Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Artistic Sparsity

Even though we know it in our hearts, we still fail to account for how a software system grows and becomes more complex over time. Designing interface screens is a lot like planning an informal garden; if you want it to look great once all the plants take hold and fill out you need to think a bit about the future. Instead folks tend to wireframe a product that looks “complete” with reasonable use of the menu real-estate and a felicitous spread of field-density on the screen at the initial planting, as if the product is somehow “finished” once you implement it.

In doing this we make things look good in the /present/, yet we fail to account for system growth. When we later add significant new functionality… surprise, our screens and menus appear too overgrown and cluttered. It’s as if you planted all the apple trees two yards apart because it looked better; now that they have branched and fruited they are all atop on another.

Therefore when you are creating a new system plan for expansion by deliberately under-designing menus and occupancy: make the interface artistically sparse. And then don’t worry about it; like a garden your interface will “fill out” as it matures.