The universe hands out balance pretty rarely. Although, and this is the important bit - that rarity is based on your personal perspective.

We live on Earth. A planet that to us, has balance. Sat in the ‘Goldilocks zone’, we live in that that lovely area where everything is just right. Just right for life (as we know it) to form and ultimately allow me to write, and you dear reader, to read.

When I was a kid there was this bit in E.T. that always struck me. A bit of interaction you rarely see when one world meets the next. When E.T. first meets Elliot, he (the supposed alien) is scared. Elliot is not part of E.T’s goldilocks zone, so E.T, shrieks in fright just as loud as the human boy.

If we are E.T. and Elliot is our stakeholder (we sometimes come from what seem to be other worlds) then the service we are designing is something else again. It inhabits it’s own goldilocks zone with a Venn diagram of external forces acting on it that in some cases can resemble a Spirograph (another 80s reference…) a series of interlinking spheres of influence some that are more important, some less, than others. Users, politics, technology, fact, opinion, money, time, ego (I’m sure you can think of some more) all play a factor and all, might to a greater or lesser extent be important to your service’s Goldilocks zone. We all know which ones we want to entertain, but all MUST be tackled — at least in part.

Design (I told you to bare with me) is about balance. That balance sometimes comes by tackling issues you might not think are in your realm to tackle but these, may be the ones to go for. That doesn’t mean going head on to your next meeting and telling people they’re wrong left right and centre. It means that the goldilocks zone of your service might need pulling a little more away from one circle and closer to the next. What’s in each external factor’s Goldilocks zone, how does it relate to your service’s goldilocks zone and most importantly the zone of your users? This is a fancy way of saying you should use empathy — empathy for everything.

You are not alone though. The idea of facing all these external pressures seems hard. But for all the circles pulling away there are often more pushing in. You are not E.T. stranded on a distant world. You have allies everywhere. You might not know it (you might not know that they’re your allies at all yet) but these other E.T’s can help you nudge your service towards it’s very own Goldilocks zone.

Unlike the Earth (that is at the mercy of the external factors that have dealt it it’s hand) you can adapt you can empathise and with that help others get the right amount of what they need into your service.

In turn, they’ll empower you and you’ll feel confident to push away when you need too and you’ll know which E.T. to ask for help next time. Talk to the other E.Ts, see what makes them tick.

What am I saying with all these metaphors and 80s references? Listen, listen to everything and everyone even if you don’t think it is important, someone else does. Then, do your best to filter it down into something that fits your users needs.

Should have just written that paragraph shouldn’t I?

Matt

Written by

Service and interaction design. Product, team management and front-end engineering. matt.tyas.fyi

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