Tragic Design

Tragic Design

The Impact of Bad Product Design and How to Fix It

Jonathan Shariat, Cynthia Savard Saucier

We are often fooled into thinking that what we made was successful, when in reality the cost is hidden or externalized. Failing to identify all of the hidden costs and the impact of our designs on the world around us can lead us to blindly and unintentionally cause harm to others. In order to identify and avoid these potential hidden costs, we suggest creating lists of “goals,” “non-goals,” and “anti-goals” (also called “hazards”). They can be added to the product brief or creative brief, if your company uses these. While the concept of “goals” is pretty straightforward, the two latter sections are rarely found in product design briefs. The list of “non-goals” aims at setting objectives that are explicitly out of scope for the current effort. While this might sound unnecessary, in our experience there is value to being explicit about things that are out of scope, in case there is ambiguity about the boundaries around one or more goals, or any tendency toward “scope creep.” The third section, “anti-goals,” is used to describe things you really, really don’t want to happen. This section should be followed by descriptions of how you will make sure the anti-goals don’t happen, with precise test objectives. We call these “safeguards.”

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