Designing at Scale (for Humanity)

A TED talk by Margaret Gould Stewart on How Giant Websites Design for You (and a billion others, too) caught my eye as I have recently signed up to take a UI/UX bootcamp through Ironhack. The topic of the TED Talk was: How do we design for large audiences but still retain the ability to speak to each person individually?

I’m practicing taking visual notes and sketching thoughts out the way a UI/UX designer would — taking a problem and mapping out its potential solutions on paper before taking it to a prototype phase. Reviewing this video left me with a few key takeaways:

First, my artwork :-)

Next, the important topics from this video:

Remember the details
Details matter! When designing for scale, details are important. Think about how your design will be viewed by people from all places using all kinds of devices. Facebook took more than 280 hours to design the “Like” button — this seems so simple, but they had to think about all the details — what devices people use, how older browsers would display the button, what it would look like in multi-languages, and all of this needed to be thought about within the framework of static width and height dimensions.

Learn to design with data
Facebook was getting a ton of reported images, but they ended up being people just embarassed that they were being tagged (by their friends) in unprofessional, embarassing or compromising photos. When Facebook started to design solutions and added simple “request removal” functionality, they found that just by adding polite take-down request language into a user’s request to have a photo removed, usage of the removal option went from 20% to 60%.

Introduce change carefully
This makes me think of that old show on HGTV — Trading Spaces (where people would trade spaces with their neighbors/friends and redesign a room in the neighbor’s or friend’s house). I’m sure that most of these people remained friends after some of the horrific design witnessed on the show, but I can’t help but think of that one couple who had horrified faces after the “reveal” of their redesigned room showed that they now had thousands of pieces of hay glued to their walls, something they never asked for nor deserved. Maybe the room wouldn’t have been so bad if the hay hadn’t been on the walls, but it was pretty overwhelming.

“I’m not sure I’m that into cleaning up hay particles for the rest of my life”

Applying this concept to websites and products we design for user experience is important — sometimes a lot of change is overwhelming, and you might even see goal conversion rates drop at first. People tend to get really efficient at using bad design. Introduce change carefully and you can avoid some of the pitfalls. Simply publishing research, like Youtube did when they moved from a five-star video rating system to a “Like” or “Dislike” button, can help communities of users understand why the change was made and ultimately lead to more acceptance. Netflix — if you ever read this, my fiance cancelled service because you changed your rating system and all of his hard work rating movies is now gone forever…. maybe you should talk to him and explain the change, eh? I really want to watch the next season of 13 Reasons Why when it comes out!

Understand WHO You’re Designing For
Put yourself in your user’s shoes — design for where people are, not where you are. People all over the world experience life differently and with different tools and devices. In America, our press is free, but in many countries, it’s not that way. The people in these places walk through life differently and need designs that work for them. Think about things like what devices people use, what websites, what languages, how old they are, what they do every day, etc.

Last thought: It takes audacity and humility to design at scale. Remember that.

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