Note taking might be one of the most straightforward app capabilities to design for. I think this naturally skews the execution of any note tool toward minimalism, utilitarian principles that most apps adopt. However, what separates the preferred note taking app from the rest is how fruitful complexities are built into the experience that caters to an individual’s needs. I took a look at how multiple note taking apps built on top of what was expected to create a niche for their product and possibly for me, someone looking for a place to take notes.

Taking notes (digitally) has been an ongoing journey. I’ve jumped across apps looking for something that is accessible, simple to jump in yet robust to organize my notes so that I can go back and study what I jotted down. The content within notes can be as quick and temporary as a grocery list or as thoughtful and semi-permanent as a thought. Thoughts across individual notes can be tied together to form concepts which just keeps adding on to the database of knowledge stored in the tool. This is what I look for in a note taking app. …


Exploring the great outdoors is a frequent thought these days. Daydreams of hiking national parks on the other side of the country for a break from the crowd that is the city. Unfortunately, my brush with nature has been consistently walking short, flat trails in Illinois and always finding my way back to civilization by nightfall. So I searched for phone apps that could guide an amateur like myself in planning a trip to a national park like Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Zion by inspiring confidence to make the trek. I found the Recreation.gov app. I decided to download the app because it was near the top of a “Trail app” search on the Play Store with a high rating and clearly straight from the organization that manages national parks. However, I did not find the inspiration I was looking for using the Recreation.gov …


The Smart News app is a personalization tool that lets users build their own digital newsstand by pulling from specific publications, broad categories, and local sources. Immediately after opening the app I was recommended localized content (after I’d permitted location services, of course) from some sources I was familiar with and others I had never heard about.

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Left: Tab for local news pulls from multiple sources; Center: Discover tab shows channels to select that will add a new tab; Right: Add/Delete channels that will show up as tabs as well as re-ordering them

To personalize, I figured out how to use the Discover tab to add more categories and select sources, or channels as the app calls them, that added a new tab respective of my selection across the top of the screen. Also from the Discover tab I could delete and re-order tabs in any way I wanted. Overall, the Smart News app gave me the controls I wanted to curate my information but faltered in presenting the information in a way that made me want to search and read articles through the app. …


Part 2: How do we design in a way that helps our users choose an intentional digital experience?

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Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

This is part 2 of 2 in a series about deliberate digital experiences. In the first part I talked about my dilemma as a user in using digital apps and how we might confront our digital lives so that we can work to live digitally, deliberately. In part 2, I will explore the question that — as a designer of digital products — immediately followed: was I designing for others to live digitally deliberately, too?

Shifting from user to designer

As a user, I had resolved to readjust my perspective toward digital products. I’d decided to see them strictly as tools for specific purposes with a clear benefit to myself. Rather than reaching for my phone at any moment, I needed to be deliberate in my decisions and actions for navigating digital products. …


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (Thoreau 80)

My phone should be a tool. But one day, I looked up from the screen wondering how much time I’d spent endlessly scrolling through a feed and across from me was a friend still in the scroll. …


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Combining digital interactive affordances into research artifacts for improved communication

As UX designers we have a variety of tools across the design process including softwares like Sketch and InVision to prototype digital interactions and we have research artifacts like user journey maps and personas to inform the user experience. There is an opportunity to enhance our artifacts by combining the interactive affordances of digital prototyping with the rich data that informs and comes out of research outputs.

I’ve written the following as a designer that has opportunities to work on research and prototyping which is typical of design teams where someone can contribute throughout the design process. …

Ignacio Martinez

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