Design Explosions: Office Mobile

I’m a big fan of the Design Explosions series, and the latest one doesn’t disappoint.

The focus is on designing the mobile apps for the Microsoft Office core suite: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Office Mobile Apps

Part of me wants to curl up in the fetal position thinking about leading that job – these guys are brave souls!

I highly recommend taking the time to read this article if you work on a product team, no matter what role you play.

Some highlights I took away:

  • Designing once for multiple platforms is a myth. It takes thought and care to design apps for different mobile operating systems. Just porting the design over is an over-simplification.
  • The number of people on a team doesn’t matter. Any size team will struggle to work together unless people understand each other’s roles and what their incentives are.
  • The larger the company, the more complex the project, and the larger this [stakeholder] map gets. It’s not the quantity of people that keeps you from great software, it’s how much incentive each person has to work in good faith with one another.

  • Friction helps. The article describes a great example of mixing up the product experts for each vertical (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) in a design workshop. They had one rule: design the product that they are not responsible for. I.e. the Word expert designs Excel and PowerPoint, Excel expert designs Word and PowerPoint, and so on. Not only are the results better, but the people involved have more fun doing it – they get to learn, think differently, and gain empathy for the other products.
  • Design thinking is a privilege. A big part of my career has been about balancing the reality of technology with the best design. It’s hard. And rarely do you get the perfect answer. However, all roles are hard, and it’s something that designers should never forget.
  • But it’s no harder to be a designer than a PM or engineer. I’ve done all three. Designers may have hard jobs, but only we get to play the “I think it’s awesome and frankly that’s all the reason I need” card. More importantly, we are often encouraged not to worry about technical realities. That’s a huge privilege.

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