Design is Asking Questions

Design is usually thought of as a problem-solving endeavor and about finding the best solutions given existing constraints. That is indeed true. But in my opinion high-level design also involves constantly asking questions.

They can range from the mundane to the really hard ones that we generally want to avoid. It’s being able to reevaluate our assumptions, reconsider our processes, and rethink the way we approach things.

Why? Because if we don’t ask questions, someone else will answer them for us. That can mean another company eating your market share because they dared to ask questions that were fundamental. That can mean a competitor inventing new solutions much faster because they dared to ask how they can make their organization move more efficiently. That can mean an entire market being disrupted because they optimized for their current roadmap and never even asked how things might be different in the future.

I think it’s crucial to think of product design as always a balance of two core questions:

  1. How we can make the things that currently exist much better?
  2. How can the problem we’re solving be approached if all our assumptions were wrong?

It can be difficult to go through this exercise especially when you’re knee-deep in a product, its interactions, and the success metrics you’re trying to attain. But it’s imperative to ask them once in a while. It can be the difference between solving a problem that exists only in a few years time, or actually having staying power and being true to a particular vision.

It’s good to ask questions. Ask tons of them.

 
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