🎛️ Noise Factors vs. Control Factors →
With product design, constraints are your friend. Great products emerge from teams able to differentiate between control and noise factors: things they can control vs. things they can’t. Many teams are tempted to waste time worrying about things outside of their control.
Here’s Ryan Singer:
In this example, the control factors are all the things we get to decide: Which quotes to include, whether the block has some header text or not, the language of the header text, the position of the name of each reviewer relative to their quote, whether to use just first name or first and last name, whether to include their title, etc.
He links to an episode of the Circuit Breaker podcast that covers this topic. Bob’s example of a “noise” factor comes from his work with a dish soap company. If the soap they design doesn’t work as an effective solvent in room temperature water (it requires hot water to function), then it isn’t respecting a noise factor that’s a simple reality of the environment: some people wash their dishes with cold water. Regardless of what you print on the label, people will do what they’ll do as part of their routine, and they may have their reasons. You can attempt to control the noise factor if you want, but your time is better spent incorporating common noisy elements as givens and designing for the best fit you can, using factors you can control (surfactant volumes in the soap, ingredients, etc.).
For more on Bob Moesta, I wrote about the contrast between “process” and “practice”, a topic also covered on his podcast recently.