Image for post
Image for post

“Could we explore other options?”

If you’ve been to a design review, you’ve probably heard this question. When I hear it, my heart breaks. It says that our team is out of alignment: the work I’m sharing isn’t meeting everyone’s expectations.

I’d like to share a workshop that I use to help teams overcome the pain of mismatched creative expectations. Using this format, I recently had 7 teammates share their thoughts on 25 different pieces of design. The results, both quantitative and qualitative, tell us a lot. …


Image for post
Image for post

Like most people, I have a complex relationship with meetings. At my agency job, the vast differences in time zones between the team made meetings impossible. At The Wall Street Journal, I spent at least 80% of my day in meetings. I’ve facilitated my share of week-long workshops and 5-minute standups.

While lots of aspects of meetings can’t be controlled — outcomes depend on participants — it is possible to control how inclusive a meeting is. Inclusive meetings aren’t guaranteed to be more productive, but they’ll create an environment where everyone can contribute in a safe way.

I’ve seen inclusive meetings have a positive impact on company culture in ever team I’ve been on. I’d like to share a few ways you can make your meetings more inclusive, too. …


There is a disconnect between product design and product engineering.

Three factors contribute to this disconnect:


Image for post
Image for post
photo by Toa Heftiba

John refers to Samin Nosrat’s fantastic cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat, and poses a fantastic question: as Nosrat provides a simple list of essential ingredients for any great meal, can we describe a simple list of essential components for digital products?

Here are four elements that I believe are the foundation of great digital products: Research, Empathy, Simplicity and Speed.

Research

Research answers a vital question: “What do our users want?” Market research, qualitative user research, usability research, quantitative research and analysis; these are all flavors that can fuel a great product.

Too much research results in analysis paralysis. Signals get lost in the noise, and the team works in fits and starts. …


Design principles are a valuable tool for any team that works together towards a shared outcome. Written well, design principles can create alignment, speed up decision-making, and increase the quality of the team’s output.

Lately, I’ve worked with two of my teams to write design principles. Turns out writing down design principles is easy¹; agreeing on principles as a team is much harder. In earlier writing, I missed an important quality of good design principles:

Good design principles are written as a team.

I learned this lesson the hard way. If you bring fully-formed principles to your team to adopt, you’re missing an important opportunity to align with your teammates. …


As I write this, the WSJ.com team is launching a brand new homepage experience for small screens.¹ It’s one of our biggest subscription-drivers, a page that hundreds of thousands of people see every day. The new experience builds on the award-winning design of the WSJ iOS and Android apps. It’s curated specifically for mobile reading by an amazing editorial team.

It’s also our first step towards making WSJ.com more accessible to all of our users.

Image for post
Image for post

For many products — especially media platforms — accessibility is a bullet point on a QA checklist. I want to set a much higher bar for our products. Over the past 6 months, I’ve collaborated closely with designers, product managers, engineers, and journalists to focus on leading the media industry in accessibility standards.


Image for post
Image for post

As we at the Wall Street Journal kick off a new round of hiring¹, I’m reminded of my least favorite practice in design hiring: the Exercise. Why do we put ourselves through it? Why do we put each other through it? What could we possibly gain from it? I’d like to hazard an answer these questions. I also have a strange idea of how to improve the exercise — more on that in a bit.

What is the Exercise?

Image for post
Image for post
Pretty much every design hiring process

The Exercise is one step in most organizations’ design hiring process. It happens somewhere between interviews and a hiring decision. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Pietro Rampazzo on Unsplash

197 billion apps were downloaded in 2017¹: that’s almost 26 per human being on the planet Earth. 6 apps per second. In the 10 years since Apple opened the App Store, app downloads have doubled, on average, every two years.²

Given the numbers, it’s not surprising that many veterans of the web platform have declared it as second-rate:

I feel it’s time to revisit the web vs. native debate, and concede defeat — or, at least, concede that the web cannot, and should not, compete with native when it comes to complex, app-like structures.
Peter-Paul Koch, 2015 ³

Websites are just services, and what you see in a browser tab is merely one possible interface to that service. The best possible interface to that service is often, if not usually, going to be a native app, not a web app.
John Gruber, 2013…


I like job interviews.

I participated in a lot of job interviews in 2017. I interviewed extensively before starting at SoundCloud, and then again on my way to my current position at The Wall Street Journal.

Sometimes, interviews are full of fascinating cultural signals. Most times, interviews are full of tired and cliche questions.

For example, “What’s your greatest weakness?” This is the Monopoly of questions: everyone knows the rules, and nobody likes playing. The interviewee is expected to come up with an insightful comment about their own shortcomings, without revealing any of their actual shortcomings. …


Image for post
Image for post

Like many design teams, the Wall Street Journal team has been thinking through our design principles. Writing design principles comes pretty naturally (especially if you read this excellent list by Jeremy Keith). As we collaborate, we end up with a lot of candidates. However, it’s unclear what exactly a good design principle is.

To that end, here’s a set of criteria I’ve been working with:

Good design principles are memorable.

What good is a design principle if it’s hard to internalize?

“Good design is as little design as possible”Dieter Rams
“Design with an intention to conserve effort and produce as little material output as is necessary to accomplish your goals” — Go home, drunk Dieter…

About

Matthew Ström

Design Lead at Bitly. https://matthewstrom.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store