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Overcoming the Frustrations of Stuck-in-a-Rut-Designing using Microdesign

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The problem

Often, companies have their designers regurgitate previously used designs because they are safe. Why take a risk when you already have something some other customer liked in the past? Right?

Or maybe the client has a previous version of their site that they want only updated. Perhaps you’re jumping in mid-project to take it to completion.

Regardless of the reason, and whether or not the reason is valid, you’re stuck with a template that may not necessarily be inspiring or fun to work with.

The background

I’ll be talking a great deal about how I dealt with it in my latest project. It was for a mobile game and not a website so there are some differences in the way things are expected to work, and a great deal more mechanics to work out, but the same design philosophy applies.

I joined the team working on Family Feud 2 just as it was entering its beta phase. For those of you who don’t know, that means it was feature complete and was ready to be balanced. Since there weren’t any new features, and what did remain was implementing menus, options and 3rd party services into the game; there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to do.

Add in the fact that the Family Feud brand is one of the longest lived, highest earning trivia games on the App Store, so there was a lot of hesitance to alter any of the existing features. Logos were kept the same, color palettes were mostly unaltered. As a designer, this could have been a cookie cutter job. Stick it in the development oven and let it cook for 3 months at a moderate heat so-to-speak.

I don’t know about you, but there was still an opportunity to make the game my own through the microdesign. Microdesign is thinking about the details of a project. The devil is in them, and you need to tame it regardless of the template you’re using.

An example I can use in Family Feud, the online gameplay was assumed to be set in stone. Two players pit against each other answering 3 questions, the winner gets to go to the bonus, or “Fast Money” round. After eyeing that during my microdesign pass, I wondered why we weren’t doing a tournament format as well. With minimum work we could have a second, more hectic and engaging mode that players can join. By looking at the established template and rethinking the innards, we created a very popular feature.

Newly Microdesign-ed Tournament Mode

The new and very popular Tournament mode which was discovered with microdesign.

Microdesigning creates opportunities to highlight spectacular features

Microdesign isn’t limited to adding features to the template. You might have to remove bits. Jony Ive, senior VP of design at Apple, is quoted saying, “There’s an applied style of being minimal and simple, and then there’s real simplicity. This looks simple, because it really is.” It’s hard to make things simple, and harder to convince your bosses (or clients) that simple is better.

By removing the fluff, your important features stand out. Going back to Apple’s original iPhone, by removing the buttons, the touch screen really stands out. Can you imagine where we’d be today if that original design had a 10 number keypad on the back?

Whether you add or remove features, spend the time to review where you’re supposed to head with the prescribed template or dictated layout and see if you can convince yourself and the people you have to please that there are better ways to accomplish the task.

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  • Hi Adrian Clermont,
    I am really impresses with your post. You shared great information about microdesign. It helped me to increase my knowledge about microdesign that is very useful tools for your website design. Thank to share such useful post with us.