Using Design Principles At IdeaScale

Having design principles is like having a set of constraints or guidelines to work with. In her post  “Taming Blue Sky Ideation: Collecting Ideas that are Both Novel and Valuable,” Whitney describes how presenting a strong problem statement with clear constraints in an innovation challenge “breeds creativity.” This notion can be applied to many different problems and types of work. Aside from having a set of constraints that help make design decisions, I want to create an ecosystem at IdeaScale so that design can thrive as a system with artifacts to support its process. So, after a few months of some seriously brain-teasing custom development projects, I got together with my manager to think about what our ideal design principles could be.

Our goal in creating a set of design principles is to lay out an approach to creating and building a product that will work within the innovation management market and for our customers. These principles are a foundation for what it means to design things at IdeaScale, and can be debated in any scenario. For example, another company’s product could assume that having greater flexibility and a greater spectrum of options is more important than only showing people information they need to be successful. Ultimately, having a set of principles will help create a product that is opinionated, has distinct character, and highlights areas of strength. When the rubber meets the road, these principles will help us understand possible tradeoffs when tough decisions must be made about what to build and implement.

  1. Design for easy starts

Prioritize quick starting points over comprehensive forms. Focus on making initial decisions as easy to digest as possible.

  1. Systems are more important than pages

Be suspicious of new components that don’t simplify or can’t be reused. Pages must never be designed in isolation: consider what it means for the rest of the product when a new page or component is introduced. Value the life-cycle of the experience: what does it look like six months, a year or two years from now? What happens if someone ignores it? What happens when empty or inactive?

  1. Simplicity should be more apparent than flexibility

Have confidence in our knowledge as designers and the decisions we make. Encouraging good decisions for IdeaScale members within the application is more important than illustrating a range of options.

  1. Release one good feature over two moderate

At the heart of this principle is an emphasis to take time to understand the problems at hand. As designers, we must also plan for thoughtful details; don’t skip over small interactions that add to the user’s experience. Fix the small bugs. Don’t compromise experience for consistency across screen sizes. View mobile as a separate challenge. Sacrifice functionality before experience.

  1. IdeaScale Voice & Tone

Our voice is human. In thinking about this, how do we want our readers to feel after they’ve read our content? Any communication should feel simple and make the path to success short. We should make IdeaScale members  feel like part of a larger whole: help them be confident and excited in the power of good ideas, the people in their community, and the ability to produce positive outcomes.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Madeline Frechette, Product Designer at IdeaScale.

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