The Turing Test of Feature Assessment

If the results of an advanced system are indistinguishable from fake results, is it worth investing in the system in the first place?  It’s my observation the brightest marketing minds struggle with this question every day. From cross-selling strategies to data-visualization, inspired creative and technical teams waste precious resources devising complex systems that perform no better than their mock counterparts.

How can agencies avoid falling into this trap? By applying this simple variant of the famous Turing Test:

“If a neutral third party is unable to distinguish an advanced interaction from a static or randomly generated alternative, prefer the simpler solution or revisit your solution.”

If a Magic Eightball can answer the question as well as an elaborate recommendation engine then it may be wise to take a shortcut.  Or provide context so the user better understands the reason for the recommendation. But taking shortcuts is not what creative people are wired to do. It can often be difficult to objectively judge your own work, especially when there are a lot of clever things happening under the surface. Inner knowledge and familiarity with how something works greatly changes a person’s perception of its output. Like good parents, designers and developers see beauty and genius in their creations that others would not.

This test can steer technology and creative teams away from potentially wasteful approaches. A good example of where the test can be applied is a map visualization showing real-time global activity.  I’ve seen many examples of this type of visualization that are indistinguishable from pre-rendered alternatives. Observers will usually be skeptical and have short attention spans. The burden is on the visualization to quickly and easily distinguish itself from a random or static alternative.

Teams that apply the Turing Test of Feature Assessment will quickly realize when they need to apply further effort to make their projects successful or when to choose a simpler version of an experience at a much lower cost.

Editor’s Note: In recognition of a long track record of creative insight, “The Turing Test of Feature Assessment” will hereafter be he referred to as simply “Noel’s Test”