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User Experience

What’s designed. What’s built. What’s needed.

On 06, Mar 2012 | One Comment | In User Experience | By Ryan Feeley

One of the things that’s fascinating about developing products is the radical conflation of product planning, market appetite and the nuts and bolts of shipping software. When a project finally launches, it is invariably a product of the organizational culture from which it was created.

I needed to create this diagram, if just for myself, to make sense of the three forces that often collide when a product is created: planning and design, engineering and development, and lastly, user needs.

Ideally, these forces align perfectly, and not a single human calorie of energy is wasted; but in real-world applications, the overlap make not even occur at all.

  • Designed & built but not needed. When product managers don’t build products with a clear understanding of the customer, features will be built when they are not necessary. This needlessly complicates the project’s code, supporting documentation, vision, and testing process as well as detracts from the desirable aspects of the product.
  • Designed & needed but not built. In an agile environment, features are typically built in priority. When items are not ranked in order, there may not be a chair to sit in when the music stops.
  • Needed & built but never designed. In my experience, this is rare, but often there will be super hero developers that can catch design gaps at the last minute and compensate for it.

Can you think of some product examples that typify the various spots of the diagram and degrees of overlap?


  1. Hi Ryan, I was hoping you could help me out with a possible referral. I am currently recruiting for a client of mine – an awesome SaaS company located in Toronto (really.. they are SUPER DUPER FAB) and they are looking for a Mentor to lead their design team. Really it’s someone who is innovative, creative and can manage, groom and motivate the team. They need this individual to take them to the next level.. and more importantly fit into their “cool” culture. The salary for this position is negotiable depending on experience. I thought your profile was pretty impressive and figured you’d have some amazing people in your network. Let me know if anyone comes to mind. I am also available to speak over the phone should you have any additional questions. Thanks! Christine

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