Interview: 1 Designer, 6 Questions

by September 7, 2007

As part of their first year anniversary, Smashing Magazine asked fifty designers (including myself, Eric Meyer, Jakob Nielsen, Veerle Pieters, Shaun Inman, and many more) to respond to six questions about their design processes, sources of inspiration, and lessons learned over the years.

The complete list of replies can be found at Smashing Magazine in 50 Designers x 6 Questions and 170+ Expert Ideas From World’s Leading Developers. My responses follow:

1 typical myth about web-development (which is not true)

There’s a point when you are done designing. Because we are designing for people and people are “time bound entities moving from cradle to grave” (to quote Bruce Sterling) people’s problems are always changing. So really, design is never done.

1 bulletproof method to get over creativity block

Be a continuous feedback loop. That means continuous input: reading books and blogs, attending talks and conferences, using the medium you design for. It also means continuous output: writing books and blogs, speaking at conferences, designing.

1 thing to do before starting a new project

Dive deep into any data you can find to help frame your project. That includes existing product metrics, customer feedback, market landscape, and more. Saturate yourself with context.

1 thing I wish I knew before I've started programming/designing/...

The power of “removing the unnecessary so the necessary can speak”.

1 common mistake you should always avoid developing Web sites

Letting an internal perspective dictate an external experience. Let me explain with an example.

For just about every Web service there is a data structure that represents “users”. In order to uniquely identify each customer, this data structure may require a unique ID, a full name, a password, an address, a birth date, and an email. Some of these may be legal restrictions. Some may be required for communication between the customer and the organization. But all of them are added as fields in the data structure. When a new customer comes to try out the service and has to register, these fields are simply displayed to them as a Web form.

The problem is when exploring a new product or service, most people don’t think of themselves as an object in a database. They are much more responsive to personal connections or progressive engagement that makes them feel welcome.

Instead their first impression with the service is dictated by an internal data structure. Not a great experience.

1 tool or/and service/web-service I can't imagine my life without

Has to be my Apple laptop. It’s how I bring my business and personal life with me across the globe.