Words to design by

At the Interactions 09 conference in Vancouver, Luke Wroblewski gave an interesting talk about the processes he and his team used to redesign the Yahoo! homepage. It was an interesting talk not so much for the outcome but for how he applied and talked about methods, best practices and patterns. His use of these kinds of guiding resources were balanced against the practicalities of shipping a real product.

In his talk he mentioned a book: 101 Things I learned in Architecture School.
Of course I had to go get it and much to my delight it is terrific. The book is full of applicable points of wisdom that are worth reviewing regardless of whether you are an architect or an information architect or an interaction designer.

This is one of my favorite items: Thing 29

Being process-oriented, not product driven, is the most important and difficult skill for a designer to develop.

Being process-oriented means:

  1. seeking to understand a design problem before chasing after solutions
  2. not force-fitting solutions to old problems onto new problems
  3. removing yourself from prideful investment in your projects and being slow to fall in love with your ideas
  4. making design investigations and decisions holistically (that address several aspects of a design problem at once) rather than sequentially (that finalize one aspect of a solution before investigating the next)
  5. making design decisions conditionally – that is, with the awareness that they may or may not work out as you continue toward a final solution
  6. knowing when to change and when to stick with previous decisions
  7. accepting as normal the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do
  8. working fluidly between concept-scale and detail-scale to see how each informs each other
  9. always asking “What if…?” regardless of how satisfied you are with your solution

These points are so true to understand as a designer. Especially if you are a newish designer. It’s easy to fall into the trap of rushing to a solution before the problem is even understood. Prideful investment is another item that resonated as I have seen many a designer with egos not let go of their solution because it was theirs and of course it was brilliant, but it wasn’t right.

There are more wonderful tidbits that I will share and comment on over the next few days but I wanted to start with this list because it goes to the root of how to approach solving a design problem.

current: experience matters design :: senior level interaction design and systems strategy consulting former partner, tangible user experience; Yahoo! founder of the public and internal Yahoo! pattern library. design director of ued teams responsible for designing solutions across key yahoo! platforms: social media, personalization, membership and vertical search.