UX Collective

UX Collective

Curated stories on user experience, usability, and product design.

UX Collective

UX Collective

Becoming a Manager, Neumorphism, CSS Stats — and more UX this week

A weekly selection of design links, brought to you by your friends at the UX Collective.

Wait, do you really want to become a design manager?

As part of the mentorship sessions I have been running for the past couple years, one question frequently comes up: “What do I have to do to become a design manager?”

The question often comes from designers who have been at a Senior level for some time, now looking to be promoted to a Lead/Manager role in their companies. Instead of prematurely jumping into giving them tactical advice, I throw back another question that can often feel unsettling: “Why?”
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How speculative design can enable thinking beyond the status quo

What does the term ‘speculating’ mean for you and your design practice?

Seiko Mikami, Desire of Code 2010

Designing has always been about people; observing and understanding a peoples’ problem to the solution. Though a simple idea in concept, when met with profit-driven goals and current consumerist demands, design as a profession becomes a marketing and commercial reflex. Looking back into pivotal moments of early human history, one can weave together thousands of great artists and designers from all walks of life into an incredible image of design excellence.

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Why UX design still needs white space

This article explores the concept of white space and how it can address some of the challenges faced by designers in interaction and experience design.

White space is a critical concept in graphic design where white “empty” spaces around things and between things are essential to good design. In the increasingly complex digital and digital-physical space, designing experiences with digital white space brings much-needed focus to user needs.

The purpose of white space in interaction design

White space between elements on a page provides a contrast to content. It gives things space to “breathe” and allows the focus of the page to be clear. Even the spaces within and between letters in typography are integral to the legibility of a typeface.

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Understanding affordances in UI design

Illustration of button wireframe with outline

Affordances are the properties of an object that help a user understand that they can interact with it, and the type of interaction that may be involved. Designing user experiences with affordance in mind is crucial in order to ensure a user understands what they can do across sections of a product or app.

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Why is it so hard to manage designers?

Problems with the current state of our industry, and tips to fix them.

I have a confession to make. As a young Design ‘pioneer’ in many tech companies, I always felt like I had to deal with some sort of unfairness: all I wanted to do was ‘design’ — have the peace of mind to solve business problems by making cool things, in some fun, efficient, collaborative way — but I had to spend most of my energy advocating for obvious best practices and processes across the entire company. I often wished someone could remove that burden from me and just let me do my thing.

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What can Pablo Picasso teach us about Product Strategy?

In 1945 Picasso created probably his most famous set of bull drawings, called “The Bull”. The collection of 11 pictures starts with a series of drawings that start gaining detail and realism in the first iterations. But after the third, it starts moving towards cubism, dissecting the bull part by part, making each piece more abstract until it can be drawn with just a few lines but keeping its essence.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on art. But after going through a few rounds of Product Strategy definitions, I felt the artist had mastered a process that may help product leaders.

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Ways to quick start a taxonomy from scratch

If you’re creating your organization’s first centralized or enterprise taxonomy, the pressure is on. It’s a massive undertaking. You’ve got to show initial progress to further support for the project. And because it’s foundational, you’ve got to get a whole lot right from the beginning.

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Can we influence user’s choice? Behavioural economics in UX

Thinking requires a lot of cognitive effort. That’s why people choose the default or what’s the norm.

Illustration explaining that Behavioral Economics is a mix of psychology and economics

Can you guess which country citizens are the most likely to donate their organs? Netherlands or Belgium? Denmark or Sweden?

Let me briefly answer that question.

  1. Belgians are more likely to donate their organs then Dutch people.
  2. Swedish people are more likely to do the same and that’s how they differ from their neighbours' folks from Denmark.

Below you can see the chart that shows the organ donation consent rate for several countries in Europe. Including the mentioned ones above.

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The magic missing link: design documentation

How the documenting process has developed foundations of product design practice.

When I was studying graphic design in college, there was always one thing required from every student at the end of the year — the process book. It was easy to tell which process books were scrapped together moments before the deadline. (Trust me, I tried once. My professors were not so impressed.)

It was in those developing years that I learned the importance and emphasis on process work as a way to help conceptualize patterns, relationships, and visual systems. Process made us diagnose the real design problems before we jumped into visual solutions.

Sound familiar?

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Implementing your new voice and tone

Implementing your new voice and tone

Just when you thought the hard part was over…

I’m rewriting a product that took 7 years to build. Seven years of complexity. Seven years of evolving market fit. Seven years of other people’s sweat and tears and dreams — both employees and users, the small business owners across the US who rely on us to fulfill the American dream— and I’m writing it all over again. It’s daunting and it’s an honor and it’s the experience of a UX writer’s lifetime.

In part one of this series I talked about how we developed our new voice and prepared to apply it. In part two I talked about actually writing all the copy. And as promised, part three is here to describe, process, and learn from the implementation. I can break my takeaways into four categories:

1. Teamwork

What we learned about effective collaboration when everyone has great value to contribute but not everyone understands the value of the project

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3D Design is in — my journey into trying 3D for the first time

The page loads — a three-dimensional blob hits me — squishing around like a dismembered Pillsbury doughboy. 3D design is in and I have no idea how to get started…

It’s Thursday — 1 pm. Another shit-ass wintry day in NYC. I’ve just had a green smoothie (like an asshole) and design twitter is raging. A new, early access product has launched. I click.

Fuck…that’s cool.

The page is littered with 3D designs and animations.

Have you ever been here? Blankly staring at some design — desperately wishing you made it. I imagine that fucked up Mucinex-Booger whispering: “Brendan, you’re a shit designer. You’re too old? busy? stupid? 3D design is for cooler, hotter, less insecure designers.”

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UX Collective

UI testing for dummies

A Screen Sketch with Homer Simpson in the foreground, munching on a doughnut.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there lived the cult of UX Gods, who watched with careful consideration all that humankind did to make UX better, or like a certain burst of Flashpoint, annihilated the principles.

But how about UI testing? Should you start testing how it all looks?

The answer, in a nutshell, is both a Yes and No.

Now, why is that, Dear Baby Yoda? You ask.

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Are design patterns human enough?

Originally published by Modernist Studio.

The concept of “patterns” is a familiar one to designers; they are descriptions of repeatable forms that a given technology can take.

Most design patterns describe a way a person interacts with a technology. For example, the act of finding books (and everything else) is now largely dominated by Amazon. The Amazon app leverages countless technology patterns — from patterns dealing with information such as a “menu” and “search,” to those dealing with interactions such as a haptic buzz that confirms I’ve put something in my “cart.” The Amazon app orchestrates these technology patterns in a way that makes it nearly frictionless to shop, and the even larger technology pattern of almost “instant delivery” commanded from the app is becoming entrenched.

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Japan in the eyes of a user experience designer

Come along and discover my journey of exploring the land of the Rising Sun with my obsession for diving into why things work that way.

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity of visiting Japan for the first time, and although I already knew most of the things I was gonna be facing, I left a blank on my expectations to see if visiting a non-Wester country and how different their culture is could impress me and help me shape a more defined vision of what mostly TV and internet helped me define.

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Leadership coaching is systems design not problem-solving

House of carefully stacked Eames-designed cards on a table

I pride myself on being a problem-solver. I worked in design studios for 10+ years where we advised Global 500 companies on the Future of X where X could be connected TVs, social networks, connected homes, mobile devices, cities, etc. Clients came to us, the expert consultants, to create innovative design solutions to their problems. As a design leader in startups and large tech companies, my team was expected to design the North Star vision of where our products were going. We identified people’s unmet needs and provided a solution to their problems, whether they knew it was a problem or not. And sometimes in doing so, we unwittingly created other problems that we never expected.

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How Cisco built an enterprise design system

From scrappy to scale: What started as a labor of love resulted in saving thousands of hours of design and development time.

Scrappy and grassroots aren’t the words you might expect to describe something built by Cisco, one of the world’s largest IT companies, with more than 70,000 employees. But that’s how Kevin Smith describes developing Momentum, the design system that provides a cohesive experience across Cisco’s collaborative products, including Webex Meetings, Webex Teams, and Jabber. These tools are no small feat — they’re used by more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies.

Read the article (8 min read)
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Here’s how to impress your boss

Here’s how to impress your boss

Are you miserable at work? Do you feel misunderstood, like your boss is incompetent, unfair and/or doesn’t understand you? Well buckle your seatbelts, you’re in for a “you’re not alone” ride!

Person holding the side of sunglasses showing off a colored tooth in a cocky and cool sort of pose.

There may be many reasons for not getting along with your boss that are completely beyond your control. But before you let it affect your productivity, or even worse, quit your job and remain with a bad boss impression for the rest of your days, hear me out first.

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The evolution of UX Research: a job posting analysis

Presumably, most people employed in UX only browse and read job postings while actively seeking or considering a new position. However, everyone can learn from the contents of postings regardless of their current employment situation. They provide answers to questions, such as:

  • “I want to become a UX researcher. What should I learn?”
  • “I would like to specialize in UX research. Which competencies should I master?”
  • “I want to expand my UX research skills. Where should I start?”

While the UX researcher is the focus of this article, the process of learning from job postings can apply to any UX position. Whether a student, an entry-level practitioner, or a seasoned expert, there are many insights you can gain.

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UX Collective

Turtles all the way down

Defining a powerful experience strategy is one challenge. Being able to roll it out is another one. And to do it so that people want to follow and stay committed to it is the most crucial aspect of these two challenges. Only then your strategy becomes the basis for your organizational culture. And the only thing that matters is that you, as an organization, are aligned.

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The role of archetypes in enterprise user experience (EUX)

What is an Archetype?

Archetypes are behavioral perspectives of users towards a specific product. They contain details from user interviews around a group’s needs, motivations and pain-points. Archetypes most directly help determine the approach and functionality of a product’s experience, as well as contributing to determining, validating, and prioritizing product features.

Read the article (3 min read)