If you’re going to be designing a modern website and you’re not going to be handling any of the code then it’s in your best interest to work with the web developer to determine if there are better solutions to the problems you’ll be solving. This is one piece of advice that I kept coming back to as I was redesigning our platform as a web app.
About 6 months ago I redesigned our platform as a web app. When I finally started working with the developer we had to rethink a lot of the design to fit his skill set and to save on time and resources. I’m now at the tail end of the new design and hindsight is 20/20 so here are some important things I learned to always keep in mind while designing because they will save you from painful redesigns in the future.
I recently read an article about Facebook’s Search design team that was pretty eye opening. Their team is a close-knit group of people with different skill sets. They have engineers, developers and designers all on the same team because design issues are never just “design issues.” They require everyone’s input. It’s important to brainstorm solutions with developers for this reason and it should become a learning experience for everyone involved. The more a designer understands about a developers job and vice versa the less time is wasted in misunderstandings.
An experienced designer even talks about this being his biggest regret as a young designer because it leads to unnecessary arguments over who made the decisions. It’s much easier to build to the developer’s skill set and knowledge than to tweak your designs to fit it later. Because when it really comes down to it everyone in the team is working towards the same end goal; an enjoyable user experience.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of designing for yourself. I often find myself thinking, “How would anyone possibly be confused by [Insert UI pattern here]” only to read a study that disproves it’s efficiency the next week. We’re simply incapable of comprehending just how people are going to use our app so it’s important to have the research to back up our design choices.
Of course working for a startup on a budget this isn’t always that feasible and you’ll have to resort to trial and error but if you can implement some A/B testing it will help improve your design choices to help you have to fix errors later.
I’m a pretty big Redditor. I’ve spent quite a bit of time filtering through and subscribing to subreddits so that my feed is tailored to my interests. I use the iOS app Alien Blue that was recently acquired by Reddit and I’ve gotten my brother to start using it. The thing is my brother is pretty lazy when it comes to technology. I’ll show him things that I’ve learned or introduce him to some obscure subreddit and he always thinks I’m a genius or something because I took the time to figure out Reddit’s UI and how it works. I offer to show him how it works but he’s already disinterested from the 5 seconds he already invested into figuring it out. When I design I like to think that I’m designing for him because the truth is most users are lazy. People are already distracted by the influx of information that is constantly berating them all day that the last thing they want is to open your app and have to suddenly figure out one more thing in their already saturated lives.
When you look at the vast number of apps being downloaded every year your app quickly becomes a grain of rice in a football stadium of other things competing for a single person’s attention. With this being such a major problem with every new app available I think it’s safe to say that the user should remain the focus of every decision.
Deadlines remain as one of my biggest challenges since leaving school. Which is odd, right? You would think that projects and homework would help you the most when transitioning to the real world. The thing is when you have homework you’re working on it from home and you can spend as much time possible on a project. With my design projects, I would spend hours working on my projects trying to perfect them to get the best grade. This was all on my personal time and I would often have a month for a single project. I had the time to pour into these projects.
When I transitioned to working 8 hour days the time has seemed to fly by every day and it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day. So take those 40 hours I spent working on perfecting a single project for school and then throw in 20 more projects or multiply the extent of the project by 10 and you quickly realize that it’s not just about doing good work but it’s about doing good work efficiently in the constraints you’re given.
Working for a start-up is also a little hectic because we can change direction without a moments notice. One week I will have more fluid deadlines but the next week we got a new client and I have 15 new very solid deadlines by the end of the week. I’m still learning to work quickly and to adapt to change quickly because there’s now people relying on me and nothing is more intimidating than letting someone on the team down.
Of course, we all have different motivations but I think the important thing is to find what motivates you and use it to make the most of your time at work. That motivation is what elevates you to actually enjoying your work and if you don’t want to get burnt out, it’s necessary.
Looking back, I didn’t actively learn any of these things. It was only on looking back and picking apart my process that I was able to see some of these things. In the moment, I was just trying to solve problems but being able to step back and see the whole picture allows you to see ways to improve your process and be more efficient. Don’t get so caught up in working that you don’t find ways to maximize your efficiency. We should always be improving our process so we can spend the majority of our time on solving problems because when it comes down to it that’s all we are, problem solvers.