Make Better Product Design Decisions: Predict the Future


Why is it that so many companies produce software with poor UX design, and yet, when UX issues are raised, there never seems to be enough resources available to fix the problem.

Clearly something is wrong. After much research and soul-searching, we are proposing the problem lies at the product design table. A well-designed product supports several different design streams: business design, software design, UX design, marketing design, etc. Yet there is typically no single model of the product system in which the future interactions between these different design streams can be balanced together.

Below is draft text for a brochure describing a consulting practice focused on building that single model of the different design streams working together. Please read, and comment back via the email link below.


H[CH]+ is a design consulting firm for systems, products, services and organizational development.

‘Special Sauce’

Current and future System Dynamics and Interaction Mapping (SDIM)

  • Why is it important to do? Designs always do more than intended.
  • Why is it easy to do? Because a lot knowledge already exists tacitly within the organization.
  • Why does it save money? It’s a lot more efficient to make paper changes than material changes.
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Guide for development of requirements
  • Comprehensive understanding of design impacts
  • Market intelligence
  • More targeted feature roadmap
  • More efficient development process
  • Minimizing engineering redo
  • Clearer statement of Value Proposition, with evidence
  • User system map for extracting UX requirements
  • Common reference for evaluation of impacts on the value prop.

H[CH]+ specializes in understanding and mapping complex human-computer and -technology systems, and forecasting how changes to them will affect future system dynamics.

New software and technology are tools to help their users create value. When you introduce a new release of software, you are changing how a user will act and think. When you introduce completely new software, you are changing how many act and think.

What effects will these changes have on how the user creates value – their market value? The answer will map directly to your own value proposition – your market value.

Understanding how your users act now is not sufficient. You also need to know how your users will work with your new product in the future.

Ask yourself this: What would happen if User Acceptance Test results were available before software design began?

Sound like magic?
While we haven’t figured out how Dr. Who’s Tardis works yet, we have figured out how to forecast the future. And to forecast how complex human-computer systems work, we went back to several basic areas of study and figured out how they work together:

  • Cognitive psychology:               George Miller, PhD
  • Urban planning:                         Kevin Lynch, PhD
  • Microeconomics:                      Carliss Baldwin, PhD
  • Work design:                            William Porter, PhD
  • Social systems:                         Donald Schön, PhD
  • Language systems:                    David Good, PdD

Want to see how it works?

Pretend that your company just won a contract from a new Business School that is looking to design a classroom that combines the tradition of the Harvard Business School’s case-study classroom with the impact of modern technology and computer-based teaching scenarios.

Spend a few minutes thinking about the relevant design issues, and then look at the H[CH]+ System Dynamics and Interdependency Map (SDIM) depiction of the HBS classroom.

A System Dynamics and Interactions Map (SDIM) is used to design UX requirements from a forecast of the future product in use

Looking at the map, you can see the primary function of the classroom is to convey knowledge from teacher to student through the main interface of the classroom session. The teacher uses three fundamental design rules, or protocols, to make this transfer of knowledge work:

  • Pacing of the presentation: knowledge has to be conveyed at a speed and pace that is conducive to understanding and learning.
  • Choreography of the presenter: the teacher uses her presence, movements and gestures to maintain engagement with students and to indicate relative importance and causal chains of information.
  • Narrative of the lesson: developed by the teacher outside the classroom, and presented in the classroom through the vehicle of the blackboard.


 But so what?

  • A teacher’s speed in telling her narrative is limited by the speed at which she can write on the board.  This limitation helps pace the presentation of information, and helps ensure that she doesn’t go too fast for note-takers.
  • A student’s ability to take notes is similarly governed by how fast he can write. Maintaining a match between the methods the teacher uses to provide knowledge and the methods the student uses to record notes not only helps to ensure that the student doesn’t fall behind the teacher, but also it reinforces the learning by having the student mimic the teacher’s activity.
  • When a student is unclear on a concept, he will interrupt the flow of the lesson to ask a question. The teacher then dynamically adjusts her presentation to provide needed extra information. She may do this by calling attention to a specific moment in the class’ causal chain of reasoning to that point, as represented by a particular area of notes preciously written on the board. These notes are still present because of the no-erasure protocol, and are available to be amended. The congruency between notes on the board and the student’s notes also allow the student to amend his own notes to reflect this new, clarifying information.

These two key observations lead to some important requirements:

  • The new system shall ensure the teacher’s method of annotating a lecture be congruent with the student’s method of taking notes in both speed and mode in the same way that the blackboard and chalk of the teacher match the paper and pen of the student.
  • The new system shall permit and support improvisation by the teacher. In particular, the teacher must be able to add student generated comments to her annotations, and must be able to instantaneously access and show the entire lecture’s causal chain of reasoning as necessary.
  • The system shall have a display surface adequate to show a complete lesson’s narrative.
  • The system shall be constructed to support and promote a gradual construction of the narrative, congruent with the student’s ability to take notes.
  • The system shall support and promote interaction with and participation by the students during the delivery of narrative. There must be no undue burden placed on the teacher to incorporate student feedback.
  • The system shall support the teacher’s ability to call attention, in varying degrees, to specific notations on the display surface.

Email comments to Ben Dubrovsky

phone: 617-697-7527 — e-mail: — ©2007, 2008, 2009 Ben Dubrovsky