Iteration vs. Big Splash

Published on by David A. Kennedy

As people who craft digital experiences, we want to iterate. We aim to make small improvements with each successive change. But do we?

Not always.

When you iterate, you can make changes that you know don’t complete the story. Like a few sentences short of a paragraph. You mean to come back and finish that paragraph, but sometimes you don’t or can’t. The iteration never realizes its full potential.

Worst yet, if you don’t come back to it, that iteration could add more clutter or complexity to the experience. Over time, it might create design or tech debt. It becomes too difficult to manage in the course of a regular workload. So it rots.

A danger exists in never iterating too, always wanting to “do it right.” Aiming for a big splash. If you always wait until you can fix the important thing right, you may never improve anything. Possible fixes sit as words in a tracking system rather than reaching your customers. Back to the story metaphor, it’s one you never start.

Much like the iteration you never revisit, this rots in its own way too. It weighs you down because you want to find the time to get to it, but you’re too busy with other priorities. Like those quick iterations. No one feels great about this ending either.

What do you do then?

That’s a hard question to answer without context. But I’d almost always have the same answer. Iterate. I’d add a caveat too. Iterate, with a plan to get to the big splash. Follow through with that plan. Document your detours.

It’s hard to make a decision and document it. It’s harder to document why you didn’t follow through with one. Documentation can help you know why you might be waiting for the big splash instead of an iteration. As designers, we need to know what problem we’re trying to solve. And what problems we decide not to tackle too.

Tagged  Product Management