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Minimum Viable Interface - The Beginnings
Joseph C Lawrence

I have been toying with this idea for a while now – an equivalent of the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) concept for interface design. I’d therefore like to coin the phrase ‘Minimum Viable Interface’ (MVI) as the general umbrella term for my thoughts on how to go about the constant process of striving for perfect interface design.

The first thing to note is that I don’t think it is meaningful to believe that there is a ‘perfect’ design. Not only is there not really one perfect interface that will suit all users at one particular time, but design trends, technological limitations and cultural/psychological trends are constantly shifting, so there is also not one perfect interface for one user at all times.

One colour may induce trust in one culture, and alarm in another. Capitalisation my grab attention efficiently for some users, and alienate others. Simplicity of layout might be essential with some audiences, but leave others unchallenged and unconvinced as to the efficacy of a product.

Minimum Viable Interface is a paradigm whereby the simplest possible interface should always the starting point in terms of UI design for a software product or website, and complexity in terms of both layout and design should be added only as a matter of necessity.

The philosophy of MVP makes it arguable easier to progress, since the adding of functionality can be more effectively managed base on user demand, technical limitations and business strategy/requirements. The criteria for determining whether to add new functionality is more clearly defined. With MVI, the question of whether adding an illustrated character, or a drop shadow to a drop down menu, or an additional sidebar with support information does not have such clearly defined criteria, and the success of adding or removing design related elements can be harder to measure. The hope is that by starting off with a radically simple interface, the effect of adding new elements can be more clearly observed.

Even with a radically simple interface, some early guidelines/rules will need to be set. For example should one use rounded corners, or square corners? What font-size should be used for body text?

The focus of the next post will define a set of guidelines.

Interface Design Minimum Viable Interface MVI UI UI Design UX