About a month ago, the design team here at MojoTech decided to attend the Experience Design Summit together. Well, as "together" as a global pandemic would allow. The virtual conference was a showcase for product designers at some of the worlds biggest and most popular tech companies. Going in, we were a bit skeptical, as this was the first virtual conference for any of us. Truth is, attending conferences in person is a real hit or miss when it comes to quality and usefulness, so we honestly didn't know what to expect. However it's safe to say we all left this conference thoroughly impressed! Kudos to the organizers. Now that some time has passed, and we have all had time to gather our thoughts after being blown away by the thoughtfulness of the talks, we have decided to take a slight detour from our weekly link roundup to share some of our favorite takeaways from the event. Enjoy.
I appreciated Justin Cohen (vis a vis Google)'s breakdown of how a product makes its way into an organization—specifically top-down vs. bottom-up adoption. A lot of the products I've worked on fit into the former category, but beyond "getting buy-in via personal relationship" I hadn't specifically considered what makes a product desireable to the C suite. Justin outlined speed—or the perception thereof—specifically as driving purchasing decisions. Much of our work is built on older, slower systerms, so finding ways to design better perceptions of time within the interface (especially highlighting what's fast) is going to be invaluable to making our work feel graceful to interact with.
This week, I wondered aloud to a teammate why a popular streaming service released a feature using two entirely different patterns for web and for mobile. “It’s probably cause they have two product teams who don’t talk to each other” was the quick reply.
Dropbox’s head of Design Nicole Torgersen addressed that problem in her talk Human Connection to Fuel Growth. She asked: How do you create consistent, effective products when working with lots of people across numerous teams? Of a number of principles she shared, two really stuck me as particularly relevant to my current client work.
First, be interested in people. Being genuinely interesting in what people do and what they’re working on will not only help you form relationships outside of your immediate team, but will also provide you insights into critical information you might not get through formal channels.
Secondly, she emphasized how the best design work happens when you are willing to step outside of the typical “designer” role. When working within a large organization, the ability to navigate relationships (read: politics) can be just as important as the design program or CSS you learned in school.
The talk "Starting with a blank canvas" by Angela Don of Coinbase was a deep dive into their workflow for starting a new feature from scratch. This is a problem that resonated with me, it can be very challenging to get the ball rolling on a design when anything is a possibility. The talk focused on defining a vision as a springboard, and gave some really practical strategies to doing this.
Of all the tips Angela gave, the most intriguing for me was the idea of defining the vision for the product as a press release. This really clicked with me. Basically this would challenge you to boil down the vision into a short format that hopes to encapsulate the problem, the solution, and the next steps, as a 'press release'. I think this can be a very helpful excersise since its a nice balance of restraints and flexibility. I'm eager to incorporate this activity into my work, as well as the other valuable tips Angela shared.
The talk by Minal Jain from Uber Eats on how they use research to impact strategy was amazing on so many levels. One piece that stood out to me was how they’ve adapted their service to allow for delivery to adhoc locations like a park. I can just imagine all of the possible use cases and the situations/environmental conditions that needed to be considered to deliver not only the food but also an optimal experience for everyone involved.
After listening to Justin Cohen from Google explain the challenges of designing for technical practitioners, it’s easy to see how people get upset or confused by rolling out a new design. We’re so in tune with how to do tasks in certain applications that we build muscle memory. We can picture what the UI will look like, what to click, what will happen first, second, and third. Suddenly your world can be tossed upside down when things aren’t where they used to be. Justin shared an example of how a group of users knew exactly where to find specific options in a page littered with checkboxes based on relative position in their viewport, and when a new design proposed a change to this their productivity suffered. It’s important to really think about each decision you make, and the impact it can have, positively or negatively on the user experience.