Her topic is ostensibly the perils of showing demos of software with polished user interfaces. There are two significant downsides that she describes:
- People/customers think that the software is close to complete (when it's really only a prototype).
- People/customers focus on making incremental suggestions for improvement, like changing the fonts or the wording of a prompt, or the location of a button, instead of on the BIG PICTURE.
Her recommendation is to mirror the "doneness" of the software or Web site (or product) with the degree of professional finish. For example, if you are still in concept design mode, you should show scribbles on paper napkins. If you are still thinking thru the use case, you should show a rough story board, and so on.
Here's a great illustration from Kathy's post:
The more "done" something appears, the more narrow and incremental the feedback
In her explanation, Kathy comments:
"My point is: all you'll get is tree-tweaks when you show something finished-looking, so if you want big picture, make it fuzzy!"
What I love about this idea is how relevant it is, not just to the creation of demos or of software products and/or of Web sites, but to all KINDS of customer co-design activities. So many times clients ask why they shouldn't just show customers what they've come up with (new Web site, product, business process, etc.) and get their feedback. My instincts and experience tell me that as soon as do so, you're limiting the possibilities for innovation and creativity. You're blocking the really BIG ideas. But I haven't had a good way to explain this until now. Yet, many of my clients have discovered that staying with post-its on the walls, and stick figure diagrams are the best ways to co-design new approaches and solutions with customers. Several clients have moved from Customer Scenario maps (captured in Visio) to cartoons as a more expressive way of communicating and keeping the creative juices flowing.