“I think as time goes on, physics discovers what artists are already painting or doing.”Mary Corse
Similarly, web development is slowly discovering the techniques artists employ. Instead of sketching we employ iterative rapid development techniques. Rather than striving for beauty we strive for reduced user friction. The goal of good art is a satisfying experience (and with great art its a transformative experience). Websites are aiming for that same goal, a satisfying and productive user experience that results in user behavior positive to your website aims. What influences behavior? Everything! That is why everything is design, and all design is behavior.
“If we want users to like our software we should design it to behave like a likable person: respectful, generous and helpful.”Alan Cooper
In the real world of web development there are impediments to integrating the design workflow. But they are not inherent, they are learned and can be unlearned with the right process. As we refine the no-handoff method of agile development on my teams were learning more and more of the nuances of what leads to integration vs fragmentation on a team level.
One of our important insights is that design is not a team. Its not a function, a task, or a phase. Most importantly design is not someone else’s problem. Design influences user behavior so is everyone’s business. Ironically, one of our first steps in a no-handoff project is to throw out the word “design” from our project vocabulary! “Design” as a word fragments the team. It instantly alienates the majority of a team, while the part who are drawn to that word are not benefited by it… it is vague, conveys no specific or actionable information, and distracts from the ultimate goal of design: the user experience. Terms like UI Specialist or Front End Strategist better define the goals and the spirit of the role.
“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.”Jared Spool
As Jared Spool wrote “It’s only when [design] is done poorly that we notice it.” When we notice it what we are picking up on is friction in the user experience. Getting rid of that friction is good for business… really good. Of 400 IT executives surveyed by CIO Insight 80% cited customer satisfaction as their top priority. Reframing that friction without using the word ‘design’ pushes us to better articulate what the challenge is from a user centered perspective with user behaviour top of mind. It is the difference between this specification:
"The website will use a bright, modern, clean design to provide the best possible user experience"
and this one:
The website rebuild will provide an effective end user experience by implementing: - Minimal UI elements with straightforward calls to action. - Color selection based on maximum legibility and reading enjoyment, including for users with visual impairments. - Fluid behavior across the spectrum of devices without loss of legibility or ease of usability. - Language that avoids jargon and embrace a warm and welcoming tone... while staying concise and getting to the point. We value our end users time and show it in our communication. The end user behavior this website rebuild will foster includes: - Longer site visits from all visitors, including paid subscribers. - Significant downloads of free resources. - Use of free resource 'referral' button. - Users of free content converting to paid subscribers.
The vocabulary we often use to discuss visuals and UI is limited – and limiting – in its usefulnes. Developers probably dont need to think about negative space, nor do security specialists need to think about gestural lines – but the goals of design are universal. Reaching users with a message, evoking a response, providing a positive experience, are all concepts and goals relevant to the diverse and complex combination of disciplines that together build websites.
Banishing the word design from a projects’ vocabulary eads to better design. When all team members, including web designers, can explain and justify their work based on its user experience implications, and describe then the team will truly be speaking a shared language of
design user interface.