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My friend Franco runs a plumbing and heating business, he was round at my house the other day when he pointed at my gas meter. “Look at that!” he laughed, pointing at the pipe you see in this picture. I think I was supposed to see something amazing. I could only see a pipe and perhaps a few cobwebs and dead leaves.

He went on to explain that there was a thin pipe (15mm if my memory serves me) coming out of the main piping which leads to the copper pipe you see here which is thicker. That copper pipe goes into my house. If I’m honest this explanation wasn’t really helping me much at all. I wasn’t laughing along with him quite yet.

What a plumber and perhaps other people with more of an eye for such things can see here so obviously is that the thin pipe is a bottleneck for the amount of gas you’ll get through it. So adding a thicker pipe later on is pointless. It’s bad plumbing basically.

Sometime, after having dried my eyes and picked myself up from the floor from all that laughing, I realised that the way Franco looks at pipes is the same way designers look at designs. Designers have a critical eye. Every design they look at, they try to absorb and pick apart the detail.

It’s important to remember that as a designer, you’re not like normal folk. You don’t see things like other people because you look at designs in a different manner than the people who simply want to use them. You shouldn’t stop either, it’s this eye for detail which makes you good at what you do.

But when you’re trying to assess the experience your design will provide then you need to turn it off for a moment. Your users won’t see or care about the detail to the same extent that you do. Look at the design as though you were going to use it for its purpose rather than hang it on a wall, because this is what your users will do.

It’s right for you to care about those tiny details but remember your users might simply be staring at copper pipes.

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Independent UX consultant |

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