think outside the box sign resting on an Eames chair
PHOTO: Nikita Kachanovsky

Certain phrases come up repeatedly in companies of all sizes when discussing product and product design. Though most have little truth to them, folks continue to repeat these phrases as if they were gospel. It’s time to dispel the myths and put these false sound bites to rest.

'Just Ship It'

This is the cry you often hear when someone is willing to release a mediocre or flawed product to the customer. This generally happens because someone has prioritized "good enough, a promised deadline or measurements of efficiency" over "customer value, product design or engineering quality."

Engineering teams and UX designers know that shipping a product with UX or technical debt is rarely worth it. It’s time for leadership to catch up to what the workers already know. 

The situation “just ship it” creates might also require an investment in support and social media to manage unhappy customers. So, instead of saving time and money by "just shipping it," the reality is you'll end up pouring more time and more money into fixing everything that went wrong.

Related Article: The Power of Minimum Viable Products (and the Key to Their Success) 

'Move Fast and Break Things'

Moving fast and breaking things can be OK when it's kept completely internal. Your design team moved fast, tested, got feedback, interpreted the voice of the customer and iterated quickly. However, as noted above, “broken things” are disasters for companies when we “just ship” broken products, services or experiences to the public.

'If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late'

Under what circumstances would a company like to be publicly humiliated by any version of its product? There are many examples of where a poorly-designed or buggy product, with features nobody wanted or liked, worked against well-known brands including Snapchat and Skype. These issues had repercussions from the media to the stock price to lost customers. We imagine all of these public disasters work out eventually in the end, but can we think of an example when a company’s humiliation was a positive choice?

Companies should be making deliberate, well-informed choices that work out well for the customer, their teams, the product and their company’s reputation. They should be proud of each and every release. They shouldn’t tell themselves releasing something customers love — a solid product that marketing can confidently plug and sales can sell — means they tried too hard or worked on it too long.

Related Article: How Skype's 2017 Redesign Failed the User

'It’s not Lean Enough'

This battle cry is often heard to try to win an argument between a UX practitioner, who is looking to add more customer value to the intended features or release, and a product manager or engineer lead, whose goal might be to make it “leaner.” The concept that “leanness” is the goal over anything else is vastly overrated. UX, product and engineering teams must work together to find the right balance of features and stories, even in a lean process.

The goal of lean is to reduce waste. The concept originally came from how Toyota improved its manufacturing. Toyota initially identified seven types of waste companies should cut, but later identified an eighth: human skill, underutilizing workers or their abilities. Some teams don’t want to invite UX to decision-making meetings because UX might try to add stories or features back into the micro, stripped down minimum viable product (MVP). Instead, it's important to recognize that UX’s expertise is an important check and balance that teams should utilize.

Humans rarely give things second chances. Mess up that first chance with an MVP that doesn’t solve customer’s problems, and you might not get a second chance. It's important to prioritize customer value and solve their real problems, it's not about bragging rights regarding how lean the product ended up. The customer doesn’t care how lean you think it is or if you call this an MVP or a beta. But they will care if it doesn’t “just work” or satisfy their needs. Your MVP must be what UX folks prefer to call, a minimum valuable product, because customers expect more than basic viability.

Related Article: Designing the 'Perfect Day' for Your Customer

'Everything Should Be no More than 3 Clicks Away'

The idea here is if people have to click more than three times, they will abandon the process because you made it too long. In reality, the answer to: “How many clicks should this process take?” is: “As few as possible.” Three might be an unreasonable standard for today’s more complex interfaces and workflows.

Slack has an easy process for setting up a new workspace from their mobile app. Click for a new workspace, choose an email you want to associate with it, name the workspace and create a password. It feels fast and efficient. You might not count clicks. You just know it was fast.

Sometimes a process can’t be shortened. Imagine the first time you check out on a shopping website. At the very least, the site needs you to create an account, enter payment information and give your shipping address. There are a lot of clicks in here, but we all do it because we have a task to accomplish.

Keep the focus on creating efficient task completion rather than counting clicks.

'The Best Interface Is No Interface'

If that were true, we’d all be living in a 100% voice and gestures world. Interfaces will continue evolving, but there will always be visual interfaces, especially for those with hearing and other disability-based needs.

If the real message here is to shoot for increased minimalism and simplicity, there’s nothing wrong with those goals. Customers love simplicity. But the “no interface” phrase is sometimes used to request the removal of elements that may have a good reason to be there. Great UX doesn’t remove elements customers need or prefer.

Choose Quality Over Speed

You may have noticed that many of these phrases are related to speed, the all-too-encompassing storm cloud over our heads. Some teams are obsessed with efficiency, velocity and story points while deprioritizing quality and customer value. It’s time to throw these phrases away and make up some new ones that glorify amazing products guided by thorough and unbiased customer research.