Design by Convenience

Author Seth Godin at PDF 2007
Image via Wikipedia

I came across a recent blog post by Seth Godin titled Circles of Convenience in which Seth relates how well known investors like Warren Buffet invest in Circles of Competence. This means simply ‘buy what you know.’ Seth then goes on to imply that too often people confuse Circles of Competence with Circles of Convenience. They work with what is easiest, thinking that they know it.

I wanted to take this to a more granular thought and talk about how we tend to Design by Convenience – I know I have been guilty of this at times.  Seth provides a great explanation of the pitfalls of convenience on his post:

Convenience is hugely attractive in organizations because it is easy to defend and easy to approve. You don’t need to call a meeting to try something new, because the convenient option has already been approved. The problem is that convenient approaches rarely break through or generate extraordinary returns.

This thought from Seth echos such truth in web design – especially in higher education and other public sector organizations.  Being a veteran of the public sector, I’ve seen the convenient path chosen far too often.  But will that generate ‘extraordinary returns’?  No.

When designing or redesigning, how often do we stick with techniques, tools, systems, etc. that are the easiest to work worth?  How often do we work in silos in a design project because its more convenient then working with other areas on campus?  I’m not immune to this practice, but I am confident that designing/redesigning like this will not generate the great results we all want and need.

So from this point forward, follow these points:

  1. identify some areas of comfort that you and your design team has
  2. list ways that your team could go outside their comfort zone
  3. always look for opportunities to extend yourself and your team
  4. when you’re comfortable again, repeat steps 1-3

A perfect example of this would be when you are in a higher education institution, there are many stakeholders with an interest in the website.  If you design team consistently is working in a silo designing what they think is best (because they are the experts after all).  That is a choice of convenience because we all know that dealing with the various areas on a campus can be trying.  Working in a silo my appear easy, but it will not deliver earth-shattering results.  Break out of your comfort zone and engage the campus community.

In what ways do you Design by Convenience?  How do you overcome these habits?

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