Pants. I put them on every weekday

In 2005 the nuclear attack submarine U.S.S. San Francisco ran into a mountain. At maximum speed. One is, perhaps, inclined to wonder how a modern military vessel, presumably packed with some of the most advanced wayfinding equipment available, managed to run into a seamount. The answer is both simple and instructional. They weren’t looking where they were going[1]. The undersea mountain wasn’t on the charts. Sonar is noisy and submarines are allergic to attention. They knew where they were going–why look?

A lot of the language about UX strategy and research is about navigation and wayfinding. Maps and compasses. Guiding stars. It mostly has to do with location. Where are we? Where are we going? In product terms, the focus is on making the right thing. Which ignores the perils of execution. I’ve seen more products fail because the right thing was made poorly than because the wrong thing was made well.

RITE method is like sonar. It won’t tell you where you are. It won’t tell you where you should be going. It just tells you whether you’re about to run into a mountain. Is there danger? What about now? Now? How about now? Starting at the beginning–like paper sketch territory–bring in users. Get them to talk out loud about what they see and what everything would do. It’s a simple check. Can users predict the system reaction to any given user input? Once the project is further along, you can put a prototype on device in a user’s hands. What’s going to happen? Go ahead and do the thing. Did the results surprise you? A system may not always be predictable, especially when novel interactions are involved. But a system should always make sense.


1. This also feels like an allegory about the danger of destinations. In Being and Time, Heidegger has a bit about how when he sees a friend down the street, his friend feels more proximate than the concrete beneath his own feet. It’s easy to get distracted from the process of getting somewhere by the idea of having arrived there.