The anti-principle of architecture

If we look at architecture through the lens of User Experience then we should consider the following principle: the experience drives the architecture

To understand why this principle may be important we need to look at one of the limitations often encountered with Service Orientated Architecture (SOA), or any other approach that relates to big up-front architecture. When we build the architecture from the ground-up we are unknowingly placing constraints on the user experience. As is then too often the case, the limitations of the architecture are surfaced to the user. To state this as an anti-principle: the architecture drives the experience

The goal of User Experience is to consider the needs of the user, often in the context of the business needs. We put the user front and center – user-centered design. Our goal is to design the best imaginable experience and to allow the user to complete their task with the least amount of fuss.

As with all principles in Agile, it follows common-sense. I’ll continue to build on the principle of experience-driven architecture in future posts. In particular I want to discuss experience optimization and organic architecture.

Design has no value

Give me a minute to explain…

My wake-up call came back in January of 2006. I started work as an engineer, or more precisely as an architect. I had worked on many projects and I was proud of my technical skills and my accomplishments. I was pleased to be starting my new job and I was excited by the prospects that lay ahead, and rightfully so, it’s been a lot of fun and it’s defined who I am now.

I got introduced to a new concept, User Experience design, but what did it mean? I met designers, people with art degrees, what place – what right, did they have to be part of a software team that was built upon degrees in Computer and Software Engineering? They threw about phrases such as user-centric design and design-thinking, they talked about personas and user ecosystems, they created wireframes and visuals designs. What did this mean to the people writing the code, the code which the users interacted with?
Something happened though, I’m now an advocate and evangelist for User Experience. If you are going to build software then start with the users, not with the architecture. It’s common sense. So not so provocative, so why make such a statement? Let me reframe the user as the consumer. I’ve come across two types of designers, those who design, and those who care passionately about their design making it in to the hands of the consumer – it has real-world tangible value for the consumer and for the brand – value we can measure and quantify.

Designing for the sake of design doesn’t add value, to the consumer or to the brand. Designing for value means putting the design firmly in the hands of the consumer and demonstrating quantifiable success. Too many designers stop at the design vision – the engineering element is a handoff.

The Experience Design team at Microsoft, which is part of Marketing Solutions, has been formed upon the principle of ‘designing for value’. We are a team that is equal parts User Experience design and User Experience engineering. We have fused a symbiotic relationship between the designer and the engineer. We share a common goal – a portfolio of referencable success – our design has value. We have refined how we bring together the principles of User Experience, the lean startup movement, agile, and Software Craftsmanship. I hope to share some of our insights in future posts and to talk more about our principles and practices.