I know I’m making the right design decisions when adding functionality gets easier. I know I’m not when it feels like I have to force it.
This tweet from my friend Monique got me thinking about that gut feeling you have when something just “feels right.” The physical metaphor that we instinctually use is an interesting choice. We don’t describe the situation as “looking right” or “sounding right” (which actually implies uncertainty), but specifically bring to mind a physical sensation. When one is working in the mechanical world, this is easy; threading a nut onto a bolt goes smoothly and easily when you have it right, but is hard to do when you have it cross-threaded. You come to learn that if you are having to force it, something is wrong, you should take a step back, and try again.
But what about ideas? Why do we still fall back on this physical metaphor? And, more importantly, how can we plan our intellectual endeavors such that they feel right and hope that our intuition is correct and we are, in fact, doing things right.
I have no magic answers, I wish I did. For me, I think the way that I work is by trying to take the purely abstract thoughts and turning it into something on which my “gut” can operate. When working on software design, I see two ways to do this and both of them involve translating these purely brain based ideas into something physical.
The first and simplest is just to explain your design or idea to someone else. The other person doesn’t have to know anything about the topic (or even be a person, for that matter). The very act of speaking your ideas aloud forces you to translate them into words and then listen to them.
The next method is to go visual. Draw a picture or diagram of your design. If it is simple to draw, it is probably simple to implement. If you end up with tons of overlapping shapes or intersecting lines, you probably are going to have a problem.
Nothing earth-shattering, I’m afraid, but maybe help for you.
BTW, my apologies for being lax in posting last month. Of the 31 days in March, I was away from home for 22 of them. And while this included the excitement of SXSW, it did not lend itself to writing much.