Finding Opportunities in the Mistakes We Make

You flung yourself headlong into your career. Suddenly you realize you’re barely keeping your head above water and you’re not even sure where you’re going. Time to reflect, says Clarice Bouwer, and do some small experiments designed to find the course corrections that will get you back on solid ground.

Strategies for Healthier Dev

Chen Hui Jing played basketball full-time for many years before teaching herself web development. So she knows a thing or two about fitness, and has learned how to port its lessons to a more sedentary lifestyle. Pulling together an impressive array of research, Chen suggests that brute discipline may not be the best way for knowledge workers to approach fitness. She proposes gentler strategies that will keep us alive and well and doing the work we love for years to come.

The Future of the Web

Is the web’s way forward to be defined by a bunch of renegade mavericks armed with Flash or JavaScript? Matt Griffin argues that it may not be so bad to let web authors kludge together the things they’d like to build, and follow where their mistakes lead us.

Promoting a Design System Across Your Products

Our industry has gotten really good at making living style guides out of parts: reusable components like color, typography, buttons and forms, voice and tone. We’ve also learned how to map skills to these parts by mobilizing the best people to make decisions across platforms. But, argues Nathan Curtis, a third element is crucial to any design system mission: products. What products will use our system? How will we involve them?

Looking for “Trouble”

Venting isn’t exactly an innocent activity. Rolling our eyes at a struggling client—no matter how justified we may think we are—hints at a skewed sense of entitlement. It means we’ve forgotten that our experience working with others reflects their experience working with us. Orr Shtuhl shares how the team at Blenderbox changed their “venting culture” to proactively hunt for subtle flags of distress and take responsibility for their clients’ side of the experience.

Design for Real Life: An Interview with Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Good intentions can easily blind us to bad ideas—accidentally awful outcomes that alienate and distress our users. It’s time to take a hard look at our processes, to recognize and work through our biases toward idealized users in ideal situations. In this interview with managing editor Mica McPheeters, Sara Wachter-Boettcher talks about what she learned while writing Design for Real Life.

The High Price of Free

Our industry is remarkable for how many of us do unpaid labor—sometimes for exposure, other times to give back to the profession and help our peers. We’re all grateful for the free software, learning, and support made possible by this generosity. But in coming to depend in it, we can’t forget that people need time to pay the bills and assure a secure future for themselves and their families.

Groups of Five

Technology rests on a discovery of patterns: of behavior, association, energy, thinking. How valuable those patterns are to us is constantly being renegotiated as we experience a series of reveal shots that show us another part of the big picture, and yet another part of the big picture, and so on. To rely on a favorite cliché, it’s turtles all the way down.

The Distance to Here

The people who determine product strategy move through a world of analysts, media, division leads, shareholders, stakeholders, monetization, and marketability. They seldom get a chance to come back to the corner where users and designers mingle. Rian van der Merwe suspects that increasing the communication distance between the decision makers and the product’s builders and users leads to a loss of perspective—and the results are products with marketable features that no one really needs.

Resetting Agency Culture

When we prioritize billable hours over people, our work environments can take a turn for the tense. Some agencies try to combat low morale with foosball and fancy perks, but what really matters is investing in people: fostering a workplace that supports dialogue, collaboration, and professional development. From onboarding new hires to ongoing engagement, Justin Dauer shares some starting points for a healthy office dynamic and confident, happy employees.