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What is Design Flexibility?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Design flexibility is a characteristic of product design that makes it possible to respond to new concerns or questions that may arise during the development of a new product. The idea behind maintaining this type of flexibility is to remain open to data acquired during the development process, and make use of that data to refine or adapt the product. Doing so can sometimes lead to identifying a secondary market or markets in which consumers will be attracted to the new offering, increasing the profits earned from the product.

The use of design flexibility is common with the creation and refinement of just about any type of product. Companies that create and manufacture design software often include tools to aid in identifying and evaluating different variables that may be of interest to businesses that use the product in their own product development processes. For example, the software may be able to utilize collected research data to determine that a new dishwashing liquid that is under development would be more attractive to consumers if it were offered with a peach scent rather than lemon. By identifying the variables and then running simulations of the results, companies can broaden the appeal of the new products and generate more income.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

One of the requirements of the design flexibility process is that every individual involved in the product development be open to the incorporation of new ideas that may change the original vision in some way. Achieving this type of design team flexibility can be difficult to manage, especially with employees who are heavily invested in the product in its current incarnation. For this reason, the process of evaluating new data and relating it to the product may take some time as more team members begin to see the potential of making some adjustments in their perceptions of how the product should work and which consumers will desire to own that product.

In addition to product design flexibility, the same general concept can be applied to the organization of a business operation. By remaining open to the possibilities discovered as the basic organization structure is drafted, business owners and planners can often encounter some aspect of the basic design that leads to enhancing the efficiency and functionality of that structure. The end result of this application of design flexibility is a business that operates with a greater degree of proficiency and generates less in the way of wasting time, money or raw materials.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including , and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including , and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

irontoenail

While design flexibility seems intuitively to be a good thing, that is not always the case. Sometimes designers who are trying too hard to be flexible, especially if they are trying to predict the future, will fail to use the best possible current solutions.

Take websites for example. If you want to make a website that is flexible, and capable of changing to meet future trends, you might use a more simple programming language, one that can do lots of things, but none of them particularly well.

If you choose instead to use the best language for what you want right now, the overall product will be better.

It's a matter of balance, I guess. Not too rigid and not too flexible.

KoiwiGal

Design flexibility is one of the reasons programmers are able to have alpha and beta testing for software and games.

There are even game systems now where you pay in order to play the game while it is being designed. So, once they have a character and a backdrop, you can wander around and see what else is being put in.

I think this is mostly used in "sandbox" style games where a character can wander around an entire world and there isn't really a set goal to finish in the game.

With this kind of testing, gamers can give input and help to develop the features that they want in the game.

It's pretty interesting, and I think it would be quite thrilling to see something you suggested put into a game.

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      Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone