Design debt

I have always been a major proponent of iterative design (namely Lean UX) and at this point, I’d be hard-pressed to name a successful SaaS company that isn’t leveraging experimentation, rapid iteration, and data-backed decision making in their design process.

Derivatives of agile methodologies can be found all over the place, and when coupled with tactics like A/B testing and hypothesis-driven experiments, they’re pretty powerful. But when applied over time, they can yield an important side effect that’s rarely discussed.

The side effect that I’m referring to is something called design debt. You’ve probably heard of technical debt, and this is a lot like that. But where technical debt affects the integrity of the codebase, design debt affects the integrity of the user experience. This is what happens when a bunch of incremental changes collect over time and yield a disjointed, inconsistent, and patched-together experience. With each successful experiment, a small amount of design debt is incurred as the design moves slightly away from its original, cohesive roots.

I have always been a major proponent of iterative design (namely Lean UX) and at this point, I’d be hard-pressed to name a successful SaaS company that isn’t leveraging experimentation, rapid iteration, and data-backed decision making in their design process.

Derivatives of agile methodologies can be found all over the place, and when coupled with tactics like A/B testing and hypothesis-driven experiments, they’re pretty powerful. But when applied over time, they can yield an important side effect that’s rarely discussed.

The side effect that I’m referring to is something called design debt. You’ve probably heard of technical debt, and this is a lot like that. But where technical debt affects the integrity of the codebase, design debt affects the integrity of the user experience. This is what happens when a bunch of incremental changes collect over time and yield a disjointed, inconsistent, and patched-together experience. With each successful experiment, a small amount of design debt is incurred as the design moves slightly away from its original, cohesive roots.

Load article and continue reading - 8 min read