay close attention to the little things, and focus on the end goal.
Making the World a Better Place
I break most things in my life, whether it be my phone screens or wind. It's usually just an annoyance. But sometimes it can be a big problem. Many of the things we use in our daily lives are not things we can afford to have break. If the new toy I just bought for my kitten gets shredded to pieces in ten seconds (this is a regular occurrence), it isn't a big deal. But, if my car's central computer turns into HAL 9000, then we're dealing with a much bigger issue.
As UX designers, we often work on critical applications and devices — products with no margin for error. It's simply unacceptable for a Class III medical device, for instance, to break or malfunction due to poor design considerations. This is why we don't design mission-critical devices in an afternoon (hopefully). Rather, we take adequate time to go through the process and thoughtfully address any unexpected problems that may arise.
This process works well for more than critical devices. The goal of UX design is to make products of every type function well for the user. This takes time. No, not excessive time. And not unnecessary time. I'm not talking about dragging our feet or slowing the product development process. I'm just saying we need to focus a little more on the end goal — a carefully envisioned, properly functioning product — than the speed of design.
Tabs Not Spaces
The most memorable moments of my childhood seem to always end with my parents saying "there is a right way and a wrong way to do things" before grounding me for a week. As much as it pains me to say it, they are right about that. Before we start projects at Boston UX, we get information on the hardware, sit down with our developers (who work right next to us), and find out the limitations of our project. This is before we ever start sketching a single line. I have seen far too many designers try to shave time by skipping this step, only to end up with something that can't be built.
A design that can't be implemented is, simply put, a bad design.
To me, this is the right way to do design. All things need to be considered in the early stages of the project to establish what you will be working with. Every aspect of the design needs to be thought out, from colors to type sizes to screen real estate to hardware. Many designers often think about why an element might be in a specific location, but they neglect to contemplate why it isn't in any other.
Like a chess Grandmaster, it is important to examine all possibilities before making a decision.
The end goal of every designer should be to create something that functions as well as it can. Because doing things quickly but getting them wrong (even a little wrong) can sometimes have tragic consequences, like in the case of medical devices, taking time to look at the details, making sure there are always fresh eyes on the project, and remembering our goal is the right way to do things.
In a competitive field like design where every company is trying to estimate projects with fewer hours than their competitors, we need to remember that great, effective design takes time. Focusing simply on speed at the expense of quality and functionality in order to "innovate" is not necessarily the best way to do things.
Since I started as a designer a decade ago, design has grown increasingly complex, and it has morphed into a process for creating experiences that could literally be the difference between life and death. As designers, we have a moral responsibility not to go fast and break things but slow it down just a bit to focus on the smallest of details.
Want to read another article? Here's more great UX content.