These go to eleven

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09 March 2014

Recently I rediscovered one of my favourite scenes of the movie 'This is Spinal Tap', where lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel is very proudly talking about how great their amplifier is because it goes from one more than ten to eleven.

While this is quite a humorous clip, it is also relevant to the things that we design and engineer for web for various stakeholders that—most of whom—think that going to eleven is better than simply optimising ten.

This thinking, and approach often leads to frustration for both parties, as communicating the overkill to a stakeholder can often come of condescending or dismissive, when in reality their requirements are primarily driven by the desire to offer the best possible outcome for their customers.

This can typically be quashed with qualitative research and a good digital strategy (that aligns with an overarching business strategy). It's hard to argue with data, and a solid business strategy. Once agreed to this strategic direction can use used as a whip to keep everyone in toe.

Evident in a particular project we're working on, research revealed that almost all users would prefer to see fewer, more specific items in a product listing than to be presented with everything all at once, which can be overwhelming. When presented with data and rationale, we were able to find a suitable compromise for scope and business needs by limiting results to begin with, and presenting users the option to modify the number and type of products displayed to them with filters. The alternate would have been to exert a significant amount of development effort to produce little value, and little attributable results.

In another video, 'The Engineer Guy' Bill Hammack talks about the paradigm of engineering design, where in which designing is all about finding the balance of trade-offs. When designing we need to give away some features that we want, for things that we must have in order to produce the best outcome.

What we can learn from both Nigel and Bill is that we often want a lot of things that we don't need, and can trade-off by realigning our direction with both a good business strategy, and accurate data.

Without which we're going to spent a lot of time building without compromise, and without significant results.