Fighting button-shaped thoughts.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I’ve used mostly one prototyping tool in consultancies and agencies I’ve worked with. You can probably guess what it is. Although it doesn’t actually matter which one it is.

There are problems with using only one tool. Some problems are practical: you end up working in terms of the tool and its limitations, rather than the platform. Design decisions are subtly influenced by how easy it is to do something in the tool, by presets and shortcuts. I’m reminded of something Ted Nelson said:

“If the button is not shaped like the thought, the thought will end up shaped like the button.”

In addition, there are org problems: documentation is comforting, and there remains a mindset that you can buy a stack of wireframes to solve a design problem, rather than integrating design properly into company projects and processes. A tool provides a clean, tidy way to share a stack of documents, “something nice and clickable”. It provides a sense of completion and comfort, but I think a good design process is messier than that. The good stuff happens during conversations and collaborations, and the pain and joy of implementing a design. At the end, you should have something real, not just plans for something.

A mono-tooled industry disturbs me. I recently saw a job title on LinkedIn: “Axure Designer” (and no, they didn’t work at Axure). It made me laugh, but perhaps it’s just fair enough for the job they’re paid to do.