Experience design as craft

Peter Merholz describes Instapaper creator Marco Arment‘s approach to design in Craft in Interaction and Service Design:

Instapaper shows the power of approaching experience design as a craft, as opposed to some kind of massive organizational process. Too often companies launch something and then move on to whatever’s next. Instapaper shows what happens when you go deeper and deeper and deeper into something. Unlike Microsoft or Adobe, who simply tack on features with every new release, Marco, instead, refines the design, honing it, polishing it, like his app is some jewel. I’d love to see companies approach service design the way Marco has. It would require a fundamental shift in how they work, but the results could be quite beautiful.

How often do you hear the words “We’ll get to that in Phase 2”? And how often do you actually get to do “Phase 2”? It’s a running joke in the software industry that calling something a “Phase 2 feature” is another way of saying it will never happen. There are just too many squirrel projects, too many Shiny Things that need to get done.

It doesn’t have to work like that, though. Small, dedicated teams who have autonomy and a clear decision maker can focus on one area of an experience for an extended period of time. This can work even in large organizations, but it requires trust and a long-term vision, both of which can be hard to find in big companies. It is the only way to bring craft and care to a design cycle that’s often treated too much like a conveyor belt.