Don’t build P-M-Bs!

It’s been said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.  Well, a camel is a positively elegant creature compared to the “Puppy-Monkey-Baby” that greeted us in a commercial during Super Bowl 50.  The creature took elements of three things that are cute on their own (well, maybe not the monkey but the baby and puppy for sure) and combined them into something scary and hideous.   Many news articles have reported that viewers were scared and “freaked out” by the creature.   The jury is out on whether or not this was an effective advertising gimmick, but it is clear that system designers do not want to be creating “P-M-B”s.

In an environment of heavy system integration, care must be taken to ensure a consistent and elegant interface to the end user.  As development teams grow larger, it is necessary to have standardization and control over the style of the user interface.  Besides colors and font, navigation must be in a common location with consistent behavior.

As the use of service interfaces has become mainstream for commercial software, system integrators can create a user interface that matches their standards while utilizing the business logic and database of a third party component.

If you do need to utilize the UI from an external component, I would suggest making it clear that the user is moving to a new UI paradigm and not try to encapsulate in a façade that mimics another standard.  What I mean by this is that it is better to have a standalone puppy and a standalone baby than to combine them into a monstrous puppy-baby.   I am interested in hearing how others have approached the problem of integrating different UI paradigms.

One final problem that contributes to building  a “P-M-B” is the lack of a strong product visionary that can direct teams to build a consistent, elegant product.  As team sizes grow, this becomes more difficult.  As product definition is delegated to more people, you are exposed to this problem.  One designer may prefer puppies, one may prefer babies, and the third may be a monkey person.  The challenge is to bring the best elements of these things together and create a new entity that is elegant.  Rather than graft on three beings, create one completely new “being”.

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