The joys of communicating the wrong idea

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I got an interface totally wrong. Let’s say that there was a complicated VAT procedure that surgeries only needed to use if they had a pharmacy attached that sold old-style bottles of kaolin and the moon was pink. So it’s not done very often, and you need to know about adding the kaolin and the moon to the references.

I looked at the dialogs and went, why do you have pharmacy on this page and clay on that page and gibbous on that page? It’s just totally ridiculous. And I hacked up a new version of the dialog and scrawled red bits all over it and said it would make much more sense if it was like THIS!
And because I am the user interface designer and everyone thinks I’m lovely, they re-designed the interfaces to match what I thought it would be.
I’m going to digress for a bit (partly because I adore digressions). The most important thing you can do with any idea is record it. Keep a sketchbook handy, or an ipad or whatever you find a quick and easy method. Your phone will do. I like paper best because you never need to switch it on, the response time is minimal, and you have the best haptics. Yes, I could go on for quite some time about the tactile experience of pencil meeting paper. It’s also utterly flexible, you can sketch, write, explore. And then take photos of it to record it electronically. And when you’re recording a visual idea, record it visually. The big problem I find with people commenting on designs is that they write out their comments in an email, without pictures, and it is not obvious what they mean. When they say, put the checkbox together with the associated field, there is no clarity as to how you put them together, where they’re laid out and so on. Sketch it in front of them. At the low end of the scale scribble over a screen grab in Paint or draw boxes on a bit of paper. At the high end mock-up the work flow in a wire-framing tool. Just make sure that you have agreement what the idea is, before you decide whether or not it’s a good idea.
That leads me back to where I started. I’d communicated my idea on the mock-up. They’d implemented it. And the next time I worked through, I still didn’t understand it. You know why? It was the wrong idea.
I had totally misunderstood the functionality. I thought that they were developing an add-on contraceptive planner requiring the use of the moon and kaolin that was VAT-free, rather than a VAT calculator for kaolin sold during a gibbous moon. So obviously I’d put the wrong bits together in the wrong order.
And I’d made things much worse. 
So today’s top tip is remember the difference between efficiency, effectiveness, and efficacy. Sometimes you can go through all the right steps, exhibiting enormous skill, but you’re still going in the wrong direction.