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Design Trends
The current state of affairs in design, and how it's transforming companies and products.

The UX Design Of Chinese An...

Has it ever baffled you when you look at a compact, content-rich Chinese app? For instance, a popular traveling app in China, Ctrip, looks like this: Whereas its American counterpart, TripAdvisor, looks like this: The most popular search engine in China, Baidu, has an interface like this: Whereas Google stands in steep contrast with its minimalist interface: As a UX designer who was born in China and studied overseas, this has certainly piqued my interest. For the longest time, I was pondering what could have attributed to the unique design philosophies. It definitely traces back to the cultures — but what ingredients specifically have instilled the different flavors into the UX designs of Chinese and Western mobile apps? In this article, I would like to share with you three hypotheses that could potentially explain the differences. Technology leapfrog has allowed for Super Apps “Mobile in the US is a dessert. In China it is the main course.” To many Chinese, the Internet is mobile. Based on the data released by CNNIC, 98% of Chinese netizens use mobile to access the Internet as of 2018. Granted, many of them are multi-platform users, which means they access the internet via Mobile, Desktop, and Tablet. However, a much more significant portion of Chinese uses Mobile as the primary means to access the Internet. They have leapfrogged the use of a desktop, or a laptop, launching directly into the nifty pixels at their fingertips, the mobile phone. Therefore, the mobile platform needs to act as an entry point to the full array of services for both educational and practical purposes. A new breed of app was born — the super app. In the West, majority of people were introduced to the World Wide Web via a computer. When the smartphone was first introduced, its features were pretty bare-bones, where the early technological constraint as well as people’s learning curve had limited the functionalities supported on a mobile. Subsequently, with the continuous evolution of the digital sphere, “mobile first” emerged as a philosophy. This philosophy has encouraged designing with mobile users in mind first, focusing on placing only the essential features on the limited mobile real estate, which has probably contributed to a more minimalist and streamlined style of mobile design. A parallel between the physical and digital space “Show me what your home looks like, and I can tell what kind of person you are.” The second theory posits that perhaps the digital design is partly an extension of physical environment design. If you have ever been to China, you would have certainly noticed that the urban space is bustling with activities, and the level of sensory load is much higher compared to where you come from. It could look something like this: Whereas in the US, most people live in the suburbs that looks like this: And even in its urban area, the level of sensory load probably isn’t as high as in China: Because people are accustomed to the space they live in, they will impart similar qualities into digital designs from the physical environment. Chinese New Year decorations, which are usually viewed as the culmination of Chinese elements, could probably illustrate this point the best: If we are to use the design language, we would probably say that the colour palette, typography, and iconography (for both the online and offline environment) are strikingly similar — in other words, they are quite consistent in style. Generally, in China and some of the Asian countries, people who live in densely populated cities are more used to the high level of sensory load in the urban environment. It is associated with a sense of convenience and abundance, however also a sense of over-clutter. This has seeped into the digital design as well. On which end of the spectrum would you perceive it probably depends on where you come from. The language itself has impacted on the interface greatly “Your interface is as complex as your language.” Last but not least, let’s take an anatomy of the Chinese and English characters, shall we? Below is an image showing the most commonly used word — “You” in both English and Chinese. Some of the key differences become obvious almost immediately: Layout - Chinese characters are two dimensional - English characters are linear Number of strokes - Each English character has about 1–3 strokes - Chinese characters, like the one on top, have many more strokes — specifically, “你” has 7 strokes, and the most complex character in Chinese is said to have 57 strokes Character set - Over 50,000 Chinese characters - 26 English characters It is no wonder that Chinese is recognised as the most difficult language to learn in the world — it is almost insurmountable to master 50,000 Chinese characters, although it is commonly advocated that you just need about 3,000 characters to be able to read newspapers and signposts. So based on this great post on Quora, the theory is that, in cultures that use more complex alphabets, people’s brains are highly trained to parse large amount of data, and therefore accustomed to finding information and digesting it quickly. If this is indeed the case, then perhaps we can infer that other cultures which have weaved complex alphabet sets into its language would similarly have a complex interface. Well, check out the Japan Yahoo website, which boasts the highest traffic in the nation. It may just well be that this theory does have teeth. The takeaways Well, what have we learned? No matter what you are designing, remember the greater context. A design doesn’t exist devoid of a context. Sometimes the context has more to do with cultural background, sometimes the physical environment, and sometimes the state-of-mind the user is in. No matter what it is, you ignore it at your own peril in developing digital products. We’ve already seen how cultural context has shaped the UX design of Chinese and Western apps. Another example is how Grab designs its app for drivers who often use it in the context of delivering on the road under the sun. The Grab designers ensure that the color contrast will still work in those circumstances by dimming the screen, standing near a window in bright sunshine, and checking on the legibility of the key interface elements. People are creatures of habits. Know when these habits will help them adopt your designs faster, and when these habits could present potential challenges. Present a Chinese app to a Westerner and he/she would likely feel that it is too cluttered to be usable, whereas if you present a Western app to a Chinese, he/she would likely feel that it’s very skeletal with little functionality. Those reactions come off ingrained deeply in their habits. But if you design your product leveraging the existing mindsets and habits of your users, you could reap handsome dividends. For instance, one of the most widely seen patterns in design — the tabs, have roots in a real-world object: tabs in organising files. Photo credit: Amazon People are used to them in their daily lives, which transfers quite seamlessly into the online world, and even people who see it for the first time are likely to “get it” immediately. As designers, nothing is more satisfying than seeing our design click naturally into the world of the users, and to do that, you want to know when and how the users’ habits will work for or against you. Before closing this off, I’d like to present you with a bonus: As UX designers, we don’t simply take everything in without some level of questioning and deeper digging. When a hypothesis is formed, the next step is always to test it further. So I’d encourage you to look at the theories put forth here with a critical thinking mindset. That way, you will be able to design more impactful products. If you have any further thoughts/comments on this article, feel free to drop me a note on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to discuss.

You’re Not The User:...

“You’re not the user!” This is a phrase that has been repeated extensively in the UX industry for a while. The purpose of this phrase is to remind us to NEVER forget who we are designing for as designers tend to project their own behaviours onto users. This sounds easy and straightforward, but it took me a while to actually practice it and yet, I am still learning. Here are some of the mistakes I have made in the past and a few tips on how to avoid them: Common mistakes I made: - Only wanted to hear what I wanted to hear 🎧 As human beings, we have the tendency to gravitate towards the part of a sentence that looks or sounds most favourable to us. This is completely normal as this is part of human nature! For designers, it is a common mistake to only focus on our assumptions when we are learning about our users. I had made a similar mistake during my very first user interview. Before the interview, my partner and I had done some desk research and came up with a few hypotheses on how our users would behave. I was very excited and I couldn’t wait to verify my assumptions. I was looking forward to hearing about their problems and pain points, and that ah-ha moment where I could finally scream “I knew it!” in my head. Unfortunately, the interview didn’t go the way as I had imagined. I had met with an interviewee who wasn’t my target user. Instead of understanding her problem, I was unintentionally guiding her with my questions to answer what I wanted to hear as my hypothesis was clearly just my assumption. After the interview, my partner highlighted some leading questions that I had asked. And he reminded me that the way I constructed the questions could affect the quality of the result. It is human nature to want other people to share the same opinion as you. However, the sole purpose of a user interview is to understand other people’s thoughts and not justifying your assumption. It is difficult to listen objectively and discover user insight without personal biases. (Shout out to user researchers! 🥳🥳) - Consider your product as your baby 👶 I believe many visual designers have had similar experiences. You think your work is ready to go, your design is perfectly polished, and you have named your filename “final design”. However, for various reasons, the filename of your artwork has gone from “final design” to “final design_V1”, “final design_v100”..etc. It is emotionally frustrating. I remember the time when I was a fully dedicated UI designer, I would spend a lot of time crafting every detail of my design. I would feel so annoyed every time I heard from the product manager that they had decided to do it in another way or from the developer that they had refused to implement my design. I would have to defend my work so that it wouldn’t be thrown away. These cycles happened regularly in the past. You may quickly jump to the conclusion and think that the root cause of this is a problem in team communication or development. However, I believe it is more than that. Instead of advocating for the user, such behaviour only influences everyone to speak from their position. We tend to see products from our own perspective, not the user. Similarly, we’re behaving like parents who expect their children to grow up following their arrangements and believing they know what is best for them, while forgetting to listen and understand their feelings. - Build hypotheses & assumptions based on your own guesses 🧐 It is common to project our personal opinion, beliefs, preferences, and behaviours unto others. In psychology, this is called the false-consensus effect. We assume that others will share the same beliefs as us and we might reflect our own behaviours unto others. Empathising with your users is the first stage of design thinking. Designers will use several methodologies to put themselves into the user’s shoes. By doing so, it helps us to gain insights such as user needs, wants, behaviours, feelings, and thoughts. It is also common to mistakenly think of users as ourselves and believe that they will react in the same way as we had predicted. There is nothing wrong to have a gut feeling at this stage, but it is very dangerous to make decisions or summarise user behaviour based on your own guesses. The hypotheses and assumptions are just a small portion of the research so it is too early to make objective decisions here. So, how do we get to know more about a user and avoid making mistakes: - Experiments: Test, Test, Test🧪 Learning about users can be a long journey. By running experiments with different design and content variations, evaluating A/B or multivariate tests will improve our learning results. This will guide us to understand the user needs and pain points, and from there we can offer the right solution to their problems. Moreover, goals and metrics should be identified to develop an ongoing measurement plan to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This KPI can be used to indicate any UX issues. Nowadays, these metrics include unique visitors, page views, unique page views, conversion rate, exit rate, bounce rate, and many more. - Research ≠ prediction. User research is not meant to predict user behaviour; it’s to analyse user behaviour. When we are sorting research results, we shouldn’t focus on how much the outcome matches with our prediction. Instead, we need to identify the root problems and needs from the data. For example, Affinity mapping is a good methodology to help us find mother insights and we can genuinely find the objective we need from these insights. Remember, you are doing research, not making a prediction. Design changes are normal 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♀️ As designers, we need to adapt to a developing process that includes regular design changes. We need to bear in mind that these design adjustments do not mean throwing your work away or neglecting your design, it only means that it is not working for the user at this time. There is no such design that is always right for the user as user behaviours change from time to time and environment. Remember the time when the first phone with a full-touch screen was released? Many people complained that the press feedback was not as prominent as feature phones. But as time went, this issue has long been improved through faster UI and interaction design, and touch screens are now widely accepted by users. On the other hand, remember Blackberry? Blackberry decided not to follow the touch screen innovation, and instead stuck with the traditional physical keyboard. Time has proved that the product no longer meets the users needs, and in the end, it was eliminated. Users are constantly changing and evolving, and it is vital for us to keep the pace. - You are a scientist, not a user👩‍🔬👨‍🔬 Think of yourself as a scientist! We must work as a scientist and be able to endure endless iterations of testing and failure, because this is how we can improve. Adopting a user-centred design mentality will help us provide the right strategies and solutions that ensure user advocacy and optimal experience. Last but not least, I designed this wallpaper for my desktop to constantly remind myself that I’m not the user. If you like it, please feel free to download it! Let’s think like a scientist and never give up on experimenting!

Putting My UX Skills...

My 19 weeks of maternity has been a very rewarding experience for me as a first-time mom. Interacting with a baby at home alone may seem easy but in actual fact, it is extremely challenging and you can often feel clueless because you are dealing with a new human being. In retrospect, this nearly half a year spent away from my work in PALO seemed to me like a whole UX process, with my son being the “user”. From birth till late infancy, I’ve noticed that parents are actually problem-solvers for our children. We are constantly discovering new problems, defining what it is, and solving it by putting a new method to the test. Needless to say, this process is often evolving. User Research — Baby Research Before embarking on a new project, UX designers often have assumptions about our users. Likewise, as a mom, I began by assuming a later bedtime will result in your child sleeping longer, while cutting down the number of naps will also result in better sleep. To my surprise, there are tons of research indicating that a baby sleeps almost 14-17 hours daily in order to develop both mentally and physically. Babies with later bedtimes are at a higher risk of developing motor, language, and social deficits. User research is one of the main components of the UX process. We often think of our users first and start with many assumptions & hypotheses. We would then narrow it down by doing research not limited to interviews, focus groups, and contextual interviews. User Observation — Observing your baby’s cue As parents, we have to master the art of mind-reading! A baby’s way of communicating is through crying and there are times where trying all sorts of ways to pacify them such as such giving milk, playing peekaboo, and more just results in frustration. This is the hopeless moment when you will begin speaking to your child: “Please tell mommy what you want!” So, putting myself in the UX designer position, I started to observe every single behaviour he makes and this is what I discovered: If he rubs his eyes, yawn, and cry, this means he is tired If he cries uncontrollably, this means he is hungry Being observant is an important trait for a UX designer. You are often placed in an environment/project that requires you to obtain information by uncovering insights through non-verbal communication. User Testing — Plan A and Plan B Our morning routine starts with meal > warm bath > nap but I’ve observed that he doesn’t really nap well after a bath. He also usually has no appetite for his first feed of the day too. To remedy this, my husband and I decided to change it up with play > warm bath > meal > nap and guess what… It worked for us! In the UX world, it is important to validate our insights by testing it with our users. Ultimately, it is all about our users right? Parenting is an iterative process There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Children are growing every day and their needs differ by the minute. Similarly, parenting is as challenging as dealing with a client who has no idea what product/features they want to build, so it’s critical for us to work closely with them to uncover what they need. Just like parenting, UX is an iterative process. When you think you’ve finally understood your users, it may turn out to be the other way around. This is what makes our job (UX designer & parents) so rewarding and fulfilling.

Games, ethics and vo...

Flupa UX Camp is an event that takes place in France once a year, allowing attendees to both discover and test new user experience design workshops. We retained three key points throughout the experience:  Games aren’t just for facilitating custom workshops for the client, but also for challenging us on a daily basis. Responsible and ethical design spurs customer growth in all the right ways. Voice interface is not yet perfect, but is rapidly improving in terms of user experience (did you know you can design a voicebot in 60 minutes flat?). Gamifying design When we talk about games, we might think of our evenings or holidays playing with friends and family, but more and more companies are tapping into gaming to challenge their innovation practices and user experience. At PALO IT, we use it daily, so it was very interesting to find new inspiration. Card creation was also on the docket, including an engrossing set by Camille Cohignac which educates players on the different stages of Design Thinking. Gaming is an altogether great way of breaking out of bad habits and preconceived notions, allowing us to understand concepts from new angles, and communicate better as a team and organisation. Let’s talk ethics At another workshop we delved into the relationship between design and ethics. Notably, the conversation revolved around popular tools, and means of educating customers. The framework is simple, but worth reiterating… The first step is simply awareness, working with customers to understand the impact a new product or service might have on the world. Second is finding that deep motivation—intrinsic in most—that drives them to leverage their work for the greater good. Lastly is challenging the current economic model of customers, elevating it towards sustainable development. This blueprint for positive impact and sustainability rings true to the work we do at PALO IT, and seeing it become such a large part of UX Camp was encouraging to say the least. Giving a ‘voice’ to our work You might have noticed that the chatbot and voicebot are suffering from a lack of love in the digital community. This is quite possibly a result of a lack of understanding among design teams, but this will and should change. The arrival of AI is shaking up the system currently in place, and bots are great communication tools which—even if not yet optimised—are making a mark on the daily lives of users. Maaike Coppens has developed a methodology that allows designers and clients alike to conceptualise a fully vocal (and therefore image-free) journey. This offers benefits in great part owed the fluidity of vocal exchange. At UX Camp, two groups engaged in a sprint around the theme ‘how vocal can encourage waste sorting’. In just 60 minutes we were able to reflect on the challenges of the voicebot, including its tone and its first interactions with users. The two groups ended up proposing extremely different experiences, highlighting how the user journey in the vocal era will become multifaceted and allow innovation in parallel with IoT. Shout out to the organisers of the UX Camp Montpellier for a weekend rich in knowledge exchange! Working with a diverse community of experienced designers opens us up to constructive feedback on our own approach at PALO IT, allowing us to evolve as a team, and as an industry. Looking forward to the UX Days in June 2020 to be held in Paris!

4 Ways To Combat Per...

Let’s face it — we all have personal biases. They are what makes us human and there is a good reason why we have them. They help us simplify information processing so that we can reach decisions quickly. While we may be quick to point out other people’s biases, we often fail to recognise our own biases and how they can work against us. Psychologists call this the bias blind spot. As designers, we pride ourselves in being an unbiased advocate for the user and are trusted to make objective design decisions based on user feedback. However, we often fail to acknowledge our biases. This actually makes us less objective than we think! (yes, designers suffer from the bias blind spot too). What happens when we fail to recognise our own biases? We end up making decisions that harm rather than improve the user’s experience. Common Biases that Designers Fall Prey To The cognitive bias codex highlights a comprehensive list of cognitive biases that influence the way we perceive things, make decisions, and act. Here are four common cognitive biases that most designers will experience over the course of their career. Confirmation Bias Confirmation bias is known as the “super-villain” of all biases as it is the bias which designers are most susceptible to. It describes our tendency to seek, interpret, favour, and recall information that validates our existing beliefs. The danger with confirmation bias is that it may lead designers to downplay or even outright reject user feedback which contradicts their beliefs. Moreover, confirmation bias makes us more susceptible to other cognitive biases (e.g clustering illusion and false causality bias) which can lead us to find non-existent patterns and causal relationships in order to confirm our hypotheses. It also makes us prone to asking leading questions so that we receive responses that validate our beliefs. Framing Effect The framing effect describes how we tend to make decisions based on how information is presented rather than on the information itself. When we fall prey to the framing effect, our design decisions may be influenced by how the user data is presented. For example, a study by Nielsen Norman Group found that 51% of designers felt that a certain search function should be redesigned when told that “4 out of 20 users did not find the search function”. However, when told that “16 out of 20 users found the search function”, only 39% of designers called for a redesign. Though both statements describe the same result, different conclusions were reached based on how the statement was presented. IKEA Effect Ever heard of the phrase “Don’t fall in love with your idea?” This is a common piece of advice given to designers to warn them against the IKEA effect, which is our tendency to place a disproportionately high value on the things we create. Furthermore, the more resources we invest into building something, the harder it is to abandon it. Like confirmation bias, the IKEA effect may lead to overstating data that validates our existing ideas while dismissing those that don’t. False Consensus Bias The false consensus bias describes our tendency to assume that most people think like we do. As designers, we often can’t help but view the product from our own perspective and therefore can’t see why others would think any other way. When this happens, we fail to recognise and acknowledge our assumptions, causing us to overestimate the number of people who will agree with our designs. The danger with this is that it may lead us to avoid testing our ideas altogether. Overcoming Personal Biases in Design Our personal biases can creep into all areas of the design process — from user research and problem definition to prototyping and testing. Although we cannot completely eliminate them, we can take steps to limit their influence on our decisions. Combat your biases with these steps: Know Your Bias “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu Overcoming biases first starts with “knowing the enemy” — understanding the different types of biases and how they can affect your decision making. Next, reflect on the biases you are most susceptible to and when they are likely to happen so that you can start taking steps to overcome them. Understanding cognitive biases and how they affect the way people behave also has an added benefit of helping you understand your users better. This enables you to design more desirable and inclusive products and services. To find out more about the common types of cognitive biases, this infographic by Business Insider is a great place to start. You can also refer to the cognitive bias codex for a more comprehensive list of cognitive biases. List and Challenge Your Assumptions Avoid false consensus bias by acknowledging the assumptions that you are making about users’ preferences and behaviours. You can start being more self-aware of your assumptions by listing them in a Word document as you are brainstorming solutions to a problem or while you are designing a product. For example, say you have a brilliant idea about a new feature. Start by asking yourself, “What will users think about this feature?” and “Why might users find this feature useful?”. Write your answers down — these are your assumptions! This list of assumptions will then form the basis of your user research objectives and questions. When testing your assumptions, it is also useful to adopt a mindset that seeks to challenge your assumptions rather than seek to prove them right. I find that this helps to prevent confirmation bias and makes you less prone to asking leading questions. Check for Leading Questions A leading question is a type of question that has an implication so that respondents are prompted to give the desired response. Leading questions should be avoided because they make it hard or awkward for users to share what they really think, resulting in inaccurate user feedback. When we are affected by confirmation bias or the IKEA effect, we are more likely to ask leading questions (often unintentionally) that confirm our biases and assumptions. For example, you may strongly believe that a search function should be included in your product. A common question to ask might then be, “What did you find useful about the search function?”. This question is problematic because it prompts the user to give reasons on why the search function is useful although he/she might not think that it is useful in the first place. While we cannot completely eliminate our biases, we can keep them from affecting the accuracy of user feedback by being mindful of leading questions in surveys or when running user interviews. Below are some tips on how you can avoid asking the the user leading questions: Ask open-ended questions that allow users to freely express their views Do not embed assumptions about what the user feels and thinks Avoid suggesting answers or solutions Offer opposing adjectives (e.g. what do you find useful or not useful?) Hear from Multiple Perspectives Another effective way to combat personal biases is to hear from multiple perspectives. As a general rule of thumb, it is a best practice to seek feedback on your designs whenever possible. Aside from users, seek feedback from other people like product owners, developers, and fellow designers within and outside of your product team. Although these people do not represent the user, they may be able to identify your inherent biases and assumptions. You can also consider getting a neutral party — someone who is not involved in the development of the product — to test your ideas. Doing so limits the introduction of biases during usability testing sessions as a neutral party is less susceptible to biases like the IKEA effect or confirmation bias. And finally, when possible, try to involve members of your product team when reviewing findings from usability testing / user interview sessions. You can do this by getting team members to observe the sessions remotely before reviewing the key observations and findings together. This helps to prevent biases from influencing the conclusions drawn from such studies. Final Thoughts Personal biases have and will continue to shape and influence the decisions that we make. When we fail to acknowledge our own biases, they can lead us to make wrong design decisions that harm the user experience. While we are unable to completely eliminate our biases, we can take steps to limit their impact on our ability to make objective decisions. This starts with being more self-aware of our biases and understanding when we are most susceptible to them. We can then limit their influence over our decisions by actively recognising and challenging our assumptions, checking for leading questions, and hearing from multiple perspectives.

What No One Tells Yo...

I am particularly keen on design systems and by that I mean obsessed. I often read online articles and enjoy studying the design systems of different organisations. In this article, I shall not delve into the definition of a design system or how to start one — Google ‘design system’ and I’m sure you’ll find a ton of resources. Instead, I’ll be sharing more specific learnings from my experience working with and building one. Hopefully, these insights will help you build your own design system more efficiently. 1. Get buy-in across teams This is the most important step to me — a design system is all about improving collaboration between teams. Therefore, it’s important to let these teams in on the process: Design team When you are working on an existing design system or building one from scratch, share your approach with both your internal design team and your client’s design team. What makes sense to you might not work or adequately cover the scenarios they are working on. Front-end team It’s always a good practice to check in early and frequently with your developers. There is nothing worse than spending time, effort, and money to create a component only to realise later that it may be too complicated to implement or may not work well with existing code. Business team One of the most common responses I receive whenever I begin this process is “Why?” It may seem unnecessary to talk to your business team about a design system. However, explaining to your business team what a design system is, the value it brings to the business, and why your products need to adhere to the design system is an important step to minimise friction. (Getting buy-in from the design and front-end team will also help!) No buy-in vs. with buy-in Every team has a different language. Understanding what brings value to each team and framing it in a way that is relevant to them is key to getting buy-in across teams. Key takeaway: Involving different teams in the process helps to challenge your assumptions. Furthermore, it helps to validate what you are creating is something that users can not only understand, but also want to use. 2. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution When I first started working, I had a grand plan of creating the perfect design system by meshing the best practices from established design systems. I considered many things like — What were the best font sizes to use? What were the best spacing rules to follow? What was the best interaction for the component? But after scouring through countless articles and checking out awesome design systems from Atlassian, Google, Shopify, and more, I realised that there was no such thing as perfect. Each design system had its own purpose and goals. Therefore, understanding the needs of your product and teams, as well as how it will be used will help you decide what works best for your design system. Key takeaway: Look at the design system as a living document that should constantly evolve along with your products, tools, and technology. You may not get it right the first time but that’s alright — just try and try again! 3. Align on terminology This may seem pretty obvious, but what one thing means to you may mean something entirely different to someone else. For instance, a designer may use the term ‘dialog box’, while a developer may refer to it as a ‘modal’ and a business team may simply call it a ‘pop up’. Referring to the same component by different names creates confusion between teams or even teammates, resulting in additional time and effort to communicate and clarify. Key takeaway: Collectively discuss and establish the terminology that will be used throughout the documentation in advance. 4. Keep it simple — design only what you need If I find my teammates asking me where certain components are, how it works, or notice them taking more time than they should to decide between what components to use, I’ll make a mental note to look into those areas. I believe that a good design system should be intuitive to use. I’ve come across design systems with a comprehensive library of fonts, colours, and components — some of which may not have an actual use case at all but are just there for the sake of it. While I understand the intention of providing more variety, having unnecessary choices may create inconsistencies and increase the decision points designers have to make. Key takeaway: Every component in the design system should be intentional, thoughtful, and reusable — create them with actual use cases in mind. Regularly check in with your teammates to ensure that you’re creating a design system that adds value to their workflow. 5. Create a formula for scale It’s not uncommon for designers to create based on what they see on their own screen. Using a formula is often neglected for things like type, icons, spacing increments, interactions, or behaviours. E.g. Using a constant multiplier to derive font sizes and line heights creates a clear hierarchy for all types of experiences vs. random font sizes created based on what designers deduce from their own screens. Formula I’ve used for calculating type scale Key takeaways: Using a formula makes it easier to scale design systems and remember variations off-hand. In conclusion, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creating a design system. However, to find out what best works for you, one mustn’t neglect collaborating with teams, understanding product needs, and acquiring constant feedback.

How Reframing User's...

About a year ago, I decided to switch from an iPhone to an Android phone. However, if I had known that a certain interaction in Spotify isn’t available on Android, I might have strongly reconsidered my decision back then — more so than the US banning the phone manufacturer a few months later. On Spotify for iOS, I could easily swipe left on a song to add it to the queue which strongly suited my listening style. Imagine my frustration when I made repeated swiping attempts on my new phone but it just didn’t queue the song. My mental model of the interaction wasn’t realised. Instead, I found out that I had to do a few more taps to queue the song. This friction affected my experience with the app and I still resent the extra steps to this day. (And it seems like I’m not the only one). Mental model, in product design, is a set of expectations and belief that users have about how the product will function and behave which are based on their experience of using the product previously or of other products. One of the challenges of designing a brand new product or redesigning an existing one is ensuring that the solution matches the user’s mental model as it plays a part in its usability, desirability, and user experience. There had been instances where a new design were unfamiliar to the users which had led to undesirable effects— beyond just adding a song to queue. Fiat Chrysler recalls 1.1 million cars as new design of gear shifters confuses drivers But does it mean that the design always has to match the user’s mental model exactly? As models are creations of belief and experience, it can be reframed if the change is in lockstep or the user might already possess another model that’s based on their experience from other products. Recently, I was lucky enough to make use of the latter for a redesign work. My colleague and I had to conceptualise and redesign a case management application used by career coaches. Career coaches do an exceptional job in helping job-seekers realise their career aspirations and improve their job readiness to secure quality jobs. However, they were let down by a buggy and outdated application that had several issues with usability and technical reliability. After conducting several user interviews and contextual inquiries with the coaches and a support network of other officers, one of the main pain points they faced was tracking the progress of the jobseeker. There were multiple tabs sectioned according to the aspects of the case such as background, education, readiness, job search, and more. Coaches, support officers, and career matching partners would need to update accordingly into the tabs as they engaged with the jobseeker through various sessions. This makes it quite difficult to track the jobseeker’s progress clearly as the notes were written across different tabs by several people. And many had resorted to using their personal spreadsheets just to keep track of all their jobseekers. So, we ideated on how we might improve case and performance tracking of jobseekers for the coaches. If we were to think of an existing product that allows us to be updated on various activities in a timeline, including being able to post and see posts by others too, you would easily think of any number of popular social media apps that already exists. Subsequently, we prototyped a feed-like design where the user is able to record a note, tag it according to relevant topic(s), and post it on the jobseeker’s feed. We carried out several rounds of tests and iterations with the users and gave them tasks such as adding an engagement note and viewing notes related to a certain topic. These were some of their responses: Career coaches respond to the redesigned case management prototype Most of the coaches were familiar with the design as they have a mental model from their experience using Facebook or similar social media apps. According to Jakob’s Law, one of the laws of UX, users spend most of their time on other sites, so they would prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. The learning process for users can be simplified by providing familiar design patterns. But beyond solving to improve the usability in recording engagement notes and keeping track of the jobseeker’s progress, we challenged ourselves to think of how to further assist the coaches with the redesign. Another pain point that the coaches face was the heavy use of their time to search and recommend relevant jobs for the jobseeker as there was a separate job portal to access, as well as transference of information between systems and the jobseeker. As this is time taken away from providing more valuable service to the jobseeker, we decided to think of a new design that could address this. Using an in-built assessment report with profiling of the jobseeker and the engagement notes being added progressively, the captured data points would then be used by the system to suggest relevant jobs that are suited for the jobseeker and pulled from the job portal. By cutting down on these manual tasks, the coach’s time can be better spent towards providing more valued and targeted counselling for the jobseeker. Not only did we reframe the users’ mental model of how they can interact with the application, we also highlighted the additional value it can bring to their work. Ultimately, as product and UX designers, we should always strive to design beyond making a product more usable and user-friendly, and ensuring that it also brings added and significant value to their experience. To achieve this, reframing of mental models paired with user research and testing is key. Here are some interesting reads on mental models in design: Mental models in UX Design in examples Mental models and the evolution of an idea A Very Useful Work of Fiction — Mental Models in Design

Growing Your Empathy...

“The cool thing about being a designer is that we get to live so many different lives.” This was something I was once told and has stayed with me. In the short span of time I’ve been working as a designer, I’ve had the privilege of designing for — and walking in the shoes of — people living with diabetes, corporate bank staff, parents having to register their children for secondary schools, ship capacity operators, and employment agents for foreign domestic workers. Designing for such a broad spectrum of people with very different experiences from my own underscores the well-known yet nebulous trait all great designers need: Empathy, the holy grail of UX Design. While designers have a wide range of tools to “build empathy for the user” — empathy maps, storyboards, user personas and such, a question I often think about is — how often is this genuine empathy versus a mere means to an end? Learning True Empathy From Non-Designers Wanting to get away from the concept of empathy as a design buzzword, I looked to other professions where empathy is foundational. As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just making interesting connections between things.” Artwork Credit: Jessica Walsh 1. Learning from actors: Think of the backstory An actor’s job is to embody and tell the story of a character that potentially bears no resemblance to his or her own life. How does he do it convincingly? Patrick Allen, a former theatre actor, writes about how theatre fundamentally “unveils the complexities of human emotions and explains why people do the things they do — two essential building blocks of empathy.” He shared how after playing Don John in Much Ado About Nothing, he learned about the multi-faceted nature of the villain, including his painful childhood. This helped him understand that there were complex reasons why he behaved the way he did. This impacted how he saw others in his day to day life as well. Empathy muscle exercise: Think of someone you don’t normally see eye-to-eye with. (This could be anyone from a difficult colleague to your mother.) Fill out an empathy map about them to understand them better. Ask them to walk you through their day. 2. Learning from counsellors: Active listening I once took a short counselling course, and it fundamentally changed how I listen and respond to a conversation with someone facing a challenging issue. My key learnings were: Reflect back / paraphrase what your friend has shared (to acknowledge they are heard) Respond with observations or questions, not long personal stories Don’t give advice This has made me more empathetic as it taught me to put their needs first. In a world where we are constantly distracted, active listening is a rare gift. It’s easy to just share a similar story of someone else we know or offer a solution without actually listening to the problem, to make us feel like we have done our jobs as friends or family. These techniques helped me to slowly coax people out of their shell rather than take over their personal space: Empathy muscle exercise: The next time you have an extended conversation with someone, try not to rush into giving your two-cents’ worth. For example, if your friend says that his department at work is in the midst of letting people go: Try not to say: - I know what you mean! Let me tell you about the time I was retrenched… - Maybe it won’t affect you! You should stay positive! Instead, try: - I noticed that you look tired. How has this affected your rest? - What I’m sensing is that that you’re worried about not being able to provide for your kids. Am I getting that right? Could you share more? 3. Learning from non-profits and charities: Create together A common thread weaved through many well-established organisations working for social good is the importance of partnering together with people on the ground. This means avoiding the saviour complex of being the superior external party who thinks they know better. Crucial aspects include building relationships with the parties affected, listening to them, generating ideas, and co-creating together. From Dick and Rick: A Visual Primer to Social Design, by the Centre of Urban Pedagogy, the Equity Collective and illustrator Ping Zhu. It sheds light on how good community-engaged practices advance social justice, and poor practices hurt and field and communities it claims to serve. Empathy muscle exercise: Think about the last time a decision was made before you were consulted and had affected you. How did it feel? How did it impact you? Think of a situation — whether on a design project, personal project, or even a personal matter where you might potentially be making decisions that affect the lives of others. How can you involve them? 4. Learning from conflict resolution experts: Equalise the scale In her book, The Art of Gathering, conflict resolution expert and master facilitator Priya Parker writes about a more human-centred and thoughtful approach to gatherings. One concept I found particularly interesting was the idea of equalising your guests. Most gatherings have an imbalance in status some way or another between their guests, real or imagined, such as between a CEO and an intern at a company event, or at party where the loudest person dominates. Parker writes about the different ways to manage this. One interesting example of equalising the scales is setting temporary rules at a dinner party, such as no one is allowed to talk about their job until the end of the night. Empathy muscle exercise: Think of some ways you can equalise the scale, whether in the context of a group of colleagues, friends, or even in a user interview. What temporary rules can you set — in the form of dress and rules of speaking up? Conclusion: True empathy takes practice True empathy is a big step out of anyone’s comfort zone. It’s a muscle I constantly need to exercise. It takes courage and effort. But it is only through building the empathy habit in our day to day lives when making the right decisions during our design work will eventually become automatic, genuine, and natural. Let’s make the effort to become humbler, kinder, and just better human beings — it will only make us better designers. A sign I saw in New York in February 2016, three months after Donald Trump was elected as president.

Second-Order Effect ...

In the early 20th century, the French colonial government in Hanoi declared war on the exploding rat population by placing bounties on these little creatures. All people had to do was to submit the tails of the rats they had killed to claim their reward. Within days, wave after wave of eager civilians submitted rat tails in droves. While the officials were excited by this development, there were a few twists in the story. Rats were rampant in early 20th century Hanoi, posing a significant health risk to the population. Strange sightings of tail-less rats were reported in the city, and people soon realised that it was the work of unscrupulous bounty-seekers. To add fuel to the fire, enterprising people began to breed rats for their tails in illegal farms, seeking to enhance their livelihood via the lucrative trade of rat-hunting. Known as the Great Hanoi Rat Hunt, this case study is a classic example of the Cobra Effect phenomenon, whereby an unintended (and disastrous) consequence arises from a well-meaning solution. More importantly, we are going to talk about the Second Order Effect, a concept that informs everything we know about the Cobra Effect. So, What Is The Second Order Effect? Second Order Effect in a nutshell. Second Order Effect refers to the idea that every action has a consequence, and each consequence has a subsequent consequence. In other words, this means that a single decision can initiate a series of cause-and-effects, something which we might not have knowledge or control of. Therefore, it can be very difficult for us to predict possible implications of the original decision (unless we are somehow blessed with an all-seeing crystal ball). As product design and strategy practitioners, we might not necessarily be paying attention to the Second Order Effect when we make certain decisions. This is because we are oblivious to the subsequent consequences (2nd order and thereafter), beyond the desired outcome (1st order) we want to achieve. How Does The Second Order Effect Affect Us? Similar to the concept of duality, there are benevolent Second Order Effects and malevolent Second Order Effects. Needless to say, benevolent (and by default, beneficial) Second Order Effects are always welcomed, but we need to be mindful and understand that malevolent Second Order Effects can turn into nasty Cobra Effects if left unchecked. How the Great Hanoi Rat Hunt transpired. Note how the malevolent 2nd and 3rd Order Effects mutated into Cobra Effect (red background circle). To provide you with another example of a malevolent Second Order Effect, let’s imagine if we were tasked to design a resume optimiser for a job portal. With this feature, we definitely hope that our job seekers will get a higher chance of interviews from employers (1st order). However, unforeseen possibilities might exist, such as unwitting applicants using the optimiser to create a factually incorrect resume (2nd order), or employers distrusting the job portal due to the massive number of applicants with previously submitted resumes (3rd order). How it might go wrong for a resume optimiser in a job portal. So, How Can We Predict The Second Order Effect? Unfortunately, there is no easy way to predict the Second Order Effect. My favourite method is to employ laddering questions during user research sessions. You might have heard of the laddering approach via the popular “5 Whys and 5 Hows” technique, but our aim here is not to focus on the “Whys” (the root cause of an issue), but rather on how the “Hows” of a specific goal are achieved. Going back to the example of the resume optimiser, the following hypothetical “Hows” questions illustrate how we can identify potential red flags from users: ___________________________________________________________________ Researcher: “How do you think the resume optimiser can help you get a job interview?” User: “I think this feature will allow me to refine my resume to a point that I will stand out more among other applicants.” Researcher: “Can you elaborate how?” User: “Probably the new keywords recommended by the optimiser will showcase my professional ability better. I might be even inspired to add in new keywords which might be related.” Researcher: Can you tell me how would you think of new keywords? User: “I’ve done a basic course on Microsoft Excel a couple of years ago. Since the resume optimiser recommended me to add Microsoft Word as a keyword, I think I can add Microsoft Excel to my resume…” ___________________________________________________________________ While we can see that the resume optimiser is fulfilling its original purpose of helping the user (1st order), there exists a worrying prospect that the same user might add in information that is not reflective of his true ability (2nd order). Imagine what can possibly happen if the employer interviews our user and discovers his “actual” Microsoft Excel skills… So, How Can We Solve The Second Order Effect? The Second Order Effect is multifactorial by nature. Most of the time, it could be the combination of many things, such as product eco-system, business requirements, or even human nature (in the case of the Great Hanoi Rat Hunt). It only takes a well-meaning decision to start an unknown firestorm. My advice is to stay calm and think deeper. What we have basically done is to uncover another problem statement which can be solved via good design methodologies. Knowing when and where to anticipate Second Order Effects is important to Systemic Design, a concept that is increasingly gaining traction. Conclusion As product design and strategy practitioners, the last thing we want in the world is to have our products misused in the worst possible manner. While answering our users’ needs is important, we should always be mindful of the Second Order effect and the potential implications it might bring. Let’s think deeper, always!

Tracing My Journey T...

5 years ago, I started out as a web designer. I earned a living working with Photoshop and communicating using terminology like Mastheads, Image Thumbnails, Breadcrumbs, and Carousels. Life was simple. Fast forward to the present, I have inadvertently crept into the UX industry. Along the way, I have learned processes, methodologies, and tools that UX designers used. Terminologies like double diamond, affinity clustering, and “how might we” statements are familiar concepts to me. But as this article from https://trends.uxdesign.cc/ highlights, designers are at risk of becoming too obsessed with methods, and neglecting the need to empathise and design responsibly for the good of our users. Frankly speaking, my understanding of responsible or ethical design is rather superficial. It was only on a recent project that I started to reflect and reassess my attitude and approach towards my work. Even though our processes and methods were thorough, I found myself encumbered with a product redesign that failed its users dramatically. I was working on a major release of a newly revamped mobile application and the public response was filled with nothing but hostility. Excerpts from actual user feedback: User-unfriendly. Full of trick to make you loose your money. No respect for the user. Because of that, I lost $10 from my balance. Please explain why you deduct money for no reason. Is this how you make money by hiding all charges details from your users? What Went Wrong? It was only by going through feedback and connecting with users that I learned about their pains and frustrations, and this revealed an alarming consensus: Users felt deceived by the product. Many experienced loss of money and in short, the design caused them more harm than good. Why Did Users Feel Deceived? We forced the design update on users This made it difficult for them to access features they used on a regular basis. By pressuring them to conform to the redesign, we caused a mental model discordance which resulted in major backlash. Ouch. We hid essential information which were instrumental in decision making Even though the intention of the design was good, the manifestation of this misinformation eventually helped drive short-term business revenue. Unfortunately, this was achieved at the expense of users’ trust and well-being. Start By Changing The Way I Worked Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. We are operating in an economy rooted in trust and reputation (ask yourself, would you rather book a hotel with less than 3 reviews or one with more than 10?). As a designer, I needed to understand the importance of building and maintaining this relationship if I wanted to create experiences that would leave a positive impact on people and the world. So how can I change the way I work? Quit being lazy and stop parking information in the fine print or terms and conditions Remember the last time a request from the client came for new content/clauses to be added just when you thought your design was pixel perfect? Guilty as charged — I have been fond of prioritising the integrity of my design and parking these information in the footer as an afterthought. The irony is that this ends up affecting the integrity of the user experience and reflects badly on the designer. Never neglect the users’ context of use I was accustomed to using use cases and edge cases to anticipate design issues that I frequently overlooked the context of use. To save time on design, I had crafted solutions with the assumption that users have access to the same things I do. And this is dangerous. In the case of my project, assuming users had access to wifi/mobile data caused considerable amounts of unexpected monetary loss. Never procrastinate issues, constantly evaluate decisions When facing tight timelines, it is easy to leave issues until after product launch to fix. While I have to learn to prioritise, it is also equally important to constantly evaluate the impact of my design by using worst-case scenarios and asking myself: Will this improve the experience for my users? Am I making it worse for others? Will it upset me if this happened to me? When a product is launched, features tend to stay untouched for a longer period than anticipated and improvements or iterations may get pushed back. Would I want users to experience more negative repercussions for a longer time than intended? With the prevalence of design and technology in our everyday lives, the potential harm they can cause is extensive. The existence of dishonest and deceptive designs are a poignant example of how little designers and businesses care about users. As a designer who still hopes to make a little impact on our world, I choose to care and this reason is good enough for me to start now.

If Everyone Is A Des...

Just like many practitioners, you will have probably found yourself mumbling under your breath at some point, “everyone thinks they’re a designer [nowadays].” If you haven’t, a quick Google search might help contextualise what I’m trying to say. The frustration stems from having to work alongside individuals who have little first-hand experience in the discipline, but have much to say about the direction of your design work. In more extreme cases, they’d also have hardly any empathy for your expertise and effort. It’s easy for them to feel that way, especially when the project’s success hinges on making the “right (subjective) call”. It occurs when the outcome depends on a decision that draws on “good taste” — whether the decision was made consciously, based on experience, or as an upshot of luck. Come to think of it, we’re not alone. It’s a bit like cooking… The barrier to entry is low. It’s fair to assume every household should be capable of doing it (cook). In fact, some people who do not do it as a profession, can actually produce very good meals. So then, why do we need chefs? Why do restaurants continue to exist? It is encouraging they still do. While convenience may be a part of the reason, I’d argue that we find delight in and appreciate the unique expertise they bring. It’s rather an aspect of selection than just a dash of salt and pepper. As a customer, this happens when you pick the dish you fancy, along with the recommended drink pairing. Regardless, this act is but just the tip of the ice berg. We often do not recognise the unseen depth of labour, technique, and knowledge. This is where respect resides. As a designer, it’s best to accept that this will always be a sentiment people will hold. It won’t go away. But, let your practice and experience build such that when the time comes, your counterparts would feel, “I’m glad to have you around. There’s no way I could have designed something like that.” Ideally, you’d be filing that void with both craft and artfulness (creativity). On Craft And Intuition This concerns the old-school appreciation for repetitive practice. You’ll know of this as the “again” and “again”. In the classic atelier, assuming it were a 4 year course of study, you’d only be touching colour beyond the third. The first two would be exclusively focused on mark-making in black and white. It’s formulated to enforce dedicated focus in honing those fewer crucial characteristics to perfection, before introducing more complex elements. The well-cited “it takes about 10,000 hours before to become decently good at anything” rule by Gladwell that comes to mind. I never had that privilege to be schooled in this way. Yet, I’m quite conscious of how our beloved design field has become a victim to a lack of appreciation as of late. Don’t get me wrong: the point here is about how genuine practice builds that experience; nothing about the necessity of a formal design education. The product of this great effort is the development of sensitivities and intuition. Now, to put this under the fire: Given the rise of data-driven and evidence-based decision-making, the trending dominant prescription in methodology requires validation or testing of some kind. Without which, in the affairs of the current market, we cannot possibly prove that we’re doing design in any marketable form. What then for us? Adapt like how manufacturing did with the rise of machinery? Adapt like how every knowledge worker will have to with the rise of acutely algorithmised processes (AI)? On Artfulness And Individuality Sensitivities and intuition will always matter. Figures and research will play their part in informing what they should. But like many domains in this world, it’s the careful balance and play between the “art and science” where we reap the best results. Practically speaking, it’s impossible to “go out and verify with your users” on every single item in your battery of features. It’s not wise, it’s wastefully silly. Experienced judgement helps eliminate plenty of unnecessary assumptions — it’s the right type of educated guess that you want. Lastly, with regards to best practice versus “ingenuity”, there’s a little analogy I often like to draw on. Give a bit of thought to the “spirit” of design which best describes what is needed: in the vein of McDonald’s or that of a Michelin-starred restaurant? You could also say that they both deliver “high quality food with great success”. One staple, quick, and impeccably standardised. The other, distinct, esoteric, and not for every tongue. There is room for both. Pick what represents you best and go with it. Design has always been around. And it’ll always continue to be.

Why Organisations Mu...

To ensure their clients get the best experience, building a design-driven culture is essential for every organisation that wants to go beyond just selling their products. At present, many firms that are interested in improving the customer’s experience, building brand loyalty, and remaining competitive have made design a core part of their business. Design is a change tool that is capable of transforming how organisations carry out their activities and build their brands. It helps to bring order and coherence to a seemingly complex world through empathy and user research. “It helps to bring order and coherence to a seemingly complex world through empathy and user research.” Design is not driven by technology, but rather by the needs and urgency to create an organisation that can accommodate empathy, diversity, security, and equality. Design also involves building a constructive feedback channel that allows design decisions to hinge on business objectives and goals rather than personal preferences. Building a design-driven culture starts with placing customers at the centre of the problem-solving equation. Design companies do not only strive to understand what customers want, but they also research and know why they want it. “In most cases, customers even place more importance on the experience they get while purchasing a product than how the product performs.” This is because it is difficult to separate the experience a customer has when buying a product from the actual product performance. In most cases, customers even place more importance on the experience they get while purchasing a product than how the product performs. A design-driven culture that seeks to give customers the best experience isn’t just for startup companies alone; even large organisations must ensure that their customers have the best experience throughout the buyer’s journey. Benefits of Building A Design-Driven Culture Organisations that build a design-driven culture enjoy so many benefits, including: Stock market lead: A recent research by the Design Management Institute’s Design Value Index indicates that design-driven companies have maintained stock lead ahead of others by outperforming the S&P 500 by an extraordinary 219 per cent over the past ten years. And that is why so many companies are committed to improving user experience, driving growth and remaining competitive using design. Saves time and money: Design-driven organisations understand the business opportunity, focus on the right problems, map out the right business strategy and deliver the right outcomes to their customers. Learn from failures and successes: One key benefit of design-driven culture is that it helps team members learn from both their successes and failures while engaging in the design process. Organisations and team members that embrace learning are not afraid of making mistakes and create better ideas that solve problems in real-time. Key Elements of Design First, every organisation that embraces the use of design must have a perfect understanding of the customers need. This is because the difference between a design-driven company and other companies is their capacity to go beyond understanding what customers want and uncovering why they want it. Design-driven firms do not just rely on data, which may not account for the empathy metric. Instead, they turn to ethnographers who conduct interviews with shoppers, listen to customers, get feedback on how customers make use of a product, and record their experience they have thereafter. Secondly, the key to running a design-driven organisation is to ensure that the right sets of people are employed to carry out a given task. It is vital for every design-driven organisation to employ the services of a Chief Design Lead to take the lead on strategic business decisions and remain a primary customer advocate. He or she has a responsibility of translating business goals into customer-friendly initiatives by building a culture where employees strive to enhance the customer experience. Furthermore, an excellent customer-focused design must start with a braided approach that aligns design, technology, and business strategy, while keeping the customer’s experience in check. It also includes having people from different backgrounds such as industrial design, visual design, user experience, research, and rapid prototyping coming together to create a design that focuses on giving customers the best experience. “Furthermore, an excellent customer-focused design must start with a braided approach that aligns design, technology, and business strategy that aligns together while keeping the customer’s experience in check.” Also, design-driven organisations make use of iterative design processes that allow them to identify user needs through user research and generate ideas that meet their needs while developing a prototype. A design-driven organisation will also take the next step of testing the prototype to see if it meets their needs in the best possible way. The insights that were gathered from testing the prototype must be used in amending the design. Following that, the firm can create a new prototype and begin the process all over again until they are satisfied. 4 Steps to Building A Successful Design-Driven Culture Transforming an organisation into one that focuses on design as a change agent takes a lot of time. However, the steps listed below can help you with your transformation: Get a professional design coach: Every design-driven organisation needs the services of a design coaching professional or firm to ensure that design factors like customer experience are part of any business strategy. Review your metrics: It is also essential for every design-driven organisation to define and regularly review their design metrics and key performance indicators, and test them to discover areas where changes must be enacted. Work with the right set of people: To ensure that your transformation is a success, you must ensure that as an organisation, you work with the right people who ensure that your design actively contributes to business decisions and the development of experiences across the customer’s journey. Understand what motivates your customers: You can have a perfect understanding of what motivates the customer by using human-centred design research techniques that interact with customers and discover vital information about them. Finally, to become a leader in business, it is vital to build a culture of excellence where people feel comfortable to try out new things and encourage learning from failure. Implementing a design-driven culture will enable your organisation to clarify their objectives and deliver value to people in an effective and efficient way.

How To: Conduct Rese...

The designer came back and asked exasperatedly, “What do I do with this?” He was looking at a research report that was meticulously done, but that did not help translate into something that could inform ideas on a solution or even physical designs. I often get asked by clients, “How do you get from research to design?” I admit it’s not an obvious transition. You learn something about someone, designers go back to their desks, and all of a sudden you have a specific solution. How do we know that creation was founded on what we learned? It is a concern where we as researchers have to look at our own work and ask — are we serving designers with what they need in order to do their jobs? Are we speaking on behalf of the user in a way that will encourage creativity, possibility, vision? When our research does not bridge the gap between knowledge and creation, our research is useless. UX Research is meant to engage, inspire, and ultimately mobilize those who use it. This goes all the way back to when we embark on research and all the way to how we structure and communicate our findings. How can we make sure that research informs design? Ask the designer what he/she needs to know to do their job. I know it seems obvious, and sometimes the researcher IS the designer, and they still miss it. Even with designers, they may mentally disconnect the research activities from their design activities. I create objectives before I create any materials in the research, and those objectives are informed by what I want to know about the user and what the designer and developer want to know about the user. Ask yourself — “Does this get me closer to a solution if I know this?” One flaw that I see in analyzing data is that you analyze it and then you. report. everything. Not all information is useful. What information pushes the narrative of the user in a way where you can understand what goals they have, what type of solution they need, what user flows are necessary, what features are relevant, and what content is important at what time? These are all questions a designer is worrying about. If the information is “nice to know” but doesn’t inform them on this, you’ve wasted their time. Create an empathetic story. A big part of design thinking is having empathy for your users. This is powerfully relayed in the way that you explain and contextualize your research. Who are your users? The quickest way to predict what someone will do in a hypothetical situation is to understand about their motivations, attitudes, emotions, and their triggers(events that get them thinking about something your client is probably interested in). Paint a picture of them on that level, and people will be able to empathize because motivations can be shared, how we enact them in different context, cultures, etc. can be different. I walk clients through an “emotional user journey”, a journey that shows not only what they do but how they feel at each point in time and why. It helps clients experience the ecosystem they may be stepping into on a gut level. Highlight solvable problems. In design thinking, we want to create statements of possibility, an open invitation to consider alternatives. “How Might We… improve the way we track people’s time so that time sheets aren’t so painful to fill out?” “How Might We… reimagine a toothbrush so that users can reduce their environmental impact?” Our research should help inform these ideation questions. Represent the user. Research is a process often with documents to consolidate learnings but it shouldn’t stop at the document. Reports, personas, user journeys, etc. distill the rich information you have experienced in this process. If the researcher IS the designer, that’s amazing. Then the user lives on in the designer in a primary form. If the designer is NOT the researcher, the user lives on in the designer’s memory of the presentation and interpretation of the report — a secondary form. If this is the case, the researcher should be providing advice, reviewing, or co-creating with the designer. Research is not a powerful design tool unless you approach it knowing what it will be used for. Why should businesses care that we approach research right? Research gives us confidence that we are looking at the right problems. All good projects must start with truly addressing real problems — otherwise, you’re wasting a lot of money on creating something that is solving a problem no one had. Subsequently, how do we know we are meeting the needs of our users? Research helps businesses establish a baseline for success metrics. Good initial research helps us measure our return on investment. Why should designers care that we approach research right? Research should be one of the most impactful tools in a designer’s toolkit. Research ensures decisions are focused and informed. It keeps stakeholders and designers honest about the design decisions they make (or argue over) because the rationale from the research should back it up. Research at the beginning isn’t the end-all-be-all. It’s an informed starting point. As we progress, we learn more. But it provides more confident user assumptions to start with. Designs can create targeted user tests (does our design solve the problems we revealed in the research?) so that we can continually clarify what we know and whether or not we are on the right track. Research is okay when it addresses gaps in our knowledge: “I want to know you”. Research is a powerful tool when it bridges the gap between knowledge and possibility: “I want to know you so that I can help you.”