Cater, empower, and support collaboration in product design

1 minute read

Design is not reserved for designers alone; it’s a collaborative process that teams do together. Moreover, tasteful design isn’t limited to your latest “unique” app in Figma that leverages OpenAI’s GPT-4 (large language model). It manifests itself every day, such as crafting emails, facilitating meetings, and writing blog posts! teams have built hundreds of products and many of them contain real-time collaborative elements. Common mistakes made by our designers are to assume that users will be beginners forever and to define roles/permissions, which inadvertently constrain users.

To address this, let’s explore three principles:

🎮 1. Cater to beginners and experts

Design interfaces that accommodate users with different skill levels.

Place documentation near actions to enhance discoverability, and provide advanced users with shortcuts, batch edits, and composable operations.

For example, in Age of Empires IV, beginners can use the mouse to select units and issue commands with tooltips for descriptions and shortcuts, while advanced users can efficiently control entire armies with just a few keystrokes.

🚀 2. Empower and trust users

Trust users by granting them the freedom to perform operations beyond their “role,” even those perceived as incorrect or unlikely.

For instance, I allow calendar invite recipients to make modifications, saving everyone time. Has this power been abused? No. This convenience enables rescheduling without consulting the organizer.

🔧 3. Support error prevention

Ensure users can effortlessly identify errors (e.g., send emails/SMS confirmations for significant operations), and maintain a history of all changes made. A chronological history of changes made should be front and center, or easy to find. Inform users about who made each change and when. Support recovery with “undo” and “revert” (to a previous state in history) options.

For example, in product management software, I’d like to see ticket reassignments history but I don’t want to receive email notifications for each change. However, when a team member is added or removed from a project, I prefer to be notified.

I hope these three principles will help you craft products that foster trust and accelerate team collaboration. Good luck, fellow designers!