On Defending Your Designs

3 steps to answering questions about your solutions

1_22P-V2C6NFvd5Zx_j59ZQQ.png

I was sitting at my desk drawing portraits of Don Norman on Post-its (as ya do) when I got asked the most random question. We have one of those little survey things on our website at CareerFoundry and people that are interested in our courses ask us basic questions about design. Here’s one we got today:

Q: How do I answer questions like, “Why did you choose to design it this way instead of another way?” or, “how did you end up with that design solution?”

It was so brave and honest. My feeling is that this is a question that many people are probably too afraid to ask. I decided to throw together a little listicle because I know y’all love those…

1. Refocus their inquiry on the problem

When asked how you arrived at a design solution, always start with the problem. This will help clarify why you did what you did and refocus the conversation around the original reason for the project.

Ninety percent of misunderstandings around deliverables happen because people never agreed on which problem needs to be solved. Say it loud and say it often: 👏 What’s 👏 the 👏 problem 👏 we’re 👏 trying 👏 to 👏 solve? 👏

2. Walk them through your process

The simplest strategy for defense is a good explanation. If you’re a beginner, you may not really have a process, and the sheer thought of describing a design process might make you sweat through your ironic t-shirt. Don’t fret, just talk about what was interesting to you about the project. People like to hear people talk about stuff they’re excited about.

If you walk them through your process in a way that’s easy to follow, that’s usually enough to satisfy a curious stakeholder. If you really know your process, and you can match a narrative about the user’s needs to the stakeholder’s needs then congratulations because you’re a fucking wizard. Afterward, they may even start championing the idea on your behalf. Technically, that makes them your hype man.

3. Allow space in your defense for improvements

Defending your design doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let any feedback get through your defenses. You should always be on the lookout for ways to improve. Feedback is what makes the dreamback…🤔

When people question you about your design, they’re interested in your work (which is like, half the battle at most companies). These curious users are in a unique position to point out flaws or blind spots that you may have missed so roll out the red carpet and cherish them like they’re your only surviving grandma.

TL;DR: Don’t defend…demystify

If you’ve been paying attention so far, then you may have noticed that defending a design has very little to do with actually defending. That’s because when people ask how you came up with a design, they’re not attacking you.

People usually ask these questions out of curiosity, not concern. They’re probably just intrigued by your design magic and want to know what’s up your wizard sleeve. Unlike magicians, designers should reveal the secrets behind their tricks. Take it as an opportunity to demystify the design process and strengthen your designs through some spur-of-the-moment feedback.

Free Online Image Glitcher and GIF Creator

Photomosh is one of the coolest online image editing things I've ever seen. With as little as four clicks, you can turn a boring image into a GIF with vintage TV effects. It gives images this reclaimed, thrift-store feel. I used it to make little GIF avatars for my Medium account:

MOSHED-2018-9-4-14-41-58.gif
MOSHED-2018-9-3-12-54-22.gif
MOSHED-2018-9-3-12-52-40.gif

Simply drop an image in there and click "Mosh" and you're done. You can save the live animation as a static JPG or as a GIF. You can even use your webcam to record with a glitch effect right from your browser!

We Are All Writers

There’s a quote by Mark Twain that really sums up the old-school idea of being a writer. I can imagine him saying it with a drunken slur and a cigar in his mouth:

“Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.” -Mark Twain

Either you become a writer and wait for the money to pour in, or you become a lumberjack. Simple as that, old sport! With that attitude, I wonder if Mark Twain would have ended up with an unpaid internship at Buzzfeed if he were alive today?

It’s a tough time to be a writer

For better or worse, technology has changed the way we view writing. We consume by skimming and reading summaries instead of delving deeply into a topic. We consume “top 5” lists but we rarely create new ideas. We parrot marketing strategies meant for corporate conversion funnels, and forget the freedom inherent in the written word.

Not only has technology changed the way we consume writing, it’s changed the people that are creating it, too. In 2018, writers have to become influencers and a worldview is expected to fit into 140 characters. Writers are now required to become branding, marketing, and analytics experts. The cost of delivering content on the internet is near zero, and the value of those writing it is rapidly approaching that number. If we are all writers, is that a good thing?

It’s about creating, not consuming

Over the past four years, I‘ve been on a hellbent rampage to become a better UX designer. UX design, as a practice, is still being established so I decided to read everything I could get my hands on. I consumed a TON of information, but mastery was not to be found in all the bookmarks and articles. True understanding didn’t come from reading, it came from recreating ideas in my own words and sharing those ideas with other people. The cycle of learning could have stopped at the consumption of knowledge, but that wouldn’t have been true understanding. Knowledge without creativity is bullshit.

It’s pretty simple: consume, create, then share

For normal humans, learning is a multi-step process. I work for an excellent education company filled with people much smarter than me. One of the many things they’ve introduced to me is the idea of metacognition or “learning how to learn.” As I have come to see it, learning can have a surprisingly simple recipe. It consists of taking in information, creating something new with that information, and then sharing that with someone else. This “Consume, Create, Share” cycle is a simplified version of the framework we use to help thousands of adults learn new skills. Writing fits neatly in the middle of that cycle.

Experimentation is key to forming polished ideas. To get really good at something, it’s important to repeat this “Consume, Create, Share” cycle as often as possible. In order to encourage more cycles, it’s important to share rough drafts of ideas.

You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none…” -Ernest Hemingway

As a perfectionist, I get no kick out of sharing half-baked ideas. I must remind myself not to be a coward. It takes guts to share ideas that aren’t fully formed. You must allow yourself the freedom to explore, to fail or succeed.

It's time to start writing for my own blog, again

I want to form new and original ideas with every “Consume, Create, Share” cycle. I want these new ideas to come crashing into me like waves on a beach. I want to be knocked down by them. I want to lose sleep over the desire to share them.

I want to live in a world where everyone is free to learn what they want. I want to live where we are all writers.

The Workflow of a UX Designer: The Process and Tools You Need

The Workflow of a UX Designer.png

What kind of tools do UX designers use? I get asked this all the time by people new to user experience (UX) design. Understandably, they want to learn the tools of the industry so they can get hired, but hiring someone based on the tools they use would be like hiring an artist because they have the right brushes. It’s not about the tools, it’s about method and craft. UX design relies heavily on process and the tools that I use mirror that process.

Watch These UX Design Talks for Free

YouEx Videos.png

Lately, it feels keeping up with all of the trends in UX design feels like a full-time job. I made this playlist as a starting point for any UX designer who wants to keep up with UX design trends. Once you start to like a few videos, YouTube’s algorithm will take over, and you will be swimming in fresh UX content!

UX Design: Celebrating the User

When Software Says Thanks

     A great deal has been said about playfulness in design. Playfulness is takes advantage of a potentially boring interaction, and it adds a touch of humor to delight the user. I would say this is the human equivalent of flirting with the user. While flirting is key in the beginning of a relationship, there comes a time where you have to show the user how you really feel. Celebrating the user is a way to take the next step to really show your user that you appreciate them. Social networks rely on their users to create the content that fuels their site, and I think we can take a cue from them when it comes to celebrating the user. While not every company can actually pay their user like YouTube does with its Partner Program, companies like Tumblr do an excellent job of showing their users love through UX design. What are some ways to celebrate your user? Here are a few examples of companies celebrating their users...

Probably the best example I've come across of celebrating the user. Where most companies would have just placed a generic "Thanks for Posting" notification, Tumblr goes above and beyond.

Probably the best example I've come across of celebrating the user. Where most companies would have just placed a generic "Thanks for Posting" notification, Tumblr goes above and beyond.

Facebook uses video posts from its own account to celebrate the idea of the user. This ad integrates into the timeline so it feels like part of the UI.

Facebook uses video posts from its own account to celebrate the idea of the user. This ad integrates into the timeline so it feels like part of the UI.

Sometimes just reminding a user of a reward is enough to celebrate them. After a new benchmark is reached on Team Treehouse, a congratulatory message alerts you to the new points you've received with some fun animation.

Sometimes just reminding a user of a reward is enough to celebrate them. After a new benchmark is reached on Team Treehouse, a congratulatory message alerts you to the new points you've received with some fun animation.