Change. The only certainty in life. Apart from Death, that is. It is amazing how the human mind wants to fight some of the most inevitable realities. It’s as if the survivalist is so ingrained in our psyche that we are ready, swords drawn at the first hint of anything that challenges the status quo. Ever since embarking on the WaterMum journey, I’ve had to fend off this temptation to fight change almost every day. But today I saw I’m not alone in this battle.
Over the past couple of months (yes, MONTHS) we’ve been trying to manage one of the quintessential dilemmas in making software – how in the world do we keep the development progressing with minimal rework at the same time the user experience is being hashed out?? We initially took the traditional route of getting the plumbing (that has minimal impact on user experience) done as the UI goes through its iterations. It seemed like the logical thing to do. We had a couple of demos where we could see the plumbing working with primitive, mocked up UIs. Meanwhile, we also got one neat-looking Measurement Room UI ready and boy, was it a joy to see it integrated with the code !
So I thought to myself “It’s working, this approach :)”. Yes it WAS working. Until the plumbing got done. And we were still finalising the rest of the UI. It was also becoming clear that each of us had a different picture of how the app will look in our heads. That could blow up nastily in our faces at some point. But you see, the startup mode doesn’t allow for such luxuries as documentation. Nevertheless, we decided to switch gears and wireframe out the whole workflow first so that all of us could look at it and go “Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”
So, Jan works on wireframes while Sunny tries to keep himself busy with some POCs on related technical topics and generally making sure he hasn’t forgotten how to twiddle his thumbs. Yes, not the most optimal way to move ahead, but we aren’t able to come up with anything better at this point. A few days go by and then Jan comes up with this beautiful main screen that got me all excited the other day. We all naturally start beating it to death in an attempt to iron out all edge cases so that Sunny’s rework, if any, is minimised.
Suddenly, Sini goes “Guys, I get it now. This is the MAIN screen. We have to implement this EXACTLY how it’ll look in the app that we finally ship. And we have to do it NOW. Before we move ahead with the rest of the wire-framing.”
Me (thinking): “Here comes Mr.Change !
Me (saying): “You do realise this is a totally different approach from what we are currently following ?”
Sini: “Yes, I do. For some reason which I’m unable to articulate, I feel there is value in doing it this way.
Sunny: I like that ! At least this will ensure I don’t end up having a lean period now and then there is this whole bunch of UIs that I’ve to develop in double time !
Sini: Exactly. I feel there is immense value in completing this one MAIN screen end-to-end and see, feel it working in our phones. It has the most important elements in it, each of which can then be spun off as separate UIs. And, I have a feeling our mascot for WaterMum will emerge from this screen if we detail it out now.
Jan: Hmm… I understand. But I’m already halfway through the workout mode. And the settings UI is next. I know in my head exactly how it should look.
Me (thinking): Hello Mr. Change ! Again !
Sini: I know Jan, but trust me here. Go through this screen till you get to the pixel-perfect UI mock-up and then we’ll get back to the workflow and other screens.
Jan: ok, I see where you’re going with this. Let’s do it.
Me, Sini & Sunny (in unison): Awesome !
Phew, that was easier than I thought. It sure is great to be a team !
Though it remains to be seen if this change in approach heralds a turning point in the fortunes of WaterMum.