“Gold-plating” is often used to criticise designers when they attempt to thoughtfully design a useful and usable surface or interface for a product.

The approach here is that the breadth of the product is locked in and we progress across the entire base from the bottom towards the top, and clawing back time and money is done from the top down.

As long as the functionality is implemented and passes QA, effort spent at the surface is regarded as low value.

Diagram describing gold-plating as being the surface or interface of the UX layers model

But in reality the gold-plating has typically already happened before the build starts with the staking out of a product scope far in excess of what would satisfy the business objectives.

This is often due to the cumulative nature of requirements gathering (“Is there anything else you would like?”) and counterproductive procurement processes that demand clients precisely specify the solution before engaging the professionals they need to devise that solution.

Diagram describing gold-plating as cutting vertically through the UX layers model

The gold-plating is really entire vertical slices of scope, unnecessary systems integration, automation, and functions that should be demoted to the bottom of the product backlog ensuring that the highest value stories are implemented correctly and to a high level of quality; not merely “works” but at least “useful”.

Gojko Adzic software quality pyramid

Sure, getting your EFTPOS terminal hooked into your POS system would be nice and it’s what a system architect would strive for, but plenty of businesses get by just fine with manually entering transactions into the machine, including my local chemist, butcher, newsagent, and health food store.

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