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Goal-Oriented Design October 12, 2008

Posted by psychobserver in Customer Experience, Hong Kong.
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I guess goal-oriented design is one of the first and more important principle of user-centered design. If you design something, better make sure what it is you design will help somebody out there achieve a goal. Whether it is a product or a feature on a website, it will always help throughout the design process to remind yourself of that goal and make sure the end product is truly the best way for the user to achieve his or her goal.

It seems like a simple enough design principle, but it is actually one that is very easily forgotten. It could be the technology guy who is more interested in developing a technically challenging feature rather than a useful one. It could also be the marketing guy who decides what is in the best interest of the users forgetting simple privacy concepts. It can also be that the project team just loses its focus during the design process and comes up with a final solution that lost entirely its touch with the initial goal.

While I was visiting Ocean Park (one of Hong Kong’s main theme parks) two weeks back I saw a sign that reminded me of a simple design projects going wrong.

definition of queue jumping

definition of queue jumping

This sign was positioned in front of the queue of a specific attraction. The aim, it seems to me, is clear. Some visitors of the park must have complained about queue jumping, or the staff in the park witnessed visitors jumping the queue and did not know how to react. As a result, I’d say the goal adding of such a sign was to warn people that they should not jump the queue. A simple enough goal it would seem.

Nevertheless, the park seemed to believe that the best way to achieve that goal was to provide visitors with a definition of queue jumping. No warning. No directions saying what would happen if some people are caught jumping the queue. Not even a mention of whether queue jumping is good or bad.

It must be that at some point in this tiny project of designing a sign, somebody raised the question: “But what if people argue about what represents jumping the queue?” and somehow (like it can happen in any projects) this question took over the process, leaving behind the forgotten initial goal of the sign and leaving visitors to the park (at least me) puzzled at seeing a sign like that in front of the queue of an attraction… so at every stage of a project, remember to take a look at the initial goal and make sure your solution addresses that goal.

Note: Of course, all this only holds if the initial goal makes sense in the first place…