commadot.com http://commadot.com by Glen Lipka Wed, 15 Jan 2020 18:30:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://i0.wp.com/commadot.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-siteIcon21.png?fit=32%2C32 commadot.com http://commadot.com 32 32 2075023 2020 Predictions http://commadot.com/2020-predictions/ http://commadot.com/2020-predictions/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2020 18:30:46 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8774 What is a successful percentage to be right on yearly predictions? 30%? 75%? I was looking back at old predictions and I have a pretty mixed record. The Jets have never once won the superbowl!

Anyway, it’s that time of year. We should all make predictions. It’s worth seeing what you thought a year ago and how the world turned up. Here are mine for 2020:

Democratic Nominee

Geez, this is tough. I have no idea. I could see this playing out in so many ways. I like lots of the candidates. Andrew Yang is cool, I might vote for him. I need to predict someone, so… Joe Biden.

2020 Presidential Winner

Trump sucks. Please Universe/God/Karma don’t let him win. We need to vote. Vote! Vote for local elections too. We need to stop the coming climate apocalypse. Look at Australia for crying out loud. It’s a disaster! Biden wins by a narrow margin. PLEASE!

Tennis

I keep assuming that Federer, Nadel, and Djokovic will eventually lose. I keep being wrong. My predictions are: Djokovic wins Australia and US Open. Nadal wins the French, duh! And Federer doesn’t win any more opens, even though he will get to the finals of at least 2. Wimbeldon is up for grabs. The Australian Open should be canceled because of smoke.

Additionally, I predict that I am stuck at 4.5. I will take lots of lessons and hopefully NOT injure myself.

Cord Cutting

Cord Cutting is going mainstream. But the end of this year, Comcast and the big cable companies will be switching their business model to be competitive. Expect Comcast to have a YouTube TV competitor. At the least, they need to lower their prices and improve customer support. I think Roku continues to dominate the platform, but Apple and Google are always breathing down their necks.

Climate and World Events

2020 will be the worst year ever for heat and natural disasters. There will be wars and riots and protests and crackdowns. Russia will give Putin more power and China will bully their neighbors, especially Hong Kong. Things are going to get worse and worse. The gap between the rich and the poor will widen.

In a nutshell, 2020 will be shit.

Tesla

I recently looked at cars to replace my lease. I drove the Tesla Model 3. I’ll blog about this more later, but suffice to say that I think it’s the best car to ever be released into the market at that price. It’s stunning and I predict they will sell a ton more. Buy Tesla stock.

Design

I don’t think there will be any big news this year. Figma will continue to lead. Adobe XD will continue to follow. Sketch and Invision continue to decline. I have hope that flat design will become passĂ©, but I think it’s going to hang on a while longer.

Life

I don’t have many predictions because I think life is so chaotic right now. Many of these are hopes or fears. I hope 2020 is a turning point for the better. Things are not looking good right now.

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2019 In Review http://commadot.com/2019-in-review/ http://commadot.com/2019-in-review/#respond Wed, 18 Dec 2019 03:20:40 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8734 One of the nice things about blogging is that it creates a journal of your life. I know when I got my dog. I know when I visited Japan. I know when I met Hillary Clinton. To a degree, if I didn’t blog it, I am not sure if it happened or not.

On that note, I thought it would be good to recap my year with a little reflection. I would say 2019 has been a good year for me, but a terrible year for mankind. Let’s focus on me though. 🙂

2019 Predictions

First, let’s see how my 2019 predictions from January did.

1. Trump will not be impeached. WRONG – one more month I would have been right, barely.

2. Bitcoin will recover. RIGHT – but not all the way.

3. Microsoft will be biggest company in the world. WRONG – but so close. Wow, that’s alot of money.

Top Ten companies in the world.

4. Spiderman – Into the Spiderverse wins Oscar for best animated movie. RIGHT

5. Warriors win the 2019 NBA Finals. WRONG. They made it to the finals, but lost to the Raptors.

6. Tennis will have new generation of winners. WRONG. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal each won 2. This is ridiculous.

7. Beto O’Rourke wins the democratic nomination. VERY WRONG. Ouch.

8. Racism is strong. RIGHT. Sadly.

9. Ruth Bader Ginsberg stays healthy. MIXED. She has had some scares. Please stay alive.

10. Congress does nothing about Climate Change. RIGHT. Sadly.

11. Figma keeps doing well. RIGHT

12. Loki theory in Infinity Wars. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

13. Game of Thrones predictions. Wrong on almost everything.

So 5 out of 13 correct – 38%. Not very good.

International Trips

I had several major trips in 2019. The most important of which was to Tokyo, Japan. It was delightful. Terrific food, great people, excellent public transportation. I took a million pictures.

Other trips were to Seattle and Vancouver. I generally don’t like traveling, but these were very successful trips for work. Most of these trips, I went to coworkers. Corina was a delightful PM to have with me and Yuyan did a spectacular job of translating Japanese.

I have visited London, but my international travels have been very limited. These trips were hard on my body, but worth the effort.

Men’s 40+ 4.0 National Tennis Team

A tennis team I was on had a miraculous run this year. It was a once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully not, but you never know) experience. We won the playoffs by a hair. We barely won the sectionals, mostly in tie-breaks. We barely won the districts. We made it all the way to the Nationals in Surprise, Arizona with 15 other teams.

We came in 11th, but can honestly say that we were the best 40 year old and over men’s 4.0 tennis team west of the rockies in 2019 – not including the rockies. That’s still something!

Unfortunately, they bumped up my rating, so now I have to find all new teams and elevate my game.

Recruiting

This has been most of my year. Phone screen, interview, design exercise, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. Earlier in the year, I visited Indiana University. It was a successful trip and I think I just hired my first IU designer.

I railed against shitty portfolio sites that look identical to each other and have a bad experience for hiring managers. I gave lots of advice to lots and lots of designers. I hired several designers whom I am enjoying working with. I lost a few designers, but I wasn’t that fond of them in the first place.

Apparently, I am “famous” on a little sliver of WeChat that caters to young Chinese female designers. I asked to see it, but it’s all in Mandarin. I hope they are saying nice things.

Bathroom Remodel

We decided to remodel our bathrooms. With the generous help of my mother, we tore down walls, picked out tiles and paid contractors a bazillion dollars to build us some state of the art bathrooms.

It’s still not done, but we are hopeful by the end of the year it will be all set. I don’t think we did an A+ job, but it’s a solid B+.

GOODBAD
Nice Tiles Vent in Kids room is in awkward spot
Nice FloorsBathtub is too small
Nice VanitiesDoor bumps into tub
Gorgeous SkylightNo dimmer switch for lights
Decent lighting over sinkPaid too much
Size of bathrooms is betterTook too long
Mirrors look nicePainted walls a little too white
Good storageStressful process

There are things in both columns, but on the whole it is a major improvement over our original 1960s bathrooms. The kids like our bathroom better than theirs, but they will have to get used to it. We can repaint the walls, but the smaller bathtub is a bummer.

This remodel was at least 50% of our yearly stress.

Told You So App

I have been working with a contractor in India to build my Told You So application. It has been slow going and the results have been mixed. I am not sure they will be able to launch the thing. The primary guy is sick with Dengu fever. There is a small possibility he is faking to avoid me, but I hope not.

It’s actually pretty close, but it’s still not fully usable. In hindsight, I should have made the use cases more specific for every single scenario. You can’t use a contractor the way that you would work with a local engineer.

Game of Thrones Ended Badly

We are not going to talk about the atrocity that was the final season. Instead watch this video. It captures my angst perfectly. It’s also hilarious. I love that guy.

Summary

2019 was a decent year filled with lots of exciting things. I just looked back over my blog posts for the year and there are some that I really enjoyed writing. The project roles and responsibilities one really makes me happy.

On the other hand, the world is pretty messed up. Hong Kong is fighting for their freedom, The Uyghurs are being brutally repressed and possibility exterminated. Climate change is accelerating at an alarming pace. Donald Trump is not only an idiot, but actively advancing the priorities of a Russian dictator. Education is terrible AND expensive. Worst of all worlds. I have never been this worried about the viability of society. I seriously think about a post apocalyptic future.

I’ll save my predictions for 2020 for another post, but I think it will be a pivotal year. I hope that the better angels of our nature prevail.

That’s my year in review. What did you do this year?

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Differentiation http://commadot.com/differentiation/ http://commadot.com/differentiation/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2019 01:38:43 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8730

Design Principle #12
Always create space between you and the competition

Glen Lipka, 2019

Whether you are building a tech product or writing a resume or giving a presentation at a conference, it is important that people remember you. The only time you don’t want to differentiate yourself is when you are trying to blend in, like a spy in a crowd.

Differentiation in User Interface

One good example is when I was designing Marketo in 2007. The function was to build a workflow engine. We called it a Smart Campaign. The standard way to do that was a Visio-like flow chart. The big player at the time was Eloqua and they did it this way.

I didn’t think it looked very good when the flow charts got big. It became very complicated and looked like a bowl of spaghetti. When I talked to users, I realized that many of their “flows” were smaller and could be handled in a different way.

The design I came up with was more of an object-oriented approach where several different flows could trigger at the same time. It was more linear in visualization than a Visio chart. I won’t go into details, but the point was that it was different.

What happened was that half of the audience for marketing automation thought I was wrong. The other half thought I was right. As a new startup, this was perfect! We had cornered 50% of the market just by being different.

Differentiation in Sales

In general, you do not want to do what everyone else is doing. If you do, then it’s just a question of what is cheaper or more convenient. Sometimes it’s just luck. If your product is identical, then brand marketing and salesmanship are your only hope.

However, if you make your product, service, presentation different, you can claim uniqueness and make it more expensive. It’s not fun when you lose business because the competition is cheaper.

“I just want to say to a prospect, ‘If you don’t have [different thing we do], then you are screwed. And we are the only ones who do it.”

Bill Binch, Head of Sales, Marketo

This is also relevant in Marketing. How you describe yourself, how you write your emails, how you communicate…everything is a chance to differentiate. All of the great marketers I have know always tell me that any clever marketing has less than a year of novelty before everyone else starts copying you.

Differentiation in Job Seeking

When you are looking for a job, you can think of yourself as a project you are trying to sell. You want to get in front of viable prospects (hiring managers) and you want to stand out. Your resume and your website are the primary ways to stand out. Don’t just write to blend in. Differentiate so that the hiring manager has a reason to pick you.

Most designer websites (like 95%) are nearly identical. Here is my caricature of a designer website. It has:

  • Hi! My name is [name]!
  • Monochromatic background – usually white
  • Half dozen or so projects – they are squares with no design – just squared pictures.
    • Often, the pictures aren’t even clickable – you have to find the link
  • Project pages (case study) are one super long page. If there is navigation, it is small and unhelpful.
  • Pictures of stick notes on a wall (no zoom)
  • Pictures of designs (no prototypes, can’t zoom)
  • Picture of a double-diamond process
  • Lots and lots of text that no one reads

Look at your site, did I get it right?

Here is the question: Do you want to look exactly like everyone else or do you want to stand out? If you look the same, then you have to be lucky. If you look different, you can attract specific hiring managers.

The same goes for your resume. Put a little effort in to make it better, not just the same.

The Zebra and the Peacock

I’ve mentioned this before. Zebra like to blend in. They do NOT want to be picked. If they get picked, they get eaten. The Peacock is a different story. They want to be picked. They want attention.

When you are looking for a job or selling a service, do you want to be the zebra or the peacock? Do you want to stand out or not?

Why do we want to be the same?

It’s our DNA. We are just tall, hairless chimpanzees. It’s a miracle that we wear clothes and have microwave ovens. Most people just want to be safe, part of the pack. Most people do not want to stick their neck out and risk ridicule. Most people assume that if everyone does something, it must be right.

It’s difficult to break out from the pack. It’s difficult to stand up to the “norm” and say “This isn’t the right way to do this.”

If you happen to be applying to work as a design on my team, think about what I am saying here. Think about your site and resume. Think about what kind of person you want to be.

Think Different. (Thanks Steve Jobs!)

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Figma Features 2019 http://commadot.com/figma-features-2019/ http://commadot.com/figma-features-2019/#respond Thu, 05 Dec 2019 23:09:38 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8713

My primary design tool is Figma. Long gone are my storyboard days of PowerPoint design. Right now, my team is 6 designers strong and they are all co-authoring like mad inside of Figma. We use it for everything.

Figma has grown steadily in the past couple of years. They are making innovative features that people care about and didn’t even know they wanted.

I still worry about Adobe XD as a competitor for them. XD is is getting better and better too. Plus, they have a massive user base. Still, for now, Figma is the best choice. It’s clearly superior to using Sketch, in my opinion.

I often ask designers how well they know their design tool on a scale of 1-10. To clarify, what percentage of features do you know exactly how to use?

For Figma, I think I am about an 8. (80%) I took a few minutes to write down my understanding of Figma capabilities and what you should know. If you are new to Figma, here is a map of what to master.

Basic Shapes and Frames

This is the minimum to use the product. Make rectangles and text and voila! — user interface! One mistake designers coming from Sketch often make is that they don’t understand frames. Frames are not just artboards. They are the core container used for almost everything. If you don’t understand frames, you don’t understand Figma.

99% of the time, I will avoid using Groups. Groups aren’t useful nearly as much as frames (and components). They don’t have a life of their own. Frames are more substantive. A frame provides the container upon which constraints will work.

When making prototypes, all links must go to a ROOT LEVEL frame. This is a weird gotcha that I wish was different. They do a subtle little thing by bolding root level frames and making them blue. However, the second you sub-frame it or put it in a group — boom! — The prototype will stop linking. Frames are everything in Figma.

Quick hints: Use shortcuts to create the frame. Also you can switch a group to a frame on the right as well.

Constraints

One key use of Frames are the constraints feature. The point of constraints is that you’re going to resize things in your design. Iterations are everything in UI design. Your first effort will be crap. Iterate and iterate and it will get better. The key is to be able to change your prototype quickly. This means making your objects flexible. Learn constraints and you change things without having to shift-select like crazy. It’s crucial when using components.

When I test new designers, I often ask them to resize something. With constraints, it’s 5 seconds. Without, it’s 5 minutes. It’s a big deal.

Components and Instances

This is the bread and butter of UI design in Figma.

Design Tip #73: Never repeat anything in your designs. Use components and instances.

– Glen

Again, when you are designing, you want to optimize for iterations. You are going to change things. You don’t want to have to make the change 12 times in a row. Make the change once and it takes effect everywhere. If Figma didn’t have components, I would just use PowerPoint.

This is probably the hardest part of Figma to understand for new designers. You want to nest your components to minimize the number of layers in your tree. It makes loading quicker and also makes it easier to manage.

I could write an entire post just on component and instance technique. I am going to keep it short for now, but believe me, you have to learn this area in depth and experiment with how best to construct your components.

One quick thing…don’t put ALL your components on a different page. If they have specific prototype links, you need them on your primary page so you can manage the links centrally. Remember, if you have to do anything repetitively, you are doing it wrong.

Autolayout

This is brand new. Fresh out of the oven. I love this feature. I have been waiting for it for ages. Basically, it makes your layers aware of each other and move based on height/width. Example case: Tabs. You lengthen your third tab text and you want the fourth tab to move over. Boom. One more example: Tables. You have multiple columns of text and you want them to line up. There are many many more examples.

The point is that this feature is a big deal and doesn’t exist in other tools (that I have used). I strong;y recommend getting good at using Auto Layout.

Prototyping

It’s not a good experience (in my opinion) to jump from Sketch to Invision, back and forth over and over. Even the plugins don’t really make it seamless. It’s obvious to me that the new class of design tools with prototyping built in is a better model. When you are learning Figma, pay attention to the prototyping. There are several pieces to it including:

  1. Animation – there is more here than you realize
  2. Scrollable areas – make it realistic yo!
  3. Overlays – don’t make giant artboards for an overlay. Use the overlays please!
  4. Draw prototype links from components, not instances. Don’t repeat yourself. Do it right.
  5. Use the same size artboard everytime. I use 1333 x 750 – it fits perfectly into PowerPoint if you export and is about the size of a Macbook Air.
  6. Make sure you prototype to frames and not groups. Figma is finicky on this.
  7. You can’t prototype between “pages” – don’t mess this up.
  8. Learn to share your prototypes with others.

So there are alot of gotchas in prototyping, but it’s pretty powerful.

Team Library

You have to pay for this one. Its really meaningful for a team of designers like we have. However, it is NOT obvious how it works. I wish the library was directly accessible as a file, but it is more a nebulous cloud feature. You “publish” into it. This creates some weird effects.

However, if you are going to work as a team, you need to understand all of the ins and outs. This is especially crucial in regards to naming. How you name your components has a direct relevance to have other designers will use them. Ease of use of your fellow designers is an important goal of a design system.

And the Rest…

Vector / Drawing Tools

I am actually not that good with the vector tools. I get stuck in there sometimes. I have tried to manipulate some SVG paths for icons, but truthfully, I am a hack. I can’t even describe what you should learn or not. It depends on what you use it for.

Image Manipulation

This is another one I don’t spend much time on. There are a few light tools in Figma, but I use them maybe once a year at most.

Versions

There are versions in Figma. You should know how they work, but honestly, I haven’t touched them in ages. You would think they are important, but I just haven’t found the need for them.

Summary

I probably missed a few features, but these will get you pretty far. I started this post just cataloging the features of Figma for the purpose of helping a new designer understand what they should be getting good at. I am not sure I achieved my goal. Maybe this is just a laundry list.

Look, not all posts are made of gold. You blog 1,970 times and see how many of them are awesome.

Happy Holidays!

Side note: Christmas and New Years holidays this year are on Tuesday and Wednesday. So who is coming in those Mondays? Anyone? And who is bothering to come in on the Thursdays and Fridays? It seems like there will be two weeks with no one working. Am I wrong?

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Tennis Level: 4.5 http://commadot.com/tennis-level-4-5/ http://commadot.com/tennis-level-4-5/#respond Wed, 04 Dec 2019 03:15:24 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8707 I currently play tennis about 2 times per week. I started around 12 years old and played through my teenage years. On the east coast, you play more in the summer and less in the winter so my play was erratic.

My game was OK, nothing special. I played middle of the pack. And then when I went to college in freezing cold Buffalo, NY, I basically stopped playing for 22 years.

Then in 2014, I was invited to hit with three women: Charlene, Aki, and Wanda. I tried a new racket. Holy Cow! Rackets and strings sure have improved since 1992. I played great. I could hit topspin and slice. Wow!

Charlene introduced me to Rick who introduced me to the USTA. The USTA is amazing. There are leagues and it’s easy to sign up. They have matches and a whole system in place. I had no idea this existed. I would have played more in my thirties!

My Tennis Record since 2014

You can see I have been playing more and more matches each year as I joined more teams. My winning percentage has been in the 70’s except 2016 when I had my wrist surgery. I have been consistently a 4.0 player this whole time.

Tennis Levels explained

This year, however, I joined a 40 and over Men’s 4.0 league in San Carlos. This team, through luck, skill, heart, and more luck, made it all the way to the Nationals in Surprise, Arizona.

This is a big deal. People do not get to the nationals all the time. You have to win your league, your section, and your district all to qualify for the big show. 16 teams from around the country out of thousands

We came in 11th. Not great, not bad. We had a terrific experience. I will remember it for a very long time.

Yesterday, 8 of us got bumped up to level 4.5 by the USTA

I think this is pretty weird. Some of us were borderline for sure. But others are clearly 4.0 players and are going to be crushed at the 4.5 level. As a rule of thumb, a 4.5 player will beat a 4.0 player 95% of the time. A 4.0 player will beat a 3.5 player 90% of the time. I am going to be pummeled.

So what do I need to do now?

I need to join teams as a 4.5. Very few captains are going to want to play me because I stink as a 4.5. So either I need to lose alot and get bumped down…OR I need to take lessons and get better and compete at the 4.5 level. (Not easy, considering I am old and decrepit.) So likely scenario is that my win percentage plummets and I play less because captains lose faith in me.

This is what I get for going to Nationals.

I don’t want to be a whiner, despite the evidence that I clearly am whining. I am just nervous about playing. I love tennis and want to win. Hopefully, I can raise the level of my game and compete. Leveling up, here we go.

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Clean and Modern http://commadot.com/clean-and-modern/ http://commadot.com/clean-and-modern/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2019 00:35:46 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8674 Internally, I have a bullshitometer. It’s a technical device that detects bullshit. It looks like this:

My Internal Bullsitometer, highly accurate

One of the things that pushes this finely tuned device to the extreme right are when designers say the words “Clean and Modern”.

This is just a stupid Jedi mind trick.

It’s a way of a designer saying “It’s good, don’t worry about it.” Usually, the design has real problems and they want it to sound good. Here is how I interpret these words:

Clean

  1. It lacks affordances. In other words, the user would not know the functionality is there because it is too small and out of the way. The designer thinks that this is “good” because it isn’t cluttered, but in reality it is “bad” because the user can’t find the functionality.
  2. Functionality is just missing. This happens all of the time. I ask how the user does something and the answer is “It’s cleaner without it.”
  3. It is only black, white, and gray with a tiny splash of blue. It’s like designers are allergic to any colorful interfaces. Using color doesn’t make the UI look bad. It helps to differentiate parts of the system as well as indicate states.
  4. Everything is spread really far apart. This is not a good choice from a user interface perspective. You don’t want things to be cramped, but you also don’t want them to be too spaced out. Balance Daniel-San, Balance!

Modern

  1. Everything is flat. No shadows, rounded corners, gradients, or 3-dimensionality. It was popular for a few years, but it actually makes it harder to understand the information architecture when everything bleeds into everything else. Levels are very useful to show hierarchy.
  2. No icons. Icons + Words are the best way to communicate a menu option. Sometimes the icons are there, but muted and turned flat. What is wrong with 3 dimensional icons. Look at the Mac dock bar. It’s fantastically 3D and colorful. Designers need to stop getting rid of icons.
  3. Material Design. So many designers are just copying Google Material Design in their projects. It’s unoriginal and lazy. There are a million different looks to steal. Steal something interesting.

Please for the love of God, stop saying “Clean and Modern.” Be more critical of your work. Design a little better than you did yesterday. Clean should mean that you named your layers well. Modern should mean there are lots of micro-interactions that take advantage of new browsers. Don’t try to fake us out. Don’t try and fake yourself out.

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Inspiring Design: Google Doc http://commadot.com/inspiring-design-google-doc/ http://commadot.com/inspiring-design-google-doc/#respond Sun, 17 Nov 2019 23:43:11 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8660 A designer asked me the other day what application design I thought was great and I happened to be working on a Google Doc. I thought it was a terrific design in many ways.

Just as an aside, Google Slides is one of my LEAST favorite Google applications. It’s awful and everytime I use it, I wish I could use Microsoft PowerPoint instead. However, the Doc UI is much better.

Information Architecture

Google Docs does an excellent job in space management. They have many features, but it never feels cluttered. The focus os obviously on the middle on the screen where you type, but they do a great job of organizing the rest of the screen. The top menu and button area is compact, but not too busy for the use case. The footer is useful and also compact. They also do a great job of using side panels when necessary.

I often try to communicate the difference between a desktop application and a mobile application. This is a perfect example. The information architecture is perfect for desktop and you can imagine a completely different approach for tablet or mobile.

Direct Manipulation

One of the hallmarks of a great design is direct manipulation. Modals are old and clunky. They get in the way and slow the user down. Docs removes excise in all sorts of use cases. When you add a comment, it isn’t disconnected from the text. When you add a link to the text, it feels natural and direct.

Obviously, the star manipulation is typing. Way back in the day, the concurrent editing of a Google Doc was a revelation. It was the perfect use of technology to create a better experience.

Great Inline Feedback

The obvious ones are misspellings and grammar mistakes, but Docs also has a great word count feature.

Lots of good tools.

If you check the box that says “Display word count while typing” it puts a little box on the bottom left, which can be expanded with great info for students.

Students often have to hit specific word counts.

Summary

I don’t have time to go over every single cool design feature, but if you use it, you will find it easy and pleasing. The tools on the strip all the way to the right are especially well designed. Use the little Task List and see all of the little things that make a design shine.

When I ask applicants to do a design exercise, I really want them to succeed. I show them great designs and give them all sorts of advice and hints to make the design better. One tip is to look at well designed products and emulate them. I don’t think everything Google does is great, but some of their applications are wonderful to use.

When you make a design, think about the little details. Think about the excise and get rid of it. Think about adding in little delightful touches. Think and keep designing.

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The Default Design http://commadot.com/the-default-design/ http://commadot.com/the-default-design/#respond Wed, 13 Nov 2019 02:58:18 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8643 I give a design exercise to candidates to bring in for their onsite interview. The point of a design exercise is shed light on the following:

  1. Are they masters of their tool?
  2. Are they productive?
  3. Are they creative?
  4. Are they logical?
  5. Are they detail-oriented?

One thing I advise candidates to avoid is the “Default Design”. The default is the choice is actually very common. Here are some characteristics of the Default Design.

Lists, Pages, and Modals

When web applications were new (late 90’s) you would frequently get this particular structure. It would have a long list of an object type. Clicking on an item would navigate to a page dedicated to that single instance of the object. Editing any part of it would pop up a modal. You fill out all the modal and then save and it updates the page.

This mode of interaction works to a degree. It’s logical and covers all the use cases. However, it’s also boring and not particularly efficient for the user. Lastly, this method creates a usage requiring pogo-sticking. This means it’s hard to navigate linearly through the content, but rather have to go from list to detail to list to detail, etc.

What is better is direct manipulation. This is when you can edit items directly from where they are and not have to navigate. All modern applications have direct manipulation built into the design. If you want a nice example: Go to gmail, and click on the little tasks icon on the far right. See screenshot.

It’s truly a beautifully designed little widget. All of the micro-interactions are on point. It has plenty of direct manipulation. I love the way it works. The point is that this is not the default design. It’s a modern application that takes advantage of current technology. It is not the default.

Flat Design

People don’t really understand where Flat Design originally came from. A little over 10 years ago the iPhone was introduced. It had a crumby battery, a slow CPU, and a poor screen. Apple wanted a way to simplify the UI so it seemed quicker. They got rid of shadows, gradients, and rounded corners. In other words, they flattened the visuals. This helped with battery life and performance.

Since the iPhone was such a hit, the style (which was meant for functional purposes) became “fashionable”. Everyone fell in love with “flat”. Microsoft dumbed down their UI to the point of absurdity, even on desktop UIs. Windows is still flat to this day. Everyone went flat. Then Google made a whole design language called Material Design and popularized design languages that were flat.

When a designer makes their designs flat, they are just copying 10+ year old styles. It’s the default. It’s not “clean and modern”. It’s old and boring. It also does a terrible job of providing visual hierarchy.

Monochromatic (or no) Colors

It’s like designers are allergic to color. Nothing is wrong with color. It’s beautiful and natural. Just because Apple (again the fashion problem) makes everything titanium white doesn’t mean that you have to avoid color. Color is an important tool in your visual toolkit. Use it!

Lack of Creativity

The world needs better designers. Stop designing exactly like everyone else. Be creative. Try things. Maybe they don’t work and are bad. Maybe they are amazing. Please try. Don’t just do the minimum. Don’t just design the defaults.

When I interview you, I am trying to see if you are a default designer or not. Show me that you are more than just copying other designers.

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Passion for Your Craft http://commadot.com/passion-for-your-craft/ http://commadot.com/passion-for-your-craft/#respond Sat, 02 Nov 2019 09:24:41 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8576 My mother-in-law, Penny, is a retired nurse. After retiring, she took up weaving. For those of you who don’t know, weaving takes up alot of space. There are baskets of wool everywhere. The loom itself is enormous. Penny’s loom is roughly as big as this one.

Looms are big!

She used to have a dining room, now she has a looming room. The loom connects to a computer and has a special attachment that lifts and moves different parts so that she can make exotic patterns and fabrics.

When I am interviewing designers, I sometimes tell them about Penny. She doesn’t get paid to loom. On the contrary, she pays money for equipment and books and materials herslf. She pays to go to conferences. She is heavily involved in the weaving community. She reads books on weaving, she watches videos on weaving. She learned Photoshop just so she can design patterns better!

In short, Penny is obsessed with weaving. Imagine loving something so much that you PAY for the privilege of doing it. Imagine being that immersed in your craft.

Now think about your career. Are you putting in the same effort into your career as Penny is into her “hobby”? There are people I have worked with who clearly do. I have seen people in marketing, sales, programming, HR, support, and (of course) product design all obsess about their craft.

When I learned design was a thing (my blog post about that) I dove deep, I read every book I could find on the subject. I went to every conference. I answered questions on every forum. (I still have posts being read from 10 years ago on UX.stackexchange.com). I designed all of the time. I focused on being a master of my design tools. I tried every piece of software I could find to be inspired. I made up things to design. Obviously, I blogged about design pretty frequently as well.

My question to you (and to the young designers I am interviewing) is this: Why aren’t you as energetic and enthusiastic about design as Penny is about looming?

I can tell you this: When I find people who are that excited about design, I am going to pay them every dollar I can to join the team. They are worth it.

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Designer Review Cheat Sheet http://commadot.com/designer-review-cheat-sheet/ http://commadot.com/designer-review-cheat-sheet/#respond Fri, 18 Oct 2019 01:10:36 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=8553 When I review a new applicant, I look at their information and decide whether to set up a zoom video conferencing call or not. The truth is that I WANT you to succeed. I want you to have multiple lucrative offers. So to help you, here is a cheat sheet to get past my review. I made a little score card. It is what I look for and how long I take to review.

Review Score Card

#In 3 to 5 minutesMinMax
1Cover letter01
2Referral05
3LinkedIn Recommendations02
4Resume is “designed”01
5Website Blink Test01
6Site is “different”05
7Has B2B application work03
8 Can see design work easily02
9Work is reasonable quality05
10“About Me” Page is authentic02
11Has Figma skills03
12Has technical skills03
13Marketing domain experience02
14Wix/Squarespace-1-1
15Only marketing/mobile-3-3
16Grammar mistakes-1-2

Now certainly, one can be subjective about some of these line items. I put in a mix and max where I have some discretion. You might be shocked (or maybe not) how many people score less than 5 points on my review.

I speak with an average of 4 candidates per day. The truth is that my bar for speaking with you via zoom is about 7 points. That’s it. You don’t need years of experience. You don’t need fancy degrees. You just need to do the basics.

To me the most important one is “Site is different”. Currently 95% of every designer website is stylistically identical. All you need to do is add some color and boom, you stand out. Add some interaction design and voila, uniqueness! It’s not that hard. Please design your sites to be differentiated.

But also there is low hanging fruit. “Can see design work easily”. Why do designers put pictures of their work super tiny with no way to zoom? I just want to see the work. Please let me see it!

Interestingly, I keep hearing from candidates who tell me that a mentor at the design bootcamp they went to told them to have a minimalistic site. In fact, they are graded on having it look 100% the same as everyone elses. White background, super long case studies. I have a message to those mentors. “You are wrong. You are ruining their websites. Stop making them blend in. You want to stand out!”

If you disagree with something above, please let me know. If you are a hiring manager and look for something else, I would also like to know. Let’s not make this a secret. We want people to get better, don’t we?

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