I spoke with a man the other day who described the job of a usability specialist as someone who creates a systems that are brutally simple, efficient, and intuitive without sacrificing functionality. I then spent three days at Menlo seeing people who do that day in and day out at a rapid clip. At the School of Information, where I’ve studied the last two years, we moved through projects at a slower, more deliberate pace.

What I observed at Menlo was something very similar yet somehow qualitatively different. They believe in rapid development and rapidly changing iterations of designs. By getting a start quickly and then proceeding quickly through each iteration they are able to achieve rapid growth and improvement. Sort of a bacterial approach to design.

One result of moving so quickly is that they often are forced into using the simplest, most straightforward way of doing things. There is no time to develop convoluted process or designs. That results in straightforward user experiences. And while there is a case for deliberation and leaving time to think I can see how the bacterial design approach can lead to rapid development and deployment of usable systems.

Kevin Hall
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