I’m not a designer. Or an expert in UX or UI. But as a product manager, it’s my job to understand how design (and UI/UX) can be applied to solving problems. (It’s also my job to have an opinion…hopefully an educated one!) A product manager’s job is to understand the problems faced by users/customers and then solve those problems with product. Sometimes that means adding features. Sometimes that means taking features away. Sometimes that means moving things around. Design plays a big part in solving problems, if it’s used properly and there’s intent behind the design being implemented.
There are already a lot of great products and web sites out there. While occasionally it makes sense to try something completely new, a lot of design (like product development), is leveraging what’s already out there and mixing things together to create something new. The big risk is riffing off something you see (that you like) that’s not actually working well. You won’t always know why a certain application is built a certain way or a certain design was implemented. So make sure you understand the assumptions you’re going in with; and make sure you understand what problem you’re trying to solve.
Lately I’ve found a bunch of useful resources for helping with design and product development. I wanted to share those here. (Btw, they’re all from Product Hunt.)
- site inspire is a good resource for general inspiration. They’ve got a growing showcase of well-categorized sites and designs. Sometimes you just need to cruise through a bunch of ideas quickly and find something that catches your attention.
- goodui.org is focused primarily on conversions. And let’s face it, pretty much everything is about conversions (of some kind), so this is definitely worth checking out.
- Mobile Patterns shows you a bunch of mobile sites/apps, focused on specific features or flows that many mobile apps use. You can see what a lot of popular apps do for big things like sign up flows, but also dig into smaller details like logging in or composing content.
- pttrns is similar to the one above, but has even more content. You can see how a bunch of apps handle user profiles, messaging, search and more.
- User Onboarding analyzes the onboarding for a variety of popular sites and applications. Each analysis is pretty extensive. They’ve got 50 slides for Meetup.com, 58 for Quora, so you can dig into a lot of detail.
Onboarding in particular is one of those areas where a lot of applications (mobile and web) fall down. In many cases, the apps don’t motivate users quickly enough to get them engaged. That’s why 1-day churn on mobile applications can be very high and is a number that mobile developers need to pay attention to. If you can’t hook someone the minute they open the app and start using it, you’re screwed. So the more you invest in researching different and successful onboarding strategies, the better. A big part of onboarding is design (but there’s more to it too: copywriting, speed, etc.)
Simplicity usually wins. Making things simple is ridiculously hard. Being forced to cut and trim is painful and frustrating. When I’m writing copy (say for the GoInstant site) it’s usually 2-3x longer than I really want it to be. So I edit…over and over… (Incidentally, copywriting is a lot like design and plays a big part in user experience!) Every time you design something, right from the first paper sketch to the final product, see if you can take stuff out. Force yourself to at least think through whether you can simplify or not.
Dieter Rams (Chief Design Officer at Braun, 1961-1995) wrote 10 principles of good design, which are awesome and a must read: https://www.vitsoe.com/gb/about/good-design.
Design has an incredible affect on people. You see it every time one of the big guys like Facebook, Apple or Twitter make a change. People go crazy. They usually rant and rave. People get attached to certain “views of the world” and it’s hard to break them out. That can be frustrating when you’re making changes, but it also shows you that if you get it right, you can hook people in a way that’s emotionally significant. People get passionate about good user experience, whether they understand why or not. They get hooked (which is often the goal of good design) and driven to do what you want them to do. Changing behavior is very hard. Good design, which solves a fundamental problem, plays an important part in effecting that change.