Engineering-Driven Design

February 27th, 2013

This one’s pretty straightforward. It’s not that engineers are bad at design, rather, it’s that products are always better when they are designed from the perspective of the user, rather than the technology.

It is plainly obvious when a product has been designed from the perspective of the engineer – multiple workflows are exposed simultaneously, there is no obvious beginning or end to interactions (which admittedly happens when design over-reaches, too) — expert knowledge is required.

So, engineering-driven design is the opposite of user-centric design.

But, is it bad? No, it’s often necessary. Elegance is expensive. For the engineer, proving a concept is essential. For the corporatist, gathering funding for the concept is central to bringing the product to market, and the proof-of-concept is the driving factor in getting that funding.

So, no, it is not bad, but there is power in the naming, so we must always be aware of which mode we are in, and its purpose. We must never confuse the two, or think that we must achieve the difficult task of a user-centered design when our goal is to prove a technology, or that we have accomplished our task in the proving.

If your audience is purely technical, then an engineering-driven design is acceptable, if it is not, then the hard work of creating non-technical interface, that is elegant and jargon-free, must be done.

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