User Interfaces Are Not Jigsaw Puzzles
Designing user interfaces is not so much like completing a jigsaw puzzle, but more like solving a Rubik’s Cube.
I used to think that designing user interfaces is like completing a jigsaw puzzle: you start off with a bunch of disconnected ideas and try out various ways of putting them together until everything fits in place.
It’s actually more complicated than that. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, where each piece connects only to the adjacent parts, components of a user interface all connect to one another. Such that any change you make to any part of the interface reverberates throughout the entire user experience.
In other words, moving one piece of the puzzle also changes the puzzle itself. More like a Rubik’s Cube than a jigsaw puzzle.
The distinction between these two matters. It tells you that you can rarely make any design decision in vacuum. To the contrary, the vast majority of decisions related to designing user interfaces have to be taken holistically. You have to consider not just whether a particular decision is good in and of itself, but take into account the impact it will have on the rest of the user interface and the user experience as a whole.
But the analogy doesn’t end there. Similarly to solving a Rubik’s Cube, designing user interfaces is also not a linear process. You venture out in one direction only to find out it’s a dead end. And not just once. More likely than not, you’ll have to backtrack several times and start over again as you discover new information and stumble upon new ideas.
Taking this holistic and iterative approach is key to designing user interfaces and must not be overlooked. Only that way you can design a user experience that feels truly cohesive and complete, at every level and from every angle. Just like a solved Rubik’s Cube.