The anatomy of an idea – turning a thing from nothing to something

The anatomy of an idea – turning a thing from nothing to something

When you’re trying to improve your interface, there is no shortage of well-meaning people giving their two-pennies’ worth, but how can you chose the right option?

Take a recent experience. I overheard a choirmaster being asked how he would communicate with a blind person in his choir.

As this was a problem I’d never considered, over a beer I asked a few friends what they would do.

One suggestion was to use a wearable device. It could buzz whenever the chorister should sing, but what about more complex instructions; sing louder, quieter, slower? What about getting someone to nudge them? Apart from the bruising, this would just distract both nudger and nudge from the task at hand – singing.

The debate (and beer consumption) continued, raising and soon dismissing ideas for prompts, sounds, and devices.

Eventually, a musical friend suggested using ‘guide tracks’ on a CD that the blind person could use during practice and rehearsal, so they would not need additional aids when performing.

The proposal from an expert with real-world experience knocked our previous suggestions into a cocked hat.

Such a problem-solving method is as relevant to the web.

  • Identify problem – Never lead with the solution.
  • Hypothesise – Generate lots of different solutions. As well as sparking more ideas that were not initially obvious, the more solutions created, the less likely the process will end in ‘design fixation’ where each person gets stuck on their personal idea.
  • Research – Validate your ideas with someone who really understands the environment you are working in. Better still, talk to real people who experience the problem. Do they do what you expected? Would they pay for it? If not, why not?
  • Re-test – Define your preferred solution but don’t rest on your laurels. Test it again, and again, and again, until you are sure you have the optimal solution.

So when you are banging your head against the office wall trying to solve a problem, the above steps will help: Identify, Hypothesise, Research, Re-test. The trip to the pub is optional.