Design has no finish line. It only has a time limit.
The beautiful thing about programming is the certainty of closure. You know you’ve accomplished your goals when the code compiles. Either it works or it doesn’t. The measure of success is concrete: the little light turns green.
Developers love this certainty. The clarity and order appeals to the temperament of people who love solving puzzles. You’ll often hear developers tell you the greatest moment of programming isn’t when they ship, or earn promotions, or learn new skills; but when they achieve a “eureka!” moment and overcome a technical obstacle. They live for the break-through moment that flips the green light.
Design is totally different. There is no bell that rings to let you know the cupcake is ready. The measure of success for a good design is whether the user has a smile on their face when they tell people about their experience using the product. That’s almost impossible to capture mid-design.
I try to remove ambiguity from the design process and inject objective measures: brand guides, KPIs, browser constraints. These constraints act like bumpers keeping the designer on course. Without them we might never finish the race.
If you don’t showcase your work because “it’s not good enough,” don’t expect it to get any better. - @scottbelsky
Killer. That quote neatly encapsulates the paradox of creative work. You want to improve your design but must walk through the fires of critique to emerge hardened and proven on the other side.
Design critiques hurt. Hearing everything you did wrong sucks. The very goal of a critique is to expose flaws in your work. The exercise of questioning your process is institutionalized second guessing. It can be demoralizing to hear where you went wrong.
It’s understandable that a designer might be reluctant to share their work. But haters’ gonna hate. It’s better to hear it from a trusted source than to have your precious efforts ripped apart by strangers – or worse yet, your customers. They deserve better.
Quantitative analysis is a powerful tool for any UX practitioner. Traffic logs and multivariate tests offer insights into user behavior with less subjectivity and bias. Usability labs, interviews and surveys can provide color around user needs but objective measurement provides proof. Mining big-data can empower the novice UX research but it needs a wide area of focus to truly shine.
I like to compare mining big-data for UX insights to shining a flashlight in a dark room. The beam of light from a handheld light will brightly illuminate the darkness. The harsh beam brings highlights and shadows into vivid relief. In some ways the definition is even higher than under natural conditions.
On the other hand the narrow beam limits your area of focus. Only a single vector is visible at a time. A sharp contrast forms between the lit area and the darkness surrounding it. This contrast creates fovea blindness as the eye shifts focus from cones to rods. This is the same phenomenon experienced by stage performers and put to use in one way mirrors.
The UX practitioner running quantitative tests faces data foveal blindness. Focusing on that data behind a single interaction can block you from seeing downstream effects. For example: Clarifying the pricing of your signup will cause near term and longer effects you need to be aware of. The close-range impact may be a decrease in purchase conversions; but at the same time there can be corresponding decrease in churn downstream. These aren’t equivalent changes because churn is always more expensive than lost sales. It’s a dissatisfied customer that requires support and maintenance.
Making sense of the complex interaction between short-range and long-range impact of design changes is similar to navigating a dark room. A flashlight will illuminate your current vector but that vector is only valuable if it’s the correct one. A dark room with multiple dimensions has multiple pathways through it. Determining the correct pathway requires understanding the surrounding space. Moving that flashlight left and right will illuminate other potential vectors. New opportunities and dangers are revealed. A richer understanding enables you to purposefully change direction if needed.
The savvy UX practitioner needs to shine their beam of analysis in multiple directions to understand a problem. The insights from a single metric will always pale in comparison to triangulating that insight with multiple metrics. Deeper insights will help you improve your designing by illuminating the most valuable problems it faces.
A few months ago I posited that private messaging was dying. I asked what, if any, were the compelling reasons for maintaining private messaging in an app. Boy was I wrong.
Recently Twitter has been iterating their iPhone app with dramatic changes to direct messaging and threaded conversations. The net effect is a shift from public discourse to private discourse.
Instagram just added direct messaging of images, SnapChat’s growth is explosive, WhatsApp, SMS, etc. All of these popular apps focus on delivering 1:1 or 1:few messaging.
This very public change has prompted some very smart people to examine the utility of messaging in apps. Luke Wroblewski made the astute observation that “Every mobile app attempts to expand until it includes chat. Those applications which do not are replaced by ones which can.”
In retrospect it makes complete sense. People use these apps and people want to talk to other people. Duh! Anything that makes communication - verbal, graphic, animated - easier will succeed. Conversation is the goal and you need to ask yourself if your app is moving towards that goal.
It’s interesting that in spite of potency of personal communication that email is still seeing less use among millenials. Young people under 21 that I speak with don’t even know what their email password is. I had mistakenly interpreted the correlation with the growth in public publishing (twitter, tumblr, facebook) as signifying a shift in ideas about privacy. Turns out app usage is incredibly nuanced depending on the strengths of each tool.