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What Sherlock Holmes teaches us about UI design


Yesterday I watched Sherlock Holmes and loved it. The movie was true to Sir Conan Doyle’s dark and dirty London without all the typical Hollywood crap we’ve grown accustomed to. The witty dialogue between Holmes and Watson caught my attention from a designer’s point of view.

Two things that Holmes said that are extremely relevant to the art and science of design are “the devil is in the details” and “don’t find facts to back up your theories, find facts to construct your theories”. I’m paraphrasing of course but you get the idea. The first quote is obvious and doesn’t really need additional explanation but the second one is the cornerstone of successful design projects.

We are all guilty of creating theories that support our own biases. In our roles as strategic designers we hear these types of things all the time. There is nothing more damaging to good UI design than statements like “I feel like our clients would want this feature” or “I’ve heard that features like this are really popular”. When we hear these general and emotional responses or suggestions we ask where the data is to support that idea or ‘feeling’. Is the data from a respectable source? Where else have we seen this feature and how successful was it in achieving the site’s or app’s goals? Are their user experience tests or best practices that support that idea?

Love the data. It’s more rewarding than falling in love with your own ideas.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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