Dealing with infinite redesign loop

Dealing with infinite redesign loop
Image by Josh Rose

Infinite redesign loop is one of the hardest traps in the digital product design process. Unlike a physical product with a finite workflow, the process of app design is never-ending. It’s always tempting to introduce change to make the experience better.

In this article, we will discuss how to avoid falling into the trap of infinite redesign. But before that, let’s discuss two approaches that product teams follow when they fall into this trap.

1. Adding more and more features to the product

Adding more functionality to a product seems like a rational idea for making it better for end-users. New features are easy to sell to stakeholders. However, more features don’t necessarily add more value to the user experience. Most of the time, more features introduce more complexity to a product and make it harder for users to learn how to use it. And the more complex the product becomes to users, the less happy they will be about it.

Number of choices (options, features) vs. happiness. Image by Choicehacking.

Another problem with features—its easy to add a new feature but hard to remove existing features. Every time you remove a particular feature, some group of users will be upset about your decision.

Not every product has to be a swiss knife.
Swiss knife. Image by Victorinox
A quick guide for defining an optimal number of features for your product
“What features should we add to our new product?” is the foundational question in product design. The feature set is a result of marring user needs with business goals. At the same time, we all know that the more features we add, the more complicated and expensive the product becomes.

2. Putting lipstick on a pig

When designers don’t know what to do, they work on visual design changes. No wonder why most of the infinite redesigns are visual redesigns. Changing the aesthetical appearance of the product can be a good idea — a fresh look can convey a positive impression on users — but it only happens when the functional part of the product works well.

Pyramid of user needs (coinded by Aarron Walter). The fundamental needs are at the bottom of the pyramid. Image by Nick Babich

Improving a visual aspect of a product without introducing changes that enhance the functionality is similar to putting lipstick on a pig.

Sometimes changes in visual design changes become incredibly bizarre. For example, here is the evolution of the Google Chrome logo. I bet you won’t be able to spot the difference if different versions of logos won’t be placed side by side.

Google Chrome logo redesign over time. Image by The Verge

“Does this change really benefit user experience?”

This is a fundamental question that you should ask when you evaluate a product design decision. It doesn’t make much sense to introduce a chance if you don’t have a clear answer to this question. And it’s impossible to answer this question without solid user research.

Measure twice cut once.

Once you have an idea of how to improve your product, don’t run to introduce changes. Instead, treat this idea as an assumption that you need to validate first. Ask questions:

What research do we need to conduct to validate our idea?
How will we test our solution?

That kind of question will help you find the answer to the ultimate question in product design — “ What should we work on next?” Your team will focus their time and attention on the areas that are really valuable to your users.