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The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Section 3.4.4

Design and Decision Criteria

Include design and decision criteria in feasibility reports, recommendation reports, proposals, and other documents that are concerned with the possible design of a product or, in some cases, a future course of action.

Design criteria are the explicit goals that a project must achieve in order to be successful. In recommendation and feasibility reports, especially, the design and decision criteria determine the document's final recommendation for action. Managers use these criteria as their basic tool in evaluating a project's potential for success and how well it fits into the goals of the organization. Experts need explicit design and decision criteria in order to evaluate recommended designs of devices and test procedures.

Design criteria can be divided into primary and secondary criteria. Primary criteria are those that constitute a successful project; the project will be unsuccessful if it does not meet these goals. Secondary criteria are those features that are highly desirable but not absolutely essential. Separating primary and secondary criteria establishes a clear hierarchy in design choices. Often, implementing one criterion makes the implementation of another infeasible or costly, or a secondary criterion may be sacrificed in favor of a primary criterion.

Make your design criteria short but as specific as possible. Avoid vague language. List your primary criteria first; then list the secondary criteria. Often design criteria are best displayed in bulleted lists, with short titles preceding the explanation. These titles may then be used later in the document to refer to the specific criteria being discussed. If you number your criteria, avoid referring to them later solely by number, a practice that often confuses readers. Use tables to show and summarize the relative effectiveness of different implementations in comparison with your design criteria.

4.0 Design Criteria

The online shopping system must possess the following features:

In addition, the system should, if possible, possess the following additional features:

In the foregoing example, the first primary criteron describes the essential operation of the system. The second, third, and fourth primary criteria list features that are necessary for the system to operate successfully. Two secondary criteria are then listed as desirable additional features.

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