How do you know when you've reached the “local maximum?”


[Andrew Chen] ( calls the “[Local Maximum] (” a point in which you’ve hit the limit of the current design … it is as effective as it’s ever going to be in its current incarnation. How do you know, as a UX designer, that you’ve optimized a design as much as possible?


Personally I’ve never seen any web site or app that could be called “as effective/perfect as it’s really ever going to get”, frankly, not even close.

I browsed Chen’s article and he talks about how you could always still do small incremental updates but the impact of those changes, the overall improvement they make, decreases - you put more and more effort to get less and less benefit is what I gathered he’s talking about. That makes sense to me.

In filmmaking there’s an old saying: “movies are never done, they are simply abandoned” - at some point you just have to walk away and begin work on another project - and maybe that’s the answer to your question: you know you’ve reached the “local maximum” when more value could be delivered to your users by giving them another product.

Or I could be completely wrong!


That’s a fantastic question, @bmeunier

Developing baseline metrics at the start of a project, understanding the potential for change within the context of use (via competitive analysis and market expectations), and paying attention to cost/benefit ratios throughout design iterations will help peg the project and then measure it as you go.

Personally, there is also a vision that I’m striving for, which I measure against the progress made. This may get eroded and become more vague towards the final stages where decisions have already been made and directions become committed. If I push past this without discovering a new vision I find it difficult to know where I am. If I base the vision on quality research I make good progress early and things go much smoother.

I’m struggling to remember a project where we’ve run out of UX oomph before deadlines and budgets call quits for us.