An Engineer often starts with designing and building a machine or structure, and then plans on finding ways to integrate it with the people’s lives. Architects, on the other hand, start from outlining the user needs and experience, and plan on designing a machine or structure that caters to those needs.
Great architecture doesn’t always mean great performance. Great engineering and performance don’t always mean user friendly. There has to be a balance of the two, and that’s one way to find out how well an idea has been executed.
When I was a university student, for a Software Engineering project we would often start from designing the database which is considered to be the core DNA of an application software, and then we would add piles of code and the user interface (UI) on top of that. The result was something more or less functional but something that only a computer engineer could appreciate! That approach worked because as students we couldn’t afford losing marks if the software didn’t meet the requirements.
Believe it or not many software developers still take that conservative approach because, they cannot afford missing a deadline or losing a client. Besides, it is always easier to write a business agreement that outlines the list of required features, but it is not easy to outline and measure the level of user friendliness of a software product and put it down in a business agreement context.
When I got into the business world, I learned that user experience (Uex) determines the rise or doom of a product (can you say iPod, iPhone, OS X, or Gmap?). Industrial Design and User Interface (UI) Design are the first thing that users see and that’s the basis they use to evaluate a product. That’s because a good design delivers the right experience. Ability to experience our surrounding is what being alive is all about!
As a result, I found myself more and more staring to design from the UI first, then I design the back-end Data Model, and then implement everything else that go in between those two layers.
I also learned that feature minimalism was another key factor. As users we don’t like to live in a clutter world, therefore a fine work of Architecture takes away all the unnecessary features and focuses only on the ones that are most commonly being used. In the Engineering world, when it gets to having a list of features, the more, the merrier! Engineers love that because to them, that’s the window to many more opportunities. Everyday users however, would prefer to have a few features that they most frequently use on the dashboard, and hide the rest somewhere inside the closet or the system in this case.
[tags]engineering, architecture, system design, product design, usability, user experience, uex, user interface design, ui, industrial design, minimalism, design philosophy[/tags]