Joe Leech

The UI Macguffin

Infamous amongst the veterans of interaction design this red herring can cause you problems unless you know what’s going on.

That part of the user interface (often senior) stakeholders focus on that we interaction designers know is of no importance to the end user and thus of no real concern to the overall interaction.

Examples include: The brand explorer, subtleties of icon design, the inspiration panel and the most common of all the dreaded carousel.

The designer can design the Interface Macguffin to the often bizarre requests of the stakeholders knowing they should save their thunder for the stuff that is important to the user and the success of the product. The stakeholders will spend hours discussing the ins and outs of the Interface Macguffin and the smart designer will let them create to their heart’s content.

What if your design doesn’t have a red herring for stakeholders to focus on? They focus too much on the stuff that you and team have optimised. Then you need to follow the Theory of the Hairy Arm. Hat tip to Rob Whiting for that advice.

Taken from the idea of Macguffin in cinema. The Macguffin is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. Read more about the Macguffin on Wikipedia.

the pulp fiction brief case
The briefcase from Pulp Fiction, characters spend the film chasing the suitcase and the viewer never knows what is inside.

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