Just a few more tweaks

February 12 2010

Whether you’re a designer or developer, tweaks can become the bane of your existence or the fastest way to ship that feature. When you’re working to a deadline or budget it’s not always possible to be as thorough as you’d like, so when should you be doing those tweaks?

Solving usability problems

In a previous post I explained why you should do usability testing. Something that I neglected to explain is that doing usability testing shouldn’t trigger mass rewrites of code or entire redesigns of functionality. Once you’ve got your results and have them prioritised you should: fix the biggest problems, with the least effort, that can be solved for most people. After these issues have been fixed, try testing the system once more and you’ll be able to gain better feedback on what you might be missing.

Tweak or Redesign

The most obvious benefits of tweaking include: reduced cost, less work and faster completion time. However, from a project management perspective, tweaks are much more likely to happen as they don’t require as much planning, client meetings or questioning to get signed off compared to big overhauls. In addition to this, most people aren’t too fond of entire redesigns, so a tweak might mean less of the user’s time needs to be spent on understanding what’s changed.

On the other hand, too many tweaks can make for a confusing system. By adding too many tweaks at the same time you may sacrifice the navigation or continuity of the system, leading to long-term issues. Sometimes a well thought out implementation can produce better results than a bundle of tweaks that are poorly executed.

Tweak and then refactor

You’re never going to end up with perfect solution on the first try (maybe you do, I don’t know), but it’s always best to iterate and then clean up. Personally, after every five tweaks that I implement I tend to try and clean them up where possible. My thinking behind this is that five tweaks aren’t so many to cause issues down the line, but any more may give you problems when adding functionality at a later date.

In conclusion, while tweaks tend to be frowned upon they are a necessary evil. As long as you clean up what you’ve done on a regular basis, you won’t cause yourself too many major issues.