“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. …

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…

There is a disconnect between product design and product engineering.

Three factors contribute to this disconnect:

  1. Products get shipped faster every day. DevOps teams automate huge amounts of the delivery process, enabling engineering teams to ship code many times every day.
  2. Designers have access to more information than ever before. UX research, product analytics, and tight-knit product teams provide torrents of data. Designers are always learning, and their designs evolve to reflect their understanding.
  3. Implementing a design hasn’t changed much. The design implementation process hasn’t changed much since the days of slicing PSDs. Design systems are beginning to automate some…

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 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…

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…

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.

For many products — especially media platforms — accessibility is a bullet point on a QA checklist. I want to set a much higher bar…

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?

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


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. …

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…

Matthew Ström

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

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