Recently at work I had a useful discussion with an eager, yet unsure product team about a new UI element to be designed for a specific aspect of our “desktop virtualiztion” suite. Just wanted to share how I led and structured that conversation in such a way that we didn’t get into “when can we get the icons” typical rigamarole ;-) Please see below…

I basically led a multi-disciplinary conversation (incl Prod Manager, Tech Lead, UI Designers, Back-end Devs) by asking the following questions to focus attention:

1- Do we have the right set of functions expressing this app’s functionality? Is it the right sequence and interaction? Are we missing anything? Can we consolidate things for the sake of simplicity? Is this set scalable for 2013 or 2014 when we have more stuff in pipeline for upcoming versions and dot releases?

2- Is this proposed UI widget or element truly the best way to express such transient functions? (going back to Question 1: the right functions and the scalability and rank) Consider mobile versus desktop utility (fat finger vs mouse, etc.) Resolution scalability from phone > tablet, etc. Usability challenges to itemize, rank, and address accordingly.

3- Are there other models of interaction in the name of novelty/innovation (as Principal Designer part of my role is pushing invention, sorry :-) but also, improved usability and functional value that supports the business goals. Have we looked under every rock (adjacent ideas or competitor builds or known standards), or just doing what’s quick and easy, first thing in our heads? Are we challenging ourselves to think smartly, and robustly?

4- Coherence: Are we ensuring we’re all on the same page as much as feasible/sensible both visually and behaviorally across the supported devices and platforms? What are the deltas and trade-offs to compensate for? What can we live with as exceptions? How and when will those be fixed in upcoming updates and releases?

Often it’s not the definitive answers to these questions, but the untapped and unheard discussions that emanate from such questioning that really gets the fire going, particularly for a team that’s not used to collaborative, open-sharing of ideas and decisions. In a way, it’s a bit of a therapy, group help session ;-) Helps everyone avoid symptomatic fixes, and look for deeper causes and values.