No-Frills Design

Democratising design in a world where Developers far outnumber Designers

I had my first talk at a tech meet-up (ForLoop Ghana) last weekend and I spoke about designing enjoyable experience in the face of the constraints we face when building products with limited resources.

Design badly needs to be democratised. We don't have enough designers out there so there's absolutely no reason to hoard the responsibility to make users happy.

The idea is, if developers understand the need to pay attention to the user experience, the designers’ work will be without headaches. And the user’s experience will be delightful.

Here's a rough way to inject UX thinking at every stage of a product's development:

  1. All ideas need to be validated before anything else. Ordinarily, a UX researcher will help with that. And if you can find/afford one, you should. But if not, do the work. Talk about the idea. Identify the problem the idea tries to solve and understand current user behaviors and pain points.
  2. With a validated idea, use low-cost means to prototype. This is where a UI/UX designer will come in with wireframing, sketches, low/high fidelity prototypes. But if for some reason you don't have a designer, there are creative ways to test your ideas. From using PowerPoint Slides to using Google Forms there are a thousand and one ways to create a testable experience for early feedback.
  3. Now if you had a UI/UX designer, at this point you'll have a pixel-perfect-ish design to replicate in your code editor. However, if you don't, and have to hack the design, try your best to stick to the user interface guidelines for the platform you're developing for. They'll help you avoid common mistakes and stick to conventions to help create familiar, consistent experiences for your users.
  4. Once you’re live, pay attention to analytics and user feedback to continuously make improvements. You may use tools like Google analytics, hotjar, fullstop, etc. to discover sweet spots and pain points in your application. Good UX is an everlasting work in progress.

The goal of this is to ship as quickly as possible to get user feedback early.

Yet, in all this, be mindful of dark patterns. A dark pattern is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things. The fact that Amazon or Facebook have done something doesn't make it right. As an example, think of how annoying it gets when you land on a website and it immediately asks “do you want to receive push notifications from site_i_don’t_really_care_about”. When you're tempted to do same, think of yourself as a user.

For designers who think developers have no business designing, know that…

I shared the deck from the event, here you go: No Frills Design: From Full-Stuck to Full-Stack.

Dr. Seuss — 'If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.'

Dr. Seuss — 'If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.'