Jim Nielsen’s Blog
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UI=f(org): UI is a Function of Your Organization

The Domino’s “Pizza Tracker” is an intriguing piece of UI.

As an end user, it provides the precision of detail you want in tracking your order:

But think of everything it takes to make that UI possible, where every digital order routes to a local store and every local store has the hardware and software to live track and update the position of your pizza.

I’ve worked on a project like this, a “track my claim” in the insurance world. As a designer, it’s nice to sit at a desk and design an ideal scenario:

But when the rubber of your UI hits the road of reality within an organization, people and processes often cannot bend and stretch to the automated expectations of a idealized process.

What do you end up with in that scenario? A thousand tiny compromises.

For example (going back to pizza), you find out that not every store can track precisely when an order is received and when it goes into the oven, so the UI becomes a facade — dare I say a lie — where the step from “order received” to “pizza in the oven” happens only because of a timer in the UI (and a corporate policy of, “all orders must be in the oven within five minutes of being received”). It’s not a representation of reality, but a facade of it.

These kinds of facades happen all the time in software. “We think this will complete, at the most, within ___ time.” So we make progress indicators that look like they’re a live, up-to-date representation of progress that poll some kind of technological feedback mechanism for live status updates. But in reality they’re merely clocks counting down from a set time of “this is the most time we think it should take”.

This is why designing UI is designing an organization.

You can only design and make real a UI that matches an organization’s capabilities to deliver on its promise.

This is why startups are best suited to these kinds of radical UIs tailored to reality. Their entire organizational structure, which is small, can orient around a single idea and deliver on it — then build to scale.

Your UIs, and the real life experiences they deliver, can only ever be as good as an organization’s capabilities to deliver on them.

This is what I mean by UI=f(org): UI is a function of your organization.