Tag: linked-post

Looking for design inspiration somewhere else

I always enjoy browsing the web in search of new design inspiration, but after browsing Dribbble, Instagram, Uplabs, etc. it’s hard not to feel that all designs look very same-y. And it’s only natural, it’s hard not to unconsciously follow trends. When you see design patterns everywhere as they become popular, they seep into your thought process without you even noticing.

Also, it’s not realistic to expect radical, new designs to be coming out all the time. For one, it’s hard to think of something completely new, and for another, you might not want to do that in the first place because when you trade the familiar for the new, you also trade previous knowledge for some learning curve. Using familiar design patterns reduces the burden on new users to learn how your product works since they’ve probably used something like it before and they can just focus on doing what they need, instead of puzzling over your innovative design.

But you can find ample design innovation in the details. You’d be surprised how often little details are behind people sticking with one product over another. One way I love finding design inspiration is from adjacent fields. For example, in the quote below, Jared Sinclair suggests borrowing an aspect from game onboarding design.

In Friday App Design Review – eHarmony, Jared Sinclair writes [emphasis mine]:

There are ten screens to choose from in the basement menu, and each screen has its own subcategories and sections. It’s difficult to figure out which, if any, is the main screen of the app.

Again, a solution could be to take a cue from video game design. Character abilities are rarely available all at once. They are unlocked as the gamer progresses through an in-game tutorial. New abilities are announced with little moments of fanfare, creating a sense of accomplishment and expertise.

That’s a great example of finding inspiration in an adjacent field. By the way, borrowing from game design in this case shouldn’t be confused with gamification. This is strictly onboarding design, not a gaming mechanic with trophies and such.

What’s the lesson here? Keep your radar on even when you’re not looking at design content. That’s where you’ll find the best kinds of inspiration. Happy designing & hunting. ❤︎

Sweating the details in design

Businesses prioritize what they can measure. Because what you can measure, you can improve. But not everything can be measured easily. If you only focus on what you measure, you miss out on the small stuff. The stuff that doesn’t make sense from an ROI perspective. But it just makes your product a joy to use.

Jared Sinclair writes in his post Friday App Design Review – Code Review, an Inbox for GitHub Pull Requests:

I like that when I tap the segmented control at the top, the master list animates in the direction of the selected tab. It creates a strong spatial memory, an important component of a comfortable app.

Jared Sinclair is an experienced designer and so he was able to explain why that little detail is worth having and how it makes the experience of using the product better. Few people can articulate their thoughts about a design with such clarity, but people will still pick up on those details. They might not be able to say why they like a product so much, but they know that it’s polished, that it was made with care. People can always tell when something was made with love and care, and it always results in a positive experience. No matter what you do, whether you work in design or not, put care into your work and you’ll be happier for it. You’ll be proud of what you made, and your customers will appreciate and respect it, maybe even love it.

Jared Sinclair’s design review of AnyList from 2014 is still worth your time

Design trends move quickly, so you might think that an app review from 2014 would be irrelevant today. But good design principles are timeless and you can still learn from old content if it’s good. iOS designer Jared Sinclair has a great series of design reviews from a few years ago that I find myself going back and rereading them every once in a while to get into a critical design mindset.

From 2014, Jared Sinclair, Friday App Design Review – AnyList, Shared Grocery Lists:

Implied borders are accomplished through the visual rhythm of multiple elements, identical in size and proportion, spaced at regular intervals. Elements of different sizes or shapes, or with an irregular arrangement, result in fuzzy implied borders. In an iOS app, fuzzy borders should be avoided, especially when arranging tappable elements.

The lesson above is a good, practical lesson that’s still valid today and you can apply it in your everyday design. It’s not some vague nonsense about color theory or grids that you come across all the time on Medium and Twitter.

Another snipped I liked:

This stock look doesn’t do AnyList any favors. As a subscription service, AnyList aspires to build a long-term relationship with its customers. Just like a dating relationship, this story will begin with visual attraction.

Not only does Jared talk about the importance of aesthetics but he also approaches design from a business mindset, and using aesthetics as a differentiator and value-add, not for self-indulgence or designer ego.

Make sure to read the full review.

Alan Cooper on the ROI of UX

Alan Cooper writes in What’s the ROI of UX [emphasis mine]:

Return on investment is a manager’s term. Understanding it, tracking it, and increasing it are a manager’s job, not the practitioner’s. The designer’s job is to design, to make the product effective and desirable. It’s the manager’s job to make sure that money is made from its being desired. And yet, managers continue to ask the practitioners about ROI. When they ask, they aren’t seeking enlightenment. They are expressing their doubts. They are voicing their skepticism. They are building a case against the discipline.

And the practitioners take the bait every time.

Alan Cooper is a household name in the UX space, but I disagree with him that it’s not a designer’s job to think with a business mindset. The way I see it, a designer does their best work when they align the priorities of the business with those of the customers, and they can only do that if they think with a business mindset.

User-centered design should be a means, not an end. The end is building a sustainable business. What good is a great design if the company can’t sustain itself, has to shut down, and asks its customers to find alternatives? That’s the worst possible outcome for customers. The way you build a sustainable business is by aligning the business and the customer and building a longterm between the two. That’s where user-centered design comes in. You can’t get customers to keep coming back if you go with bad tactics for short term gain. Instead, you solve their problems and show them you care about them, hence user-centered design. But design should flow the business and what it does best, not the other way around.

Austin Kleon on daily blogging

I had forgotten how wonderful blogging is as a mode of thinking. Blogging is, for me, more about discovering what I have to say, and tweeting more about having a thought, then saying it the right way.

Once I started daily blogging, not only did I have more to link to, it’s actually better stuff

Daily, just consistent, blogging is something I’ve been wanting to achieve for so long, but building new habits is hard.

Ever since I came across the “writing is thinking” mentality, I’ve been a strong believer in it. Writing forces you to put thoughts to words, and when you try to do so, you’re forced to think something through. Sometimes you discover that your thought didn’t make sense, other times you flesh it out more and develop it further.

If you’ve toyed with the idea of blogging but haven’t jumped in yet, or if you’ve never considered it before, I recommend you read Austin Kleon’s full post. It’ll only take you a couple minutes to read and you’ll be happy you read it. Trust me.

Look Here

One Day You’ll Be Dreaming Of Something You Have Now:

Work toward your goals and your dreams, but remember that one day you’ll be dreaming of something you have now. It may be your youth, or your health, or a lost loved one, etc. We will lose things along the way.

A good reminder to snap out of being so obsessed with the chasing the future that we don’t enjoy the things that will not be with us in that supposed happy future.

The Book of Life: On Resilience

I came across this gem from the wonderful Book of Life at a particularly apt period in my life:

We imagine that we could not live without a certain kind of income or status or health; that it would be a disaster not to have a certain kind of relationship, house or job. This natural tendency of the mind is constantly stoked by life in commercial society, which adds to our sense of the number of things that should be considered Necessities rather than Luxuries.

Read the full article here.

Repeating Priorities, Not Excuses

I find that most people, me included, are skilled at tricking our minds into thinking we don’t have control over the things standing between us and the things we desire. The trick behind it: excuses.

We’re not even very creative with our excuses. Take exercise, for example. Most people who claim they wish to more fit/healthy cite some the following as excuses: too tired today, the weather is not ideal, no budget for gymno time (this is easily the biggest one). But when you take a moment and think about it, it’s not really about the excuses. If exercise was a real priority, you would’ve exercised even if all the conditions weren’t ideal. But until you take the time to think about what your priorities are, and in what order they rank, your mind will simply jump to the usual list of excuses.

Thinking about your priorities actively, rather than merely reacting to what each day throws into your lap, will not only give you clarity about what truly matters at any given point of your life, but it also makes you face some truths about what you cannot do, because it simply didn’t rank high enough for you to make the time for it. I’ve always said: I wish I could play the piano. In reality, I could start learning, but when I sit down and think about the time investment it would take, I’ve yet to justify prioritizing piano playing over what my current priorities are. Luckily, priorities change with time, so there’s always hope. But at least now I don’t feel that I’m not learning the piano out of laziness, rather it’s the reality that there are more important things for me to focus on right now.

Finally, by repeating priorities instead of excuses, it works as a natural reminder to re-examine those priorities and see whether new priorities should be set, or whether some re-ordering is needed.

The video below by AsapTHOUGHT goes into this with a more amusing description of the problem.

Ben Schwartz on Idea Technology

What motivates your work? For the longest time I can remember, I’ve had trouble finding drive for work. Soon as something becomes a thing I have to do, my mind starts resisting it. Ben Schwartz talks about how a lot of jobs today were designed in a soulless fashion that doesn’t care about the person doing the job, their growth, or their contribution. It’s those factors, rather than money, are what ultimately matter for a satisfying career.

Schwartz makes an interesting point when he takes what most people call a mental model and terms it idea technology. It makes sense what you think about it. The way we think is constantly evolving, just as technology never its march forward. What’s funny though, as Schwartz points out, is that we usually discard technology that doesn’t work and move onto something better. However when it comes to idea technology, we hold on to a lot of bad tech that’s outdated & no longer relevant for what we’re trying to employ it to do.


Paul Jarvis on When & Why to Make Your Own Product

It’s strange how many of us get caught up in the technicalities of making something that we overlook nailing down the basics:

How do you solve a problem for someone (which is what a product does) when you don’t know who that “someone” is? How can you write sales copy when you don’t know who you’re writing for, or why? How can you create something so useful someone can’t live without it, if you aren’t sure what use it’d serve?

One well-tested approach to making products is spending a lot of time with the customers before you’ve made the product:

if you haven’t identified your audience or how you can definitively serve them, doing client work makes more sense than building products, especially at the beginning.

Click here to to Jarvis’s full post. It’s well worth a read for anyone who’s interested in making useful things.