We need to be very careful when talking about contexts.

We need to be very careful when talking about contexts — design decisions related to context must be based on fact rather than assumption. For example, a context-based assumption would be to change the language of a Web page in response to the location of a device — a terrible idea because the reader might speak a language that isn’t native to the detected country.

Source: Responsible Considerations for Responsive Web Design via @smashingmag

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Couple tips for an easier mockup process

Responsive web now means making multiple mockups of the same page. This can mean 3x the Potatoshop effort and sore shoulders. Boo.

Here are a couple tips from around the web on how to make life easier for client-agnostic design:

Tip #1: Make your mockups in code.

Once we understand the site’s content and priorities, our first visual step is to create wireframes. But as you may have already noticed, shuffling text around a Photoshop file can be time-consuming and frustrating.

But you know what’s really great for laying out content in a way that accurately expresses its hierarchy? You guessed it: HTML and CSS!

Source: Responsive Comping: Obtaining Signoff Without Mockups

Tip #2: Use ‘style tiles’ instead of static mockups.

Style tiles are for when a moodboard is too vague and a comp is too literal. Style tiles establish a direct connection with actual interface elements without defining layout. They work well for clients who have established brands and need them to translate smoothly to the web. Whereas the word “mood” is often associated with brand and identity design, the word “style” was chosen to mirror “cascading stylesheets” and reinforce that Style Tiles are specific to Web design.

Source: Styletil.es

The style tile is not a literal translation of what the website is going to be, but a starting point for the designer and the client to have a conversation and establish a common visual language. When a client says “clean,” does she mean Apple.com clean or NYTimes.com clean? Speaking the same visual language clarifies aesthetic opinions before getting too far into the actual design of the site.

Source: Style Tiles as a Web Design Process Tool

Can you make good design for people if you’re a lousy person yourself?

Interesting article on “being human” as a UX designer.

I’ve encountered UX people who didn’t strike me as particularly good humans, consequently lowering my trust as a client in their ability to engineer experiences that would appeal to humans. If you’re not a nice person, can you really design what is essentially an avatar of what your audience should see as a nice person?

Orson Welles and Harlan Ellison were/are known for being huge a-holes to work with, but on the ‘customer facing’ side, they’ve produced some astounding works of art. Maybe there’s a base level of good UX that everyone is capable of – stock common sense principles you get in any textbook – and it only gets better from there depending on how well you think critically and apply those principles to the problem at hand.

Personally, I want to believe that being a decent human being translates to putting out decent work. Even if we can’t be so magnanimous and noble, maybe the effort that goes in can’t help but lend itself to empathic, thoughtful solutions. But that’s just my little dream.

Maybe you don’t need to be a cool guy to make cool stuff – but I’m sure it’s more fun to work with someone who can do both. 😉

The importance of storytelling

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When most people think about marketing, these are the tools they think of: print, radio, TV and the web. None of these, however, are ingrained in us as much as storytelling. We’ve been telling stories for thousands of years, but we don’t have to go back that far to understand storytelling’s powerful effect on our hearts and minds. Go back only as far as your childhood, when you begged your parents to read your favorite story—the one you already knew by heart—just one more time. Why did you do that? Why was it so important to hear that story?

Stories and the art of storytelling play a major role in content marketing today. Not all brands realize the importance of unearthing their core story and learning to tell stories in ways that endear new fans and motivate advocates.

Source: 7 Reasons Storytelling is Important for Branded Content

I’m not keen on storytelling driven by marketing, but that’s not to say it’s bad – storytelling can be done well and with integrity. Just like SEO, used car sales and Christmas.

Redesigning without upsetting users

There’s a reason designers have a reputation for being fanciful – sometimes we really are. It’s not that we throw caution to the wind and let our imaginations run away, it’s that just like everyone else, we think we see a better way of doing things and don’t realise we might not know everything we need to.

We could have the best solution in the world, yet waste it on trying to solve the wrong problem.

UX Mag published a feature a couple weeks ago with a 5-point checklist on how to avoid doing this in a redesign (not actually in checklist format). I’d even go a step further to suggest Studying History during the design process so we avoid re-treading turf that failed under the same circumstances in previous designs.

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You’re not a jerk, you just haven’t had your coffee yet

The fundamental attribution error describes the tendency to explain someone’s behaviour based on their disposition or personality, while not considering the situation affecting them.

For example:

Observation Explain by disposition Explain by situation
Mark jiggles his double chin. Mark is letting himself go. Mark looks fat because he’s pregnant.
David trips over. David is clumsy. Warren was sleeping behind David’s chair.
Josh has big hair today. Josh is a crazy man. Josh’s hairdryer is a jet engine.
Nick is rude to someone. Nick is a jerk. Nick is jaded, has been here 12 years and is trying to give up coffee.

Naturally, this challenges some of our assumptions about web users and the way we as website-makers appeal to them. Are users actually stupid and/or lazy – or do poor design, copy and workflow put them in a position to respond this way?

By the way, the Curse of Knowledge phenomenon makes this entirely plausible.

So – what other observations could we reconsider, in light of the attribution error, during our design process?