A Simple Tip To Help With "Beginner's Mind"

When you're building a product you need to view your product from the customer's point of view. You need to see it with "fresh eyes", with the eyes of a beginner.

This is very hard to do. In fact, it's impossible. But you must try. There are many things you can do to achieve this. Right now, I want to show you just "One Weird Trick."

Artists have struggled with this problem for a long time and developed simple, practical techniques. To get a fresh perspective on a drawing they're working on they turn it upside down or look at in a mirror. As soon as you do this, obvious problems jump out at you.

We can apply this directly to our application design. Take a screenshot, and rotate the image, or reflect the image. In addition to this you can also try inverting the colors.

In Paint.Net you can flip or rotate the image from the "Image" menu:


And you can invert the colors using the "Adjustments" menu:


(You can also rotate/flip the image from MS Paint, but it looks like they've removed the color inversion feature they used to have.)

Here's what NimbleText looks like with all these tricks applied at once:


The familiar suddenly becomes completely alien. All the visual signposts I normally use to navigate the application are gone in an instant. I look upon it as a stranger looks upon a new terrain.

Questions that spring up for me, when I see it this way... What are those weird things in the toolbar? Why are the delimiter text boxes nowhere near the data? I question things I haven't even noticed in a long time.

Try this with your own applications. See what leaps out at you.

Stop press Damien Dart liked this idea and built a simple application to make mirror-viewing easier. Take a look at FlippyWindow. Thanks Damien!

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