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Ordered List


Feb 21 2011

Design, Focus, and Constraints

We’ve been busy lately at Ordered List. The past 4 weeks have seen the start, and near first-draft completion of our newest application, Gauges. It was a unique design challenge that really got me thinking about designing for usage, not just the content.

We’ve always wanted to build a stats application, but it was always one of those ‘eventually someday’ ideas. Recently John had reason to start on a prototype, and was rewarded by giving himself some pretty tight constraints.

And that got me thinking: What constraints can I put on the design to create a more focused interface, so it’s faster and easier to use?

Gauges needed to provide basic overview data as quickly as possible. The first problem is that with stats information, there’s temptation to show lots of data, because it’s there, it’s interesting, and graphs can be really cool. But showing lots of data makes things difficult to scan and absorb quickly.

So I decided to purposely limit the amount of space for content. I fixed the width at 670 pixels. And that constraint kept me thinking about just what information was absolutely necessary, what could be pushed off to other areas, and what could be dropped entirely.

It’s been an invaluable, if not sometimes frustrating, restriction. And I couldn’t be happier with the results. It’s allowed me to think more clearly about priority, space, and contrast within my design. I have to focus more attention on details, because when everything is contained in a smaller space, every pixel counts.