“Don’t waste time reinventing common UI patterns or paradigms unless they are at least 2x better, or you have some critical brand reason to do so.”
With new design and prototyping tools hitting the market every few months, the pace of software development that targets designers is accelerating. While it’s great to see the attention being given to improving software that we as designers use, I’m typically slow to adopt new tools. Maybe I’m set in my ways, but I find the learning curve often outweighs any new power or efficiency gains that I’ll receive.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Sketch 3 from Bohemian Coding is one of them.
Each year I work as a designer I devote less and less time to traditional ‘design’ work, like creating wireframes, aesthetic layouts or prototyping interactions. These days I spend most of my day establishing an environment for successful design to occur. For me, this shift has greatly accelerated in the past few years, partially due to specific needs at Kiva, but also, a general shift within Silicon Valley has occurred which has significantly broadened the role of ‘design’ within an organization.
Measured in web years, three years is a lifetime. Yet it’s been that long since I’ve done any serious work on my own website. Over that time significant shifts have occurred in the landscape – responsive design, retina displays and a mobile first focus have changed how websites are designed and built. Not wanting 2 Out of Three to fall too far behind the curve – and looking to scratch my developer itch (something that’s been gathering dust as of late) – I carved out some time to make the most substantial updates to the site since releasing version 2 in May 2010. While I don’t consider these updates a full redesign, there are some meaningful changes that address mobile usability, retina images and a renewed focus on my design work. Here is a full list of changes:
From Daniel Jalkut excellent post on Stagnation Or Stability?
He applauds the app for allowing him to do his work “frictionlessly.” How does a software developer achieve this level of performance? By first building a quality product and then working deliberately over months and years to address the minor issues that remain. Woodworking makes a reasonable analogy: after a chair has been carved and assembled the job is functionally complete. It’s a chair, you can sit in it. It’s done. But customers will gripe with good cause about its crudeness unless the hard work of detailing, sanding, and lacquering are carried out. Only then will it be considered finely crafted.
Personally I love the analogy of a chair to building software. The visual is so tangible – everyone can picture the contrast in quality between an unstained or unfinished chair and the one you’d purchase for your dining room. As software developers we should view our work through the same lens.
Talk with anybody involved with software development these days and there’s a good chance you’ll hear about minimal viable products. Over the past few years the phrase has exploded in popularity, largely due to Eric Reiss’ book The Lean Startup, where he proposes entrepreneurs leverage a continuous innovation as a means of product development. At this point the term is being tossed around everywhere—from two person start-ups working in coffee shops to large development teams building software for the major names throughout Silicon Valley.
In a post earlier this week I talked about my six month blogging hiatus. In actuality it was limited only to this website. I kept my writing skills sharp (I mean sharp in the same way the thirty-year-old knives at your parent’s house are sharp) with the occasional post on the Kiva blog. These pieces have generally focused on changes to the website, but I wanted to highlight one that detailed how we do user research at Kiva.
At Kiva we’ve been watching our mobile traffic grow year over year to the point where our most recent numbers show us 9% of visitors are viewing our site on a smartphone. Seeing this trend, our development team has been itching to improve the mobile experience on Kiva for a long time, and with our most recent release, we’re excited to let you know we’ve taken the first step towards a mobile optimized site.
“The thing to remember is that UI design is like selling a restaurant, where you can’t just serve up good food in order to run a restaurant. You have to create an environment around the food that gets people in the mood to enjoy a really great meal: presenting the food really nicely, picking the right plates, the lighting on the table, the music that is playing. When you put all that together, it creates a much nicer experience than if you just were to serve up some good food.”
A former top Apple designer
Sometime around 2006 I discovered the blog of Aaron James Draplin and I’m a better designer for it. Draplin creates timeless designs and provides memorable commentary from his studio in Portland, OR. He’s had a hand in designing many of the products I love from the branding for Coal Headwear, to the creation of Field Notes, and even t-shirts for Patagonia.