Justifying fit and finish

If you’re a product designer this is one of the most important topics you have to deal with. Braden Kowitz of Google Ventures Design, in his recent post Why you should move that button 3px to the left:

“Designers notice the gap between functional and delightful, and that’s why we obsess over the little details. But there’s a very real tradeoff between perfecting the design details and building more functionality: getting the details right often means moving slower…So it’s not enough to say “it looks better this way”. Designers need to make a case for why the team should spend time on fit and finish.

I think that Braden is right here. The difference between people who do something because they can vs. those who focus on it professionally is the details. So, developers who create UI almost never have the attention to detail that a UI designer does. Similarly, a UI designer who writes code doesn’t have the attention to detail about coding practices that a developer does. It works both ways. In many ways the problem is that people can do someone else’s job, passably.

For product designers, who feel pain when obsessing over these small details, the challenge is clear. Convince others that the extra time is worth it, that taking time to polish the product will change the way people think about it, and that the other, secondary stuff we’re not getting to as a result just isn’t worth it. This has probably always been a problem and will probably always be a problem.

There is, however, an easy test for this. Ask people what products they love most, the ones the use the most. Almost invariably it will be products with an amazing fit and finish, products that someone took a lot of care to get the details right, where someone took the time to move the button 3px to the left.

Published: May 2nd, 2013

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