Web Design Luminaries Share Advice for Staying Competitive

Web Design Luminaries Share Advice for Staying Competitive


[MUSIC PLAYING] What would be the
number one advice you would give to
designers who are beginning their career in UI design
or UX design, the number one piece of advice you would
give to designers beginning their career in UI or UX design? anybody? Wow. The number one– I’ll jump in. If you’re just starting your
career, do a bunch of stuff. Do a lot of different projects,
and get them out the door. So if you don’t have a job
yet, do personal projects. But complete them, and
not just your website, because doing your own portfolio
website is a circle of hell that no one should have to do. And it takes forever, and
it’s an awful, awful thing. So don’t do that. I mean, do that, but
do other projects. Complete personal
projects, especially ones that do good for somebody. Volunteer for Code for America. But get things out the door. It’s the process of
completing projects that will make you better. And that’s true, honestly,
of just about anything. And also read Eric’s book. Yeah. That’s excellent advice. So just do stuff,
real artistship, in the words of Steve Jobs. So I’ll throw my
$0.02 in here, too. I think, especially when
it comes to UX design, if you’re– again,
this is somebody said, but it bears repeating. If you’re not actually
talking to users, then you’re not doing UX design. Because so much,
again, for folks who are new to this
industry, there is a lot of talk about things,
like prototype and wire frames and deliverables. And you can get stuck in
how of we’re doing this, and what am I supposed
to be showing clients? And what am I supposed to? But again, the irony is so
thick that I can taste it. If you’re not actually
talking to users, you’re not doing UX design. So that would be my advice,
is just talk to users. Talk to people. That would be my $0.02. I guess I’ll take
something that I think is fundamental to
the book that I wrote, so disclosure there. But it’s try to be really
aware of the assumptions that you’re making in
every step of a project, and then challenge them. A lot of things that happen
in design you go on, or gut instincts, we go on
assumptions that we don’t even necessarily know we’re making. So just try to figure out, what
am I assuming as I write this? What am I assuming as
I create this design? What am I assuming as
I design this workflow? Then what if I’m wrong? What if I’m completely
wrong about that? What if I’m only half wrong? Because there can be a
lot of value in that. And certainly, I agree with you. You should be talking
to actual users, because they will absolutely
tell you, they will show you, where your
assumptions went awry. If you don’t have
that, like if you’re working on something
for a person project, and there’s nobody using
it yet, because you haven’t built it, right? It has yet to make
it into the world. Just try to always
identify your assumptions and your unconscious assumption. Try to ask yourself, what
am I not asking myself, because it seems ludicrous,
or it seems tabu, or it seems whatever? And then challenge those. Ask yourself, what if I’m wrong? What if it’s completely the
opposite of what I’m assuming? I think that’s a thing that
not a lot of people do. It’s not really in our
nature as humans to do. Engineers and architects do it,
but they were trained to do it. We’re not really
trained to do it. So if you can train
yourself to do that, you’re going to have a big leg up on
doing really insightful design, all the way down on the line. Killer advice. If you had one thing,
there was one thing, that you would want to
see in future projects from people who are creating
prototypes, what is that thing? What is the one thing
that you would absolutely want to see in
upcoming projects, and that people in that
audience can perhaps learn from? So what I like is
I like curiosity. And to expand upon that, it’s
more about the designers just completely having full
awareness and understanding about what is trying
to be accomplished, and not being afraid
to ask questions. Tracy’s answer is so good, and
I second it in so many ways. And I guess I would
elaborate upon it perhaps by reflecting on a
younger version of myself. And I see it in less
experienced folks that I work with, is the
fear of asking questions, because you feel like your
role is to be the expert. But the way that I
like to position it, and I believe that I picked
this up from some reading, is that the clients are
the expert on their subject matter and their business, and
you are the expert on design. And so you have a
conversation like adults. And it’s more embarrassing to
not ask an important question and then to not
understand something fundamental downstream, when
you’re presenting your work, than it is to ask those
questions up front. So I think my advice to a
younger designer or someone who is really looking to
break through to the new level is to experiment with
asking questions that seem really dumb or obvious. You feel like everyone
else in the room knows the answer,
because it’s not uncommon that you do that, and then
people look at you and go, I was wondering the same thing. Thank you for asking. Could I add one
more thing to that? Excellent. Which is just also
educate your stakeholders. Because I’m not an
expert in design, so understanding why you
chose this type of component, versus another,
and understanding the research behind it, it’s
really important, especially if you’re just passing a
project off to a company, if you’re doing
consulting type work. You want that product
to be successful and that project
to be successful. It can go in your
portfolio, right? So make sure you educate
them, so that when they end up building it out, they
understand the design concepts and why they’re doing
what they’re doing. Cool. You both have been in positions
where you’re looking for jobs, but you’re also in positions
where you are maybe looking to hire
someone, specifically, a front-end
developer or a coder. And I’m curious to
know, for those folks out there, or just for anyone
in general, what sort of things, in general or
specific, do you look for in someone who
might be looking for a job as a
front-end development? What are the attributes
that you’re interested in? I guess, when I was running my
agency, a lot of the interviews that we did, we mainly looked
for interest and enthusiasm for the medium, somebody
who actually really– they weren’t doing it
just for a paycheck. They were doing it because
there was something that spoke to them about
working on the Web, and they were excited
to learn new things. Obviously, fluency with
the HTML, CSS, JavaScript, those things were important. But I had no
expectations that they were going to have
the entire JavaScript, the definitive guide,
memorized and would be able to just write programs
from scratch, or what have you. I don’t think that’s necessary. There are so many resources
out there to be like, I want to do this. What do I need to do? And I’d much rather
have somebody that has a fluency
with that and that knows the questions to ask
in order to get to the thing that they need to implement in
order to accomplish something, but that’s just really
passionate about the work that they’re doing
and that’s super interested in doing things. Because they’re going to
push themselves further. They’re going to learn more. They’re going to get better
and better over time. And I think that’s a really
key thing to have for somebody that you’re working with. And obviously, a
good team player is a huge, huge thing
as well, because you want to have somebody that’s
there to support everybody else in the group as well. Excellent. OK. Jeffrey, what’s your thought? Those are great. I agree with all those things. I also think so if somebody is a
newcomer or a student or young, new to the field– they don’t
have to be young in age, but new to the field– I look for excitement and
enthusiasm, just like that. Because when I was
teaching myself this stuff, I thought it was the
coolest stuff in the world. And I would dream
in 16-color gifs. I would actually dream. I would see a sign, and I would
say, how would I render that? I would always be thinking. I was boring as hell. My girlfriend couldn’t stand me. but I was obsessed with
learning all of that. And so I look for that. I look for someone who’s
passionate about these things and has ideas. And then, if they’re a
little more experienced, I look for contributions. Have they given something to
the community in some fashion? Do they write? They don’t have to be the
greatest writer on earth, but do they blog, and
if so, what about? Are they repeating
what other people say, or do they have ideas? Do they contribute
to a group blog? Have they made something
for other people? I mean, I work with
a guy, Roland Dubois. We weren’t even working together
at the time, but I said, I want to really try. I have this idea for
a design I’m doing, and I want to try
tilting the type. And I know you can
do that in CSS now, but I don’t know
if it’s readable. He went and made a JS
fiddle, to just test it. And he said, well, here’s
what it looks like. And he had little
variations to show me. And I was like, we’re not
even working together. And this, by the way,
it’s an experienced guy, that’s not a beginner. But that wasn’t his
project at the time. And he dove in, because he
was passionate about it. And now we work together. I look at that,
and go, that’s what I want to work with,
someone who’s more fired up about this than I am. Right? And I’m pretty excited about it. That sounds like enthusiasm. For those folks out
there, enthusiasm– way up on the top of the list,
and also to show something cool that you’ve
done, so that we know that you’re telling the truth. And if you haven’t
done anything cool, we have a contest for that. So it’d be great to
get, from both of you, some piece of practical
advice that you might give a new designer
who’s looking to get into this
responsive design stuff. And we can start with anyone. Well, let’s go with
Karen, just because. I think that my advice for any
designers, whether they’re just starting out or
mid-career, you really have to be committed to
continually evolving and using new tools and being
very comfortable learning new applications, new
systems, new ways of working. And speaking as somebody who is
very comfortable in the tools that I know well, I know
how painful that can be. You get used to doing something,
and you a way of doing it. And yet, the Web moves on. And I think today, you’ve
seen a lot of designers adopting Sketch or InVision or
other new prototyping tools. I think that content
teams probably need to open their
hearts to moving away from tools like Microsoft Word
and even shifting to Google Docs, for what it’s worth. I think that that skill, in
and of itself, that willingness to constantly learn and evaluate
new applications, new tools, new ways of working, openness
to new process, I think, to me, that’s what distinguishes
a good designer from somebody who is going to wind up
stuck in an older era. OK. Excellent, nice. And Ethan, what kind
of advice would you have for folks out there? Something Karen
said is something I’ve been thinking about a lot,
which is just the frequency and franticness of
change on the Web, and just all the new
challenges that we have, just working, even just
on a desktop-only website, seem like they’ve
been compounded by going responsive
or focusing on mobile. But I really think that
mobile was a big reset button for a lot of our practices. And I think we’re still
very much in the early days. So something I say to a
lot of new designers now or folks getting
back into Web design is this is the ideal time to
start thinking about how you can be a little bit more
device agnostic in building for the Web. So I think start as modestly
as you feel comfortable. Whether it’s working on a
static mockup in Sketch, maybe have a side by
side, small screen view of that same mockup. And think about how the two
actually relate to each other. Or if you’re a front-end
developer who’s just learning about responsible
ads for the first time, grab Foundation, a CSS
framework, and start thinking about not just how you
can actually make a responsive layout work, but think about
how that framework made some decisions for you, and
how it changes and adapts. And maybe modify it a little bit
to try to actually understand it a little bit more deeply. Because ultimately, I mean, the
tools that we are using today are going to go away in a couple
months or a couple of years time. And they’re going to be
replaced with new tools. And I think the
thing that you’re trying to do, as
you are becoming a more responsive designer, is
establish some principles that are going to outlast the tools
that you are using today. So you can actually define
good responsive design for you, for your clients, for
whomever, in the years to come. Yep. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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