Design Strategy, User Experience

How Social Context Shape Design

The way we push users for sharing in websites, how much we push and how effective these efforts will be are being affected by the news about the National Security Agency, the NSA. Some say it is human not to be comfortable with the idea of being spyed and observed, the truth is that these news about the aggregation and analysis of personal data have a huge social and political impact. Sharing in the hyperspace won’t work in the same way it used to do it before the NSA affair.

Social context shape the products we design, our processes and their outputs.

The news about hacked services like PlayStation, Adobe and Snapchat change the way users think about passwords, they shape our password policies, the design of our login screens and how people perceive them. Protecting -or at least thinking about- personal data has become essential.

Changes on social structures and migration are changing life in the countryside and cities, affecting the cost of living, how we interact with others and changing at the same time the perception towards sharing products and the design of services like car sharing and others enabling users to save money, have more consumer power and live with less stress.

As a designer is important to be informed, read the news, talk to people and survey about the opinions regarding trends and topics of social interest.

That was, in my opinion, Saskia Sassen’s point in her closing keynote at the Interaction 14 Conference, organized by the Interaction Design Association, the IxDA.


Keynote Saskia Sassen-Interaction14 from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

User Experience

Crafting Detailed Interactions

Recently I was checking with the project manager the list of issues I found on our soon-to-be released website, a list of designs not properly implemented and behavior mismatches. In the middle of the conversation the project manager starts smiling and later, almost laughing, he asks me: “how could it be possible that you find these details?”

Although there have always been meticulous designers taking care about minute details, the trend is to push even further for those tiny interactions. Dan Saffer’s book Microinteractions is the last shout in this trend, showing how these small details are necessary to create a product that provides pleasure and delight. Another resource for examples is the Little Big Details blog.


GitHub System Status – Favicon changes color depending on current system status.


Apple might have started the marketing trend to show off products as perfect pieces of design but now a days not only them are showcasing what they produce as design jewels. Google and Yahoo, for example, are clearly following it.


Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 16.53.05
Raising expectations:
Apple sell interfaces as pieces of uttermost perfection.


Of course this has a cost, perfectionism does not only requires extra programming efforts, looking for these tiny interaction moments and opportunities to delight takes time and commitment from the designers and the whole team. So how could you find them? Here some ideas:

  • Collaborate with your colleagues, for example through a design studio.
  • Show your designs to colleagues and discuss.
  • Revising several times your own designs can always bring new things.
  • Check your designs against Stephen Anderson’s Mental Notes or Michael Michalko’s Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck. Psychology and innovation insights can always provide amazing ideas.
  • User testing can give you unpredictable tips.
  • Reading customer feedback surveys could be tiring but from time to time you will find input that will make you think.
  • Numbers are super important but your gut feelings too, push for emotion and human sense in your designs!

In the next months I will be providing in this blog details on the techniques I mentioned. Feel free to to ping this article or send me feedback and ideas on Twitter: @alexisbrion

User Experience

The Lean UX Designer

Lean UX is not a revolutionary concept but one that user experience professionals and companies should probably follow. The reason many will start doing it anyways is that under these techniques they will be able to move faster and minimize risk.

What happens if design concepts worked great in the lab but they have no commercial appeal? What if market conditions have changed since the original learnings took place? As Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden warn in their Lean UX book, designing and developing in the traditional waterfall environment could end up in a real catastrophe, potentially delivering an unsuccessful project that required a big investment in time and resources. I have seen web projects going live after 2 years they have been started.

Design Studio Workshop

Lean UX advocates team collaboration and this means in big part a change in the way companies see designers. I still see many companies looking for that rock-star designer that will sit alone waiting for the requirements to come and produce mockups to pass to the development team. These solitary bright minds don’t exist.

Because team-based mentality enables getting to better ideas faster, lean UX designers have to collaborate with colleagues from different departments, such as marketing, IT and sales. In one of my latest projects I experienced the best ideas coming from support representatives; they are in constant contact with users and they know what their problems and needs are. Obviously, a company environment that empowers this kind of collaboration will produce products that will better serve its customers requirements and wishes.

The lean UX designer should also regularly collaborate with users in order to get additional input for her designs.

It seems to me that designers should design and put their own hands on mockups and prototypes but the new lean UX designer should also encourage, support and facilitate collaboration. This can be done through different techniques, like design studios, brainstorming sessions, conversations, collaborative discovery, user testing and observation, customer interviews and allowing everyone in the team to participate in the design process, for example through sketching sessions.

Feel free to to ping this article or send me feedback and ideas on Twitter: @alexisbrion