3 things that will make design better in 2016

Throughout the year, our 365 day calendar triggers rhythmic moments of personal reflection, shared learning, and an abundance of on-trend top ten lists. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, new year’s eve; we’ve auto-scheduled check-ins with ourselves and each other about where we’re at and how things are going. Looking back at the plight of the product designer in 2015, these are my 3 recommendations for making design process better.

1. No more lingo

For the love of communication, let’s make an effort to return to plain language. It’s not going to be easy, but I don’t want to talk about ‘identifying deficiencies in the current experience and providing measurable hypotheses and outcomes in order to ideate actionable …’ YAWN. As complicated as it can be, product design will never be rocket science. Let’s use language that includes all humans, not just the user experience elite.

‘We will make this website look great, and make it easier for your customers to sign up because that’s how you make money’ sounds more relatable to me.

2. Plan less, make more

This is the design extension of ‘no more lingo.’ We discovered many human-centred insights with our users and clients at TWG this year, documented our processes and provided thorough strategic thinking into what makes users love a product. I learned that planning and strategy is always essential, but should be distilled into useful tools, not abundant artifacts. When our goal is to design and build something that people love, we should get there by designing and building a lot of different things that people might not love. We’ll always learn more along the way.

As a designer, I’m passionate about making useful and meaningful things. So let’s make lots of things, use them, and find out what they mean.

3. Practise empathy

Sound familiar? I tried ‘give a shit’, ‘no more complaining’, ‘ask more questions’, ‘practise patience’, and several others before I realized what all of these themes have in common. As trite as it may sound, empathy is really my number one focus of last year, next year, and forever.

You know when someone’s talking about an injury or experience and you squirm involuntarily because you can almost feel what they felt? Or when you find yourself crying during a movie, heck, a commercial? It’s only right that we try to relate that deeply to our users and clients. On the Wayback Machine of life, we’ll treasure our human interactions and the relationships between them, not the interfaces that facilitated them.

To practise empathy: pick someone you love and know well and ask them a few questions that will help round out your understanding of why they are who they are. Then pretend to be them when making decisions. What are they thinking about? Why do they feel like this? What’s motivating them? What would help them succeed? Now try it with someone you don’t know, and get to know them.

We’ve all heard of ‘faking it until you make it’, and have likely tried our own version of it. When you’re next faced with a problem, use empathy to channel the person experiencing this problem when you’re trying to solve it. You won’t be faking it, you’ll be making it for them.

Human centered product design has connected my love of people with my passion for design in a very meaningful way, and I’m starting to understand how it all fits together. As we sign up for gyms, cleanses, diets, classes, projects and resolutions in 2016, let’s think about how trying these things could improve our approach to product design and make next year’s check-in more insightful.