Writing for Designers

Words matter. Even in something as banal as a form, the words we choose can determine what someone does and what they fail to do. In this excerpt from Writing for Designers, Scott Kubie explains the purpose of prose in a design and why we need to be more intentional with how we use words.

The Cult of the Complex

’Tis a gift to be simple. ALA’s Zeldman bemoans our industry’s current fetish for the needlessly complicated over the straightforward. Escape the cult of the complex! Get back to improving lives, one interaction at a time.

Priority Guides: A Content-First Alternative to Wireframes

The sirens’ song of wireframe visuals has been the thorn in the side of many a design project. With potential to undermine user-centricity, reduce team engagement, and limit creativity when it’s most needed, wireframes can bite the unwary. In this article, Heleen van Nues and Lennart Overkamp discuss an alternative that’s far more in tune with today’s content-first, responsive design ethos, whether used as a direct replacement or to help tame wireframes’ wilder side early in a project’s life.

The Mindfulness of a Manual Performance Audit

Sometimes we need to go through the clothes in our closet item by item to separate the chaff, cruft, and impulse buys from what we truly need. An occasional performance audit done by hand, argues Chip Cullen, gives us a detailed picture of our work, increases our awareness of what we ask of our users, and allows us to shape our findings in ways that make sense to stakeholders.

Focus on What You Do Best and Outsource the Rest

There’s all this other “stuff” that has to get done in support of what you actually do for a living. It slows you down and takes away from overall productivity in your specialty, yet you think you have to do it yourself no matter how hard it is for you. Suzanne Scacca says it may be a good investment to offload and outsource some of the tasks that aren’t in your wheelhouse. It just might free up your time to do more of what you do best.

Practical Design Discovery

When we can’t trace low-level decisions back to a specific objective or problem statement, we lose sight of what we should and shouldn’t do on a project. Dan Brown shows us how to create assertions that keep design direction from unraveling.

Guerrilla Innovation

If you don’t work at a place like Google or 3M—companies celebrated for rewarding innovation—don’t despair. You can still push new ideas through, see them gain traction, and watch your company evolve for the better. You just need to be smart about your tactics. Janice Gervais has some advice on how to practice effective guerrilla innovation.

Communicating Animation

Consistent animation is crucial to both branding and UX. But because animation sits squarely at the intersection of design, development, and UX, achieving consistency presents unique communication challenges. Including animation in our style guides is a good place to start, but no “ultimate” animation style guide currently exists. Indeed, there may never be an animation-style-guide pattern that satisfies everyone. But Rachel Nabors maps out how we can create the ultimate animation documentation for our own teams.

The User’s Journey

We’re hardwired to respond to stories—to parse them, to invent them, to translate our world into landscapes and characters. Applying a twist to “narrative architecture,” Donna Lichaw deconstructs how we weave stories into our products. The real trick, she says, is to do more than tell stories; it’s to design our products to be the story.

Finessing `feColorMatrix`

CSS filters lack the ability to do per-channel manipulation—a huge drawback. They may be convenient, but CSS filters are merely shortcuts derived from SVG; as such, they provide no control over RGBA channels. SVG (particularly the feColorMatrix map) gives us much more power and lets us take CSS filters to the next level. Una Kravets guides us through feColorMatrix and shows us how we can harness its power to create detailed filters.