The idea of jettisoning the over-featured, over-eager, bloated solution (software, app, intranet, etc.) in favor of a trimmed back, deeply focused and ‘lightweight’ one is an idea that many preach, but few actually put into practice. The upside of building “lightweight” vs. “heavyweight” can be significant as costs are usually lower, and adoption rates better. So why would anyone build “heavyweight” you ask? Most don’t even realize they’re doing it… I’ve had the good fortune of having a unique perspective on this because we’ve helped a lot of people build a lot of things. Looking back on those builds, I’ve compiled three core tenets that always seem to rise to the surface on projects that truly add value and “keep it light”.
Minimize Internal Stakeholders. Maximize External Users.
Many times the path from lightweight to heavyweight is lined with excessive amounts of internal stakeholders – each with a slightly different interpretation of what success looks like. Keep the internal stakeholders to a minimum and engage the maximum number of end users. It amplifies focus. And for the love of all things tasty… be sure those end users actually have a need for what you’re building. People appreciate simplicity more than we often realize. Don’t try to boil the ocean….
Avoid Technical Debt.
The idea of “technical debt” and “design debt” is a bit tech geeky even for me but the fundamental idea of it is a good one. And for my purposes I’ll use a bit of creative license in stretching the definition. What it boils down to is this – avoid modifying things when someone who knows what they’re talking about tells you, “this really shouldn’t be modified…”. This can be design elements, core files, etc. The ripple effects of changes like this especially when it comes time for a software upgrade or the addition of a feature can be huge. What seems like it should be a one click upgrade now involves custom development and your lightweight is feeling heavyweight real quick. Not to mention expensive.
There’s probably more to “designing” than you think.
Build a dream house, but only build one door on the second floor and paint it black and yellow. Not even a realtor will touch it. The example is silly, but the point is valid…believe me. There are many examples of supremely feature rich tools that for some reason seem to altogether forget a very basic need. Disciplines such as UI (User Interface Design), UX (User Experience Design), and IA (Information Architecture) can feel like part of the ‘bloat’ you’re trying to avoid. When in reality it’s getting into the weeds at that deep of a level that informs your ability to truly “simplify” and create things that get used.
Designing comes into play in each and every project and plays a massive role in how well a project rolls out. Don’t sell it short and don’t fund it short. When it comes to getting people to use your creation effectively -there is very little that trumps truly great design. And last but not least… be sure to work with partners that you trust. Partners that you trust to do well by you and not rip you off, and partners that you trust are at the top of their game. Work with partners that you like being around, and work with partners that have a point of view other than what terms are best on the invoice. You don’t need ‘yes people’ you need people that understand your business and have an informed perspective on how to help you succeed. And yes…. At Aerie we believe we are those kinda people.
Until next time… keep it light.