Media queries have always been a cornerstone of responsive design but the role of media queries is changing. It’s now possible to make websites with responsive properties that are not tied to specific breakpoints.
Learn how to use fluid typography, responsive SVG, adaptive flexbox components, CSS grid and custom properties to create unique responsive solutions that go beyond media queries.
Once you have grasped the basics of CSS Grid, you quickly discover how it enables many existing design patterns in a streamlined, elegant way. However, we shouldn’t see Grid in isolation. Understanding how other parts of CSS work together with Grid is key, in order to get the most out of our new abilities.
In this talk Rachel will be concentrating on a couple of these areas, CSS Box Alignment and CSS Sizing.
How To Improve Your Design Process With Data-Based Personas
Most design and product teams have some type of persona document. Theoretically, personas help us better understand our users and meet their needs. The idea is that codifying what we’ve learned about distinct groups of users helps us make better design decisions. Referring to these documents ourselves and sharing them with non-design team members and external stakeholders should ultimately lead to a user experience more closely aligned with what real users actually need.
In reality, personas rarely prove equal to these expectations. On many teams, persona documents sit abandoned on hard drives, collecting digital dust while designers continue to create products based primarily on whim and intuition.
In contrast, well-researched personas serve as a proxy for the user. They help us check our work and ensure that we’re building things users really need.
In fact, the best personas don’t just describe users; they actually help designers predict their behavior. In her article on persona creation, Laura Klein describes it perfectly:
“If you can create a predictive persona, it means you truly know not just what your users are like, but the exact factors that make it likely that a person will become and remain a happy customer.”
In other words, useful personas actually help design teams make better decisions because they can predict with some accuracy how users will respond to potential product changes.
Obviously, for personas to facilitate these types of predictions, they need to be based on more than intuition and anecdotes. They need to be data-driven.
So, what do data-driven personas look like, and how do you make one?
Start With What You Think You Know
The first step in creating data-driven personas is similar to the typical persona creation process. Write down your team’s hypotheses about what the key user groups are and what’s important to each group.
If your team is like most, some members will disagree with others about which groups are important, the particular makeup and qualities of each persona, and so on. This type of disagreement is healthy, but unlike the usual persona creation process you may be used to, you’re not going to get bogged down here.
Instead of debating the merits of each persona (and the various facets and permutations thereof), the important thing is to be specific about the different hypotheses you and your team have and write them down. You’re going to validate these hypotheses later, so it’s okay if your team disagrees at this stage. You may choose to focus on a few particular personas, but make sure to keep a backlog of other ideas as well.
I recommend aiming for a short, 1–2 sentence description of each hypothetical persona that details who they are, what root problem they hope to solve by using your product, and any other pertinent details.
You can use the traditional user stories framework for this. If you were creating hypothetical personas for Craigslist, one of these statements might read:
“As a recent college grad, I want to find cheap furniture so I can furnish my new apartment.”
Another might say:
“As a homeowner with an extra bedroom, I want to find a responsible tenant to rent this space to so I can earn some extra income.”
If you have existing data — things like user feedback emails, NPS scores, user interview notes, or analytics data — be sure to go over them and include relevant data points in your notes along with your user stories.
Validate And Refine
The next step is to validate and refine these hypotheses with user interviews. For each of your hypothetical personas, you’ll want to start by interviewing 5 to 10 people who fit that group.
You have three key goals for these interviews. For each group, you need to:
Understand the context in which they need to solve the problem.
Confirm that members of the persona group agree that the problem you recorded is an urgent and painful one that they struggle to solve now.
Identify key predictors of whether a member of this persona is likely to become and remain an active user.
The approach you take to these interviews may vary, but I recommend a hybrid approach between a traditional user interview, which is very non-leading, and a Lean Problem interview, which is deliberately leading.
“Tell me about the last time you purchased furniture. What did you buy? Where did you buy it?”
These types of questions are great for establishing whether the interviewee recently experienced the problem in question, how they solved it, and whether they’re dissatisfied with their current solution.
Once you’ve finished asking these types of questions, move on to the Lean Problem portion of the interview. In this section, you want to tell a story about a time when you experienced the problem — establishing the various issues you struggled with and why it was frustrating — and see how they respond.
You might say something like this:
“When I graduated college, I had to get new furniture because I wasn’t living in the dorm anymore. I spent forever looking at furniture stores, but they were all either ridiculously expensive or big-box stores with super-cheap furniture I knew would break in a few weeks. I really wanted to find good furniture at a reasonable price, but I couldn’t find anything and I eventually just bought the cheap stuff. It inevitably broke, and I had to spend even more money, which I couldn’t really afford. Does any of that resonate with you?”
What you’re looking for here is emphatic agreement. If your interviewee says “yes, that resonates” but doesn’t get much more excited than they were during the rest of the interview, the problem probably wasn’t that painful for them.
On the other hand, if they get excited, empathize with your story, or give their own anecdote about the problem, you know you’ve found a problem they really care about and need to be solved.
Finally, make sure to ask any demographic questions you didn’t cover earlier, especially those around key attributes you think might be significant predictors of whether somebody will become and remain a user. For example, you might think that recent college grads who get high-paying jobs aren’t likely to become users because they can afford to buy furniture at retail; if so, be sure to ask about income.
You’re looking for predictable patterns. If you bring in 5 members of your persona and 4 of them have the problem you’re trying to solve and desperately want a solution, you’ve probably identified a key persona.
On the other hand, if you’re getting inconsistent results, you likely need to refine your hypothetical persona and repeat this process, using what you learn in your interviews to form new hypotheses to test. If you can’t consistently find users who have the problem you want to solve, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get millions of them to use your product. So don’t skimp on this step.
Create Your Personas
The penultimate step in this process is creating the actual personas themselves. This is where things get interesting. Unlike traditional personas, which are typically static, your data-driven personas will be living, breathing documents.
The goal here is to combine the lessons you learned in the previous step — about who the user is and what they need — with data that shows how well the latest iteration of your product is serving their needs.
At my company Swish, each one of our personas includes two sections with the following data:
Predictive User Data
Product Performance Data
Description of the user including predictive demographics.
The percentage of our current user base the persona represents.
It may take some time for your team to produce all this information, but it’s okay to start with what you have and improve the personas over time. Your personas won’t be sitting on a shelf. Every time you release a new feature or change an existing one, you should measure the results and update your personas accordingly.
Integrate Your Personas Into Your Workflow
Now that you’ve created your personas, it’s time to actually use them in your day-to-day design process. Here are 4 opportunities to use your new data-driven personas:
At Standups At Swish, our standups are a bit different. We start these meetings by reviewing the activation, retention, and referral metrics for each persona. This ensures that — as we discuss yesterday’s progress and today’s obstacles — we remain focused on what really matters: how well we’re serving our users.
During Prioritization Your data-driven personas are a great way to keep team members honest as you discuss new features and changes. When you know how much of your user base the persona represents and how well you’re serving them, it quickly becomes obvious whether a potential feature could actually make a difference. Suddenly deciding what to work on won’t require hours of debate or horse-trading.
At Design Reviews Your data-driven personas are a great way to keep team members honest as you discuss new designs. When team members can creditably represent users with actual quotes from user interviews, their feedback quickly becomes less subjective and more useful.
When Onboarding New Team Members New hires inevitably bring a host of implicit biases and assumptions about the user with them when they start. By including your data-driven personas in their onboarding documents, you can get new team members up to speed much more quickly and ensure they understand the hard-earned lessons your team learned along the way.
Keeping Your Personas Up To Date
It’s vitally important to keep your personas up-to-date so your team members can continue to rely on them to guide their design thinking.
As your product improves, it’s simple to update NPS scores and performance data. I recommend doing this monthly at a minimum; if you’re working on an early-stage, rapidly-changing product, you’ll get better mileage by updating these stats weekly instead.
It’s also important to check in with members of your personas periodically to make sure your predictive data stays relevant. As your product evolves and the competitive landscape changes, your users’ views about their problems will change as well. If your growth starts to plateau, another round of interviews may help to unlock insights you didn’t find the first time. Even if everything is going well, try to check in with members of your personas — both current users of your product and some non-users — every 6 to 12 months.
Building data-driven personas is a challenging project that takes time and dedication. You won’t uncover the insights you need or build the conviction necessary to unify your team with a week-long throwaway project.
But if you put in the time and effort necessary, the results will speak for themselves. Having the type of clarity that data-driven personas provide makes it far easier to iterate quickly, improve your user experience, and build a product your users love.
If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out the linked articles above, as well as the following resources:
In this talk, Creative Director Yiying Lu will share her branding design, illustration and typography projects from a multi-cultural & linguistic aspect. She will showcase and talk about her cross cultural design practices for global companies and organizations, such as Disney Shanghai, NYU Shanghai, Twitter, Cre8 Summit, 500 Startups, the Dumpling Emoji Project and so on. This talk will take audiences on a journey of exploring creativity within cross-cultural communication in the age of globalization.
The focus of digital technology in the last few decades has neglected human hands and bodies to a large extent. Our thoughts and feelings are strongly connected to the gestures, postures, and actions we perform. I aim to push you — as a designer — to think outside of the zone of screens.
I’d also like to ask you to start thinking critically about current technologies; touch and motor skills need to be taken into consideration when designing your very next product. Allow me to explain why.
“The density of nerve endings in our fingertips is enormous. Their discrimination is almost as good as that of our eyes. If we don’t use our fingers during childhood or youth, we become “fingerblind,” this rich network of nerves is impoverished — which represents a huge loss to the brain and thwarts the individual’s development as a whole. Such damage may be likened to blindness itself. Perhaps worse, while a blind person may simply not be able to find this or that object, the fingerblind cannot understand its inner meaning and value”.
Hold, Push, Swipe, Tap
If you end up as a typical white-collar worker, you’ll probably spend a significant part of your day looking at your screen, without any possibility of physically touching the things you work with. How much time do you spend on your computer at work? How much time do you spend on your phone afterwards. What about during your spare time: What do you do during those hours? Hold, push, swipe, tap.
The word “touch” is in the word “touchscreen,” but tapping and swiping a cold flat piece of matter basically neglects the sense of touch. You are capable of experiencing only a fraction of what your sense of touch allows you to during the long hours of manipulation with touchscreens.
What actions do you physically perform with your body? Perhaps you are not a very active person. What posture are you usually in? What kind of impact can sitting over the screen of a mobile phone or computer all day have on a person? Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty and Benjamin Wagner claim in their research article that your body posture can shape your mind.
“… We argue that any postures associated with confidence (e.g., pushing one’s chest out) should magnify the effect of anything that is currently available in people’s minds relative to postures associated with doubt (e.g., slouching forward with one’s back curved).”
Many tangible things are disappearing from our surroundings and reappearing in digital form. They are improved upon and enriched with new functions that would not be possible in the material world. A few examples are maps, calendars, notebooks and pens, printed photos, music players, calculators and compasses. However, with the loss of their material form comes also the loss of the sensations and experiences that only physical interaction with objects can give us. The “… disembodied brain could not experience the world in the same ways that we do, because our experience of the world is intimately tied to the ways in which we act in it,” writes Paul Dourish in his book Where the Action Is.
Different Activities, Different Movements
Consider some actions we perform in the physical world:
I pay for a ticket. I pull my wallet out of my bag. I open it and take out banknotes. While holding the notes in one hand, I draw some coins with my other hand. I give the money to the salesperson.
I confess love. I sit or stand opposite to the person. I look into their eyes. I blush. I say, “You know, I love you.” I am kissed.
I look for a recipe. I choose a cookbook from the shelf. I take the book. I flip a few pages, forwards, backwards. I find a recipe.
Whereas in the world of screens:
I pay for a ticket. I fill text fields. I hit a button.
I confess love. I fill a text field. I hit a button.
I look for a recipe. I fill a text field. I hit a button.
The environment surrounding us, the activities we perform and the things we come into contact with help us to perceive situations more intensely and meaningful. Phenomenologists such as Husserl, Schutz, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty have already explored the relationship between embodied action and meaning. “For them, the source of meaning (and meaningfulness) is not a collection of abstract, idealized entities; instead, it is to be found in the world in which we act, and which acts upon us. This world is already filled with meaning. Its meaning is to be found in the way in which it reveals itself to us as being available for our actions. It is only through those actions, and the possibility for actions that the world affords us, that we can come to find the world, in both its physical and social manifestations, meaningful.” Another quote from above-mentioned book by Paul Dourish.
Because so many different activities are being carried out in the same manner in the digital world, their value is becoming less clear. I believe that haptic sense has something to do, for instance, with the perception of paying by “real” or by virtual currency — that feeling of something tangible in your hand that you are giving to someone else, compared to just tapping a flat surface to confirm that the number on the screen will be deducted from your account.
How can we create more material experiences in design? What are some tangible solutions, solutions that solve problems through our senses, through our contact with the physical, material world, solutions that let us act in our surrounding as much as possible without using our smartphones or any other flat screens? There are many possible ways to get back to the physical experience.
1. Interact With Digital Technology in a More Human Way.
Make digital information tangible. Interact with it by hand gestures and movements in the material world.
One of the most famous pioneering projects with that aim was SixthSense. Back in 2009, it linked digital devices and our interactions with the physical world. This kind of wearable technology consisted of a camera, a projector hanging on the user’s neck, and color markers stuck to their fingers. The user could dial a phone number using projected keys on their palm, while the camera would record their finger movements. They could read newspapers showing live video news, or draw a circle on their wrist to check the time. The whole principle was to project visuals into the world surrounding the user. With current technology, however, that principle has transformed. The outside world is no longer altered by some projection. The only altered thing is our vision. It’s enhanced by a new layer of augmented reality (AR), by special kinds of glasses, and there is a completely new reality created in virtual reality (VR) headsets.
A more modern example is Magic Leap, a secretive project that connects virtual reality and the “real” world in a mixed reality. You can see objects in your surroundings that are not part of your reality — for example, jellyfish flying in your room. This device is exceptional because it also enables hand tracking. You are able to shoot robots falling from your ceiling, holding a real plastic gun in your hand, meanwhile controlling the interface with hand gestures. This is big progress from mostly sequential activities, which screen interfaces enable the user to do. We are getting there.
Mixed, VR and AR projects could be the future. The good thing is that these technologies are built with a huge emphasis on human behavior, psychology, physics laws and ergonomics. The experience is lived, not just observed on a screen. They are not tearing you away from the natural (or virtual) environment and sticking you in a chair to stare into a flat square. You get involved in the action, immersed in doing things and feeling emotions. All of these technologies bring you experiences. Whether they’re real or not, you will remember them as things that happened to you.
Another advantage is that they make your body move — for example, by replacing your physical screens with virtual ones. They allow you to do your work practically everywhere, possibly on the move as well. Whether you are 3D painting with a virtual brush, throwing squares (a VR game) or organizing your desktop, you are using your fingers, your hands, your wrists and whole body movements. Technology is finally adapting to you.
2. Involve More Sensory Experiences In Your Design.
If sight sensors are already occupied by some functionality, don’t add more visual stimuli. Better to include some haptics, hearing or even olfactory stimuli — thus, creating so-called multi-sensorial design. As noted in their book Product Experience, Hendrik N. J. Schifferstein and Paul Hekkert state, “By now, many different studies have suggested that the greater the number of sensory modalities that are stimulated at any one time, the richer our experiences will be.”
Let’s discuss the topic of virtual reality further. Even though it doesn’t feel like virtual could satisfy the need for material or tangible experience, VR is a perfect example of connecting several senses together, not only sight and hearing, but also touch.
There are a couple of different ways to bring touch into VR:
The classic primitive controllers
They give you the sense of being present, just like holding a mouse, i.e. it’s one object but has a single point of interaction. Well, it actually has two controllers that are controlled by two hands. Still, the full potential of your hands and ten fingers is not being used in this case.
These enable you to feel objects from VR in your hands. The sensors translate touch sensations into vibrations that enable you to perceive the shape of an apple or to experience rain. You can even feel the release of a virtual arrow. Obviously, all of these sensations are not the same as real ones in their fidelity. But as a whole virtual reality, they pose a question: What does it mean to be real? What makes for a real touch experience — a real touched object made of realistic, tangible material or a real feeling transmitted by neurons to your brain? Is it enough to fool your brain, without even using your hands? This is maybe the moment when we can ask, Are we just brains or whole bodies?
Combining haptic gloves with material objects
Various games layer VR over a physical playground. One of them is The Void. As a player, you wear a vest with 22 haptic patches that vibrate and shake you at the right times. The idea is that you are playing the game in VR but all of your surroundings are tangible, so instead of seeing four empty walls, you see a large territory around you. A big stone would be perceived as a mountain, and a normal door could be transformed into a magic one. But opening the magic one would feel real because, in the end, it is. All such little gimmicks with sight, touch, hearing and even smell involve more sensory experience and make VR even more immersive.
3. When Designing For The Screen, Think About How the Task Could Be Performed In The Physical World Instead.
How would people act in their most “natural” way?
Time tracking is not always pleasant, maybe because you feel like a robot from constantly checking the time or opening and closing your time-tracking app. ZEI is a great example of tangible design. The developers found a way to get robots to do our job in the background so that we can act more like humans. This time-tracking device is an octahedron (eight sides). Each face is assigned one activity, so you can easily track time spent on different projects just by flipping it. It presents a very natural way to switch from task to task and to turn your attention from one thing to another.
When you’re designing a product, think of how users would perform without it. How do people track their work? Maybe they tend to take notes. How did people used to complete tasks in the past? Did we stand up from our chair and stretch a bit? What if every accomplished task were to be followed by a small exercise or at least standing up, to support users’ health? Many ridiculous ideas will probably appear in that kind of process, but you can get much closer to designing products for humans with such a human approach.
4. Transfer Your Digital Product To Tangible Experiences.
If you already have a product, program or app designed for the screen, think of whether there is some possibility to convert it to the physical world.
Computers made it possible to compose music by using various musical instruments that exist only in the digital world. But the dynamics of physical contact with the instrument cannot be replaced by using a computer mouse. Physically pushing keys on a piano or hitting drums with drumsticks, fast or softly, using mostly just your fingers and wrists, or blasting drums with your forearms and whole arms — these are experiences that seem to be non-transferable to computer programs.
Ableton, the well-known producer of software for music production, decided to create its own hardware, Ableton Push. The second edition of Ableton Push “puts everything you need to make music in one place — at your fingertips.” Push is basically a table with pads and controls that enable you to play drums or pitched instruments on one device. It offers a range of ways to play and manipulate samples, allowing you to capture ideas quickly. No technology stands in the way, and you can physically interact with music once again.
5. Think the Other Way Around: How Can You Upgrade Things That Already Exist With Some Digital Experience?
Classic toys, board games, paper books and notebooks, musical instruments — all of these have served us for decades and are beautiful, efficient and playful. However, many of them are disappearing because they are no longer attractive enough and are unable to compete with the digital experience. Sustain them. Upgrade them with some digital value and experience.
Playing with wooden toys is one of the best experiences for children. Their material and shape develop children’s building capacity and hand muscles. Their simplicity stimulates children’s imagination and creativity. We should not give up these benefits for a flat screen. Studio deFORM’s project KOSKI, a building block game, “connects the physical world and the digital gaming world together.” Physical, wooden toy blocks are mirrored in an iPad app and enhanced with imaginative worlds, characters and stories on the screen. The player physically alters the projected world on screen by manipulating the blocks in the real time.
While we can argue about whether this game develops a child’s imagination, I find it to be a good alternative to current tablet games.
We’re already used to old-fashioned things. There’s no need to teach users new design patterns or ways of communication with hi-tech novelties. Everyone knows how to use a paper notebook. But often when I want to write with a pen on paper, I have to think twice about it. I know that, in the end, it will have to be rewritten in some digital form so that it can be easily shared and stored. This issue was tackled by Wacom with its notebook digitizer. Its solution was the SmartPad, which converts handwriting into digital files. It also offers the possibility to combine pages of notes and to edit them.
Even existing material can take on new qualities when enriched by the digital experience. Mixing together unexpected things can create very non-traditional objects. Consider FabricKeyboard, made by MIT Media Lab’s Responsive Environments Lab. As Meg Miller explains:
“This fabric made from textile sensors allows you to play the keys like one would on a normal keyboard, or you can create the sounds by manipulating the fabric itself — by pressing, pulling, twisting and even by waving your hands above the material. The e-fabric responds to touch, pressure, stretch, proximity and electric field.”
Finally, let’s consider one more reason why we should think carefully before letting traditional objects vanish away. They’ve been created from years of experience. They’ve evolved into their current form, one that fits their purpose very well. Think of how usable, convenient and pleasurable many printed books are. The rules of layout and typography from this established medium have been transferred very quickly to ebooks and web design, which are struggling to meet the standards of their physical counterparts. Think also of the non-transferable qualities: the tactile sense of progress, their collectibility, the sensuous aspects.
Some old-school materials are worth keeping, and their development should continue even in the digital era.
“We are swinging like a pendulum. Fifty years ago we were rooted in material world. When you wanted to know something, you asked some person or read a book. Then desktop computers became our interface of choice to access information, and now we are swinging back to the real world, but we are bringing computers along. Information is becoming pervasive.”
One way to bring qualities of the real world to our daily used technologies is to learn from material things. Another way is to suss out the attributes we are missing in our interaction with screens. Let your senses lead you, and think about a solution that can replace a current discomfort. The classic human-centered approach still works. However, as advanced technologies improve and extend into multiple areas of our lives, we need to think more carefully about what it means to be human. Our bodies and senses are definitely a part of it.
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As a veteran designer, developer and project manager on more sites than I can count, I’ve identified a common problem with many web projects: failure to plan. As the same issues come up repeatedly in my work, I’ve written this guide in order to help our clients, other designers, businesses and organizations plan and realize successful websites.
Who This Guide Is For Written in relatively non-technical language, this guide provides a broad overview of the process of developing a website, from the initial needs assessment through site launch, maintenance and follow up.
In this interactive talk, we’ll look into the weird gotchas of the web platform, and learn how to overcome them.