On Version Numbers…

While we are living in this world of social, political, and educational uncertainty, it is a great time to do some reflecting and assess a few things. I’m brought back to a section of Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience where he addresses the idea of Scope Identification. While his work focused on user experience, it is an incredibly useful tool to help guide our work, either as a teacher, leader, or in whatever role we currently play. For example, if your life as a teacher was turned upside down by a pandemic and you had to reassess how you were going to deliver instruction, scope identification is very handy.

Scope is the sum total of work to be completed. Hence, scope identification is the process by which we determine what work is actually going to occur as part of a project or program. Scope identification allows us to accomplish three (maybe four) very important goals. Allows us to identify what we are building. Allows us to identify what we are NOT building. Allows us to identify what we are NOT building YET. That final piece can be broken down a littler further into things we are NOT building YET that are a modification of the current system and things we are NOT building YET that are a total remodel of the system.

Think of this as the process you can use to divide your work on a project into buckets.

  • Version 1.0 – The first bucket is the ideas that are most critical to creating a working product and being able to minimally complete the work. Equally, or even more important for the sake of focus are the next few buckets.
  • Version 1.1 – The second bucket is the ideas that are not mission critical, but will improve version 1.0 through slight modifications or feature enhancements.
  • Version 2.0 – The third bucket is the ideas that only come to pass if you are building a new system to address the work or the idea. They are the ideas that are part of re-imagining the work.
  • The Garbage Can – The fourth bucket is the garbage can. These are the ideas that you are not using. Not now. Not ever. Or at least you don’t think you’ll use them for now, so they aren’t part of your work.

While you don’t have to set up actual buckets, use this method in whatever way you like to organize the next time you tackle a project. If you use the example from the first paragraph of a teacher in the pandemic, version 1.0 is the teaching you did immediately after we moved to remote learning back in the spring. It was keeping the ideas that are most critical to continue to deliver instruction, connect with kids, and embrace the change.

As you iterate forward and create modifications for version 1.1 or 1.2 and re-imagine your work for version 2.0, formalize this process by documenting what ideas go into each bucket. Keeping an actual record of the work allows you to stop losing your good ideas to the ether and saves you time by not wasting a lot of brain power or precious minutes rehashing an idea that you’ve already determined is ready for the trash bin.


This post is part of a series on EDU/X, an idea that applies the elements of user experience (U/X) design to the world of education. For the first post in this series, head to http://www.designededu.com/strategy/.