Is the design industry sabotaging itself?

This week’s UX roundup: 2 article highlights, 2 design tools, 1 design quote, 1 UX book recommendation, and 1 case study review

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[ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS] 

The fetishisation of UX design

This article asks if product designers are committing acts of self-sabotage. It’s ironic: by leveling the playing field to involve stakeholders in design sprints and brainstorms, are we inadvertently making design look…too easy? 

“Not everyone can design. Yes, anyone can (and should) pitch in on the discovery phases of design…But turning those ideas into real solutions takes skill, and that’s something only a professional can do.” 

So what’s a designer left to do? Two ideas from the author that stood out:

  • Practice and showcase the ‘boring’ parts. For example, how to make clear and helpful documentation, or handing your work over to developers.
  • Collaborate with others without giving them the reigns. You can workshop to understand the problems and capture ideas but work on the solution by yourself. 

This post cuts deep on several topics, like why the dribbblisation of design hurts everyone and, conversely, how to avoid devaluing the practice of design. 

[DESIGN TOOL]

Stubborn Generator

Use this tool to quickly create custom characters to use in your storyboarding, brainstorming, or even in-app illustrations. Choose from male and female characters, customize their entire look, then bring them into Figma or Sketch. 

[DESIGN PODCAST]

Our Noisy Minds

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman says there are invisible factors that distort our judgment. He calls these factors “noise.” This episode talks about algorithms, errors, distractions, and noise as it pertains to what factors can distort human judgment. I see this as something to consider as we analyze research findings and data that we work with – what potential biases are we embedding into the data that we work with?

[ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS]

Left-side vertical navigation on desktop: scalable, responsive, and easy to scan

Scalable, responsive, and easy to scan – sign me up! 

Before reading this article, I didn’t even notice that Slack and Gmail, applications I use daily, use this familiar navigation. They’re not wrong when they say good design goes unnoticed! 

There are 5 benefits to having vertical navigation: 

  1. Easy to find and interact with. Vertical navigation provides flexible information architecture, including the room to include specific categories
  2. Vertical navigation offers room for growth. If you want to add things to the navigation later, you continue adding to the list (as opposed to compromising due to real estate)
  3. Vertical navigation supports more efficient scanning than horizontal. Users look at the left half of the screen 80% of the time (would this go hand-in-hand with the natural hand gesture to scroll up and down versus left and right?)
  4. Users are familiar with vertical navigation. Popular apps like Gmail and Slack strengthen this design convention
  5. Vertical navigation translates naturally to mobile. Even if you place your menu into a hamburger menu, you’d only have to make minor tweaks to list out the links

[UPCOMING EVENT]

ACCESS at Home by 3Play Media – June 7-10, 2021

Let’s talk about the world beyond the pandemic. Lessons we’ve learned, accessibility, and what hybrid means.

Free virtual event from 3Play Media to explore lessons learned from the pandemic. Attendance will give you access to (recorded) sessions from experts in their fields, a chance to connect with other professionals in the community, and a chance to win some event-exclusive offers. 

[UX QUOTE]

“…when women and people of color are finally given opportunity to participate in limited spheres of decision making in society, computers are simultaneously celebrated as more optimal choice for making social decisions”

– Safiya Umoja Noble, author of Algorithms of Oppression

[WATCH THIS]

How Useful Is the System Usability Scale (SUS) in UX Projects?

“Whatever time you have with them [users] is precious and you want to spend time on observing them being users, doing things, seeing what comes easy, what’s difficult.” Jakob Nielsen talks about SUS and how it is not the most recommended way of measuring user satisfaction in user research. Rather, it is important to get your data from watching user interactions.

[BOOK RECO] 

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech

If you haven’t previously thought about sexism, racism, or other forms of discrimination in the tech industry, this book is a great place to start. Why do apps and profile info pages mostly come with only two gender options – male and female? What if someone doesn’t wish to be identified as either? 

Sara Wachter-Boettcher helps readers ask questions and think of answers beyond their usual perspective. This book is an encouragement to be more inclusive and helps readers explore examples from big tech news. 

[DESIGN TOOL]

Giving a damn about accessibility

UX Collective partnered with Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC to produce a candid and practical handbook for designers. Free, funny, full of facts, and available with an audio version for you to read or listen to at your leisure. 

[DESIGN CASE STUDY SPOTLIGHT]

TINIA – Digitization in Education

Designer: Moritz Oesterlau

Case Study: An Approach to Digitization in Education – An attempt to push forward future-proof education

TINIA is an online platform that enables students to interactively and playfully create solutions to real-world challenges through Design Thinking and based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

Why this case study is awesome: 

  • Details: The case study doesn’t just show the final product, it goes in-depth into the granular details of competitive analysis, interviews and surveys, and user personas which provide insights on the design decisions in the final prototypes. 
  • Conclusion and Learnings: I enjoyed the in-depth learnings shared. Since this was a student project, Mortiz includes steps that would have been taken if there was more time. 

One nit or suggestion? The volume of content and one-column view made the case study text-heavy in the beginning. A reader would have to scroll quite a bit to the “building empathy” section to see accompanying design artifacts. 

Regardless, the case study demonstrates a thorough design process. Each step explains what the author did, why he did it, and what he learned as a result. There were artifacts and visuals to go with the findings. This case study is an example of almost leaving the reader with no follow-up questions because things were so nicely explained.


[UXB TOP RECOMMENDATIONS: COURSES & RESOURCES]

If you’re looking for the best educational options in UX, we’ve done the hard work for you. Here are some of our most popular guides on UX bootcamps and learning platforms:

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