Your Design Is a Person Too
Nov 20th 2017
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Note: This is one of my very first pieces focused on and exploring a specific area of design and cementing the learnings a little deeper in my mind. I made it a short, succinct piece and published it on Medium (6 min read) where you can read it instead if you prefer. Writing for me is a must have design skill I'm actively building upon and will be attending a 'Copywriting for Tech' workshop in December 2017 at General Assembly London to develop further professionally in this area.
So I recently attended a great little thought session in London called UX Break. Where Irene Infante conveyed her feelings on content becoming a forgotten area of UX. It left me thinking why the imagery we choose and the language we use are so often afterthoughts in our design solutions. Though more importantly what can we do to help ourselves be aware of this and effectively work against such oversights.
why the imagery we choose and the language
we use are so often afterthoughts

Irene started by talking about how relatively new UX as a profession is. It is, and it feels as if it gets more complicated to communicate our role as time passes. We are so closely tied to technology that we are continually having to adapt our practices to address its ever-changing landscape. It doesn’t help that many new products and services are pushed out into this world simply because they were a cool idea. At its worst, this breakneck speed means that the UX is not considered at all. Though mostly it means we aren’t considering the full user experience. As Don Norman notes — All too often in UX we aren’t designing for every touch point a customer has when interacting with a companies product or service. We are getting stuck in the new and now. The trending term. That new process.
All too often in UX we aren’t designing 
for every touch point a customer has

Hold up, let’s push the breaks for a second before this conversation gets off track. The reason I went on that mini indulgent rant is because I am already falling head first for this profession. I love it. It’s great to be invested in something to the point where you start to develop incredibly strong opinions on it. So here comes my first opinion. Todays UX solutions are all too often emotionally stunted and thus cannot truly connect with their users on any meaningful level. Don’t connect with your user and it’s more than likely they will leave you to use the next thing that comes around saying they do your thing better.
Don’t connect with your user and it’s more than likely they will leave you
to use the next thing that comes around saying they do your thing better

Ok, opinion given but what am I suggesting we need to do? Well, this is where content comes into the discussion. To be stunted is to be prevented from growing or developing properly. By thinking about content as part of our design solution throughout our process. We can entwine emotion as a fundamental piece of the final product. In doing so we stand to make more realistic and more humanised experiences that better understand their users. This understanding, in turn, leads to those users being able to develop deeper more meaningful connections with your product. Not only because it is serving a purpose in their life but also because it meets them on a more emotional level. Where they become invested in your product. So when that new thing comes around claiming to do what you do better your users will not be so easily drawn away. It’s important to note here that it’s still as important as ever to keep your user front of mind when deciding what emotions the content layer of your design wants to put forth. Don’t become like Narcissus, obsessed with your own self and uncaring of those around you trying to connect. This kind of behaviour only begets stunted growth or worse still the death of your product.
entwine emotion as a fundamental piece of the final product.
In doing so we stand to make more realistic and more humanised
experiences that better understand their users.

In ‘Designing for Emotion’, Aarron Walter encourages us to “think of our designs not as a facade for interaction, but as people with whom our audience can have an inspired conversation.” People have emotions and we use these emotions when we connect and converse with others, so should your design. So how do we start? Is your design the supporting friend always looking out for you? Or maybe the prankster always trying to get you to smile? Your design will most likely display a multitude of emotions depending on the context of the interaction. though probably the biggest determining factor is who your user is. When having a conversation with another person it’s important to understand who they are otherwise are you actually even listening? As designers, we are already having these conversations to gather such qualitative research. With the goal of creating a persona to capture all these key insights and remind us of them when making decisions.
“think of our designs not as a facade for interaction, but as people with
whom our audience can have an inspired conversation.”

Personas! As Aarron succinctly puts it “products can have personas too…We know who they are (our users), but who are we?” That’s my answer. Personas bring the personality, they breathe life into your research. You should not begin thinking of solutions until you have asked all the questions. Gathered all of your research and of course used that research to create rich and detailed personas. Not only for your users but for your brand too. Remember these are living breathing documents they may change and they probably should because your product is no longer emotionally stunted. It’s growing and developing its understanding of itself and the people it serves and connects with. Check out this handy template Aarron created to get you started and add his book ‘Designing for Emotion’ to your reading list if you haven’t already checked it out. Let the personas you create for your product remind you of the importance your content plays in creating a memorable experience for your users.
Let the personas you create for your product remind you of the importance
your content plays in creating a memorable experience for your users.

One last tip before I finish up. The written copy is how your product talks and the images, colours, animations and typography to name a few elements is the image it projects. Make sure these feel real. There is nothing worse than interacting with another person who feels fake or contrived and is not being themselves. If you’re going to do it make sure you do it right. If you’re ever unsure whether you have got it right here are two activities I think may be helpful. These were taken from the book ‘Designing for Real Life’ by Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher.
1. Ask WWAHD — What Would A Human Do? If you can’t imagine yourself ever actually saying the copy you are writing then it’s more than likely not the best it can be.
2. If possible always build personas with a multidisciplinary team. the differing viewpoints will be invaluable in creating the most realistic personas possible. Additionally, ask someone to be the designated dissenter (for the entire duration of the project if possible). Their role is to disagree and bring attention to possible assumptions being made that could lead to failures in future.

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