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What's the simplest but most effective design tip you've ever been given?


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#1 designgem

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 08:20 AM

For me it's about the position of people: having them face what you want the visitor to look at rather than straight on as it's too confrontational.



#2 fisicx

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 10:00 AM

Focus on the conversion.

 

This means building a page that results in a conversion not one that takes me to facebook or click to find out more or even has visual distractions.



#3 Jack

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 10:17 AM

Form follows function.

 

There's a great example of the opposite (form over function) in a local park where I live. They designed a modern looking rain shelter, accept the roof is just a wavy set of bars, it looks good, but it's completely useless when it rains.



#4 rbrtsmith

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 10:55 AM

YAGNI

 

A term commonly used in development: You Ain't Gonna Need It.  Basically don't implement features that have not been asked for.



#5 citypaul

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 12:35 PM

YAGNI

 

A term commonly used in development: You Ain't Gonna Need It.  Basically don't implement features that have not been asked for.

 

Before I did TDD, I was against this principle. My argument back then was that you "may" not need a feature now, but it's usually easier to add support for that feature in the early stages as opposed to taking on the risk involved in changing your existing system to accommodate for it in the future. I still believe outside of a TDD world this is often true.

 

As an example, for a past backend system I created I had to account for multiple levels of admin access. There were essentially three levels of access required for when the system first went live - admin, "super admin" and standard user. While I only needed these three levels, I knew we'd want more fine grained access control in the future (quite specific user types - so a user that may have high levels of admin for some features, but perhaps could only view certain financial reports, or something like that). I was told to take the "YAGNI" approach, but I resisted that and used a nice module written by the Zend Framework that could allow me to easily add the more fine grained control when (and if) I needed it. It also of course allowed me to release the MVP with the simpler access control rules.

 

I'd argue that in the situation I was in there, before I'd mastered TDD, that was actually the right call to make. Taking the "YAGNI" mantra too literally would have made adding those more fine grained controls much more difficult later, and it turned out we did need them, and when I came to do it it was easy because I'd used the Zend ACL stuff.

 

Nowadays though I can take the YAGNI mantra more literally, because I'm always protected by great tests, so if I need to add that feature in the future, the fear of breaking existing things is very low. If I were doing that again now I'd have gone with the simpler option, but I'd have nice tests around the access control stuff that crucially, wouldn't care about what libraries were used under the hood. So long as I have that protection, I'm good to go.

 

So yeah, YAGNI is good advice, but in certain contexts it sometimes makes sense to ignore the rule.

 

Of course, the biggest lesson there is to do TDD ;-) 


Edited by citypaul, 19 April 2017 - 12:35 PM.


#6 citypaul

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 12:43 PM

My personal answer to this might be slightly different to what you'd expect. I'm not a designer in that I don't work on the "look" of the stuff I'm working on very much, but I design in that I design and architect the code, plus I'm heavily involved in working out the features we're going to build.

 

The biggest lesson I've learned I'd say is about physically sitting together as a team. I want to sit right next to UX and the product owner/BA, as well as close to the QA people. It's really about close communication and a shared respect. Because we work like that now, we get to make calls on audience facing things very quickly. We sometimes change our mind about how things will look or work, or even the fundamental parts of features on the fly, and it feels great to be able to do that.

 

Often it's just a conversation - "Hey, I've put that button on as you asked for, but does it look right to you? What do you think?... No, we don't like it... shall we move it there? Oh that looks better, yeah let's do that then!" 

 

Those kinds of conversations are commonplace for us. So there's no "throwing stuff over the wall" mentality and no nasty surprises. When I first started working here it was very different. The UX people sat on their own and would spend ages making pretty pictures in photoshop. They'd then throw them over the wall at the developers, who would then quickly realise that some of the things we'd been asked to make were not feasible for all manner of reasons. We'd waste time that way and it wasn't efficient. Same with QA - they sit with us during development now, and in fact we do next to no manual testing, but instead got QA involved in the automation side of things.

 

So yeah - for me it's about learning to communicate early and often as a team. Sitting together in cross discipline teams and not throwing things over imaginary walls.



#7 Jack

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 02:31 PM

My personal answer to this might be slightly different to what you'd expect. I'm not a designer in that I don't work on the "look" of the stuff I'm working on very much, but I design in that I design and architect the code, plus I'm heavily involved in working out the features we're going to build.

 

The biggest lesson I've learned I'd say is about physically sitting together as a team. I want to sit right next to UX and the product owner/BA, as well as close to the QA people. It's really about close communication and a shared respect. Because we work like that now, we get to make calls on audience facing things very quickly. We sometimes change our mind about how things will look or work, or even the fundamental parts of features on the fly, and it feels great to be able to do that.

 

Often it's just a conversation - "Hey, I've put that button on as you asked for, but does it look right to you? What do you think?... No, we don't like it... shall we move it there? Oh that looks better, yeah let's do that then!" 

 

Those kinds of conversations are commonplace for us. So there's no "throwing stuff over the wall" mentality and no nasty surprises. When I first started working here it was very different. The UX people sat on their own and would spend ages making pretty pictures in photoshop. They'd then throw them over the wall at the developers, who would then quickly realise that some of the things we'd been asked to make were not feasible for all manner of reasons. We'd waste time that way and it wasn't efficient. Same with QA - they sit with us during development now, and in fact we do next to no manual testing, but instead got QA involved in the automation side of things.

 

So yeah - for me it's about learning to communicate early and often as a team. Sitting together in cross discipline teams and not throwing things over imaginary walls.

 

Agreed. Sometimes it will require being more proactive to get this to work. Our clients will occasionally work with a different design agency, so we offer a free consultation on their design, and recommend that they don't show the client anything before first showing us. It's far more cost effective for us to find issues early on than late into a project. Obviously not all take us up on the offer, but we've done what we can at that stage, so it's easier to say "we can't do this, you'll have to let the client know".


Edited by Jack, 19 April 2017 - 02:35 PM.


#8 rbrtsmith

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 09:29 PM

 

Agreed. Sometimes it will require being more proactive to get this to work. Our clients will occasionally work with a different design agency, so we offer a free consultation on their design, and recommend that they don't show the client anything before first showing us. It's far more cost effective for us to find issues early on than late into a project. Obviously not all take us up on the offer, but we've done what we can at that stage, so it's easier to say "we can't do this, you'll have to let the client know".

 

In my last place we would just refuse to work with clients who wanted to use other design agencies because of the likely headaches that will ensue.  We would just explain that the said issues will result in an inferior product, higher costs, delays etc.  Most of them agreed to use our in house designers when things were explained in this manner.

 

Nothing worse than been thrown a design over the fence that you know isn't fit for purpose.  It also totally goes against the agile practice of iteration, continuous user feedback loop and rapid releases.



#9 Fuzzy Logic

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 09:31 PM

Rule of thirds, I found it one of the most powerful composition tools in the box.


#10 rbrtsmith

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 09:38 PM

Rule of thirds, I found it one of the most powerful composition tools in the box.

 

Works great for photography too :)



#11 fisicx

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 07:10 AM

Rule of thirds, I found it one of the most powerful composition tools in the box.

How does this work on a mobile phone?



#12 Fuzzy Logic

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 07:19 AM

The same way it works everywhere else, break it up into a grid of 9, useful for button placement or anything you want their focus to be really

IMG_2407.JPG


#13 fisicx

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 02:23 PM

I agree with the whole rule of thirds thing on larger devices but when you look at your phone do you really look top left first?

 

If you watch people using their phones a lot more look towards to bottom of the screen as they scroll down. This is why the most effective position for mobile adverts is at the bottom not the top. When I used to pay for eyetracking reports (until they became greedy) the tendency was to focus on the bottom half of small screens then glance up at the top to take action if needed. The exception was news and information sites but even then the eye began 100px + down. and with the advent of sticky headers people to top left even less.



#14 Fuzzy Logic

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 03:22 PM

Yes, because we read from left to right, our eyes are far more likely to look to the top left first, the rules don't change just because the screen is smaller, you will still read left to right.

 

If there is text or some form of enhanced 'noticeable' content, this would always be the case, the only time they would check out the bottom first is if there is a higher contrast down there than the top.



#15 fisicx

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 04:43 PM

If you pay to join one of the eyetracking testing sites and read the reports you will find this isn't the case.

 

I'm not disagreeing with the left to right, I'm just saying top left isn't the predominant focus are on small screens.

 

Even on bigger screens the dwell time for top left is tiny compared to the central part of the screen. So while top left might be the place people start looking (on some sites) that doesn't mean it will always be the case.

 

For example. What's the first thing you look at on this site? Or on facebook? Or when landing on Google?

 

I'd even argue that when will look at a photo we focus more on the central rectangle than the top left corner.



#16 Fuzzy Logic

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 05:18 PM

I think you are referring to some research regarding search engines directly that I am aware of, this research showed that in search engines, they found people had learned that the top organic results are no longer always in the top-left corner, so users look elsewhere to find them, mobile devices have habitually conditioned searchers to scan vertically more than horizontally. This does not refer to normal websites and they still start at the top left.

And your argument about photos, is not one supported by current research.


#17 fisicx

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 07:47 PM

No, I'm not talking about eyetracking and search engines. This is paid for tests on a whole range of websites and devices. I used to get monthly reports but it became too expensive.

 

On normal websites top left is no longer the key focus area. As the screen size reduces it becomes even less important.

 

I'm interested in the research about photos. I've been looking for some empirical evidence for a while and not found anything useful. What I do see is lots of advice about putting the focus just off centre rather than slavishly following the rule of thirds. A couple of articles say to use the lines rather than the sectors. It's obviously a complicated topic and one I'd like to know more about as I'm sure it can be applied to webpage composisiton.



#18 rbrtsmith

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:54 AM

To be fair having prominent CTAs and design elements that lead the users eyes and attention towards them matter far more than rule of thirds placement.  My last place researched this extensively as conversion was essentially what we did.  None of the rules are set in stone either, some of our most successful conversion spikes actually broke various rules / conventions.



#19 BrowserBugs

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:29 AM

Form follows function.

 

There's a great example of the opposite (form over function) in a local park where I live. They designed a modern looking rain shelter, accept the roof is just a wavy set of bars, it looks good, but it's completely useless when it rains.

 

Similar to the tip I got, met a designer once who told me 'design is simply housing the content' - at the time it was back in the day when everyone was trying to outdo each others bells and whistles, complex navs to 'look cool', made me stop and simplify how i approach things. IMO still stands true today.



#20 Jack

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 12:53 PM

 

Similar to the tip I got, met a designer once who told me 'design is simply housing the content' - at the time it was back in the day when everyone was trying to outdo each others bells and whistles, complex navs to 'look cool', made me stop and simplify how i approach things. IMO still stands true today.

 

Yup. Simple always wins.



#21 Fuzzy Logic

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 12:22 PM

No, I'm not talking about eyetracking and search engines. This is paid for tests on a whole range of websites and devices. I used to get monthly reports but it became too expensive.

 

On normal websites top left is no longer the key focus area. As the screen size reduces it becomes even less important.

 

I'm interested in the research about photos. I've been looking for some empirical evidence for a while and not found anything useful. What I do see is lots of advice about putting the focus just off centre rather than slavishly following the rule of thirds. A couple of articles say to use the lines rather than the sectors. It's obviously a complicated topic and one I'd like to know more about as I'm sure it can be applied to webpage composisiton.

 

Ok, something I can suggest to look up (took a while to re-find it)

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.../pubmed/7248671 (Left and wrong in adverts: Neuropsychological correlates of aesthetic preference) - 

 

The reason explained is due to the way our brains process images, As the signals from our eyes are sent to our visual cortex at the back of our brains, the information from the right side of our visual field reaches the left side of our brains first, and the information from the left field reaches the right side of our brains. Our left side is more specialised at understanding language (slightly less in left handed people) whilst our right brain is more specialised at decoding visual patterns.



#22 Nillervision

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 10:36 AM

Best design tip(s) I ever got was: "kill your darlings" and "Think out of the box". Heat maps, test results and design conventions are great tools but they are only tools. Design is all about problem solving and sometimes the best solution requires that you forget everything you know.


#23 Kim Kiav

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 01:45 PM

Design for the end user and search robots in mind






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