Apply our diversity to our products, processes, and culture. Our frustrations and joys are data points for designing for real life. Share your experiences of the products we make together. Share your feelings in those moments of smooth and rough flow. What we make must have compassion for the physical and mental contexts of our daily lives. What we make must meet the challenges of our lived experience. One person’s edge case can be another person’s nightmare. Design for real life.
- Book: Design for Real Life
- Excerpt from Design for Real Life
- Design for Real Life: ‘There’s no checklist for the human experience’
- Stress cases are “moments that put our design and content choices to the test of real life.”
- Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty
- A collection of links on Design for Real Life
Quotes from Design for Real Life
But making digital products friendly isn’t enough to make them feel human.
Real life is complicated. It’s full of joy and excitement, sure, but also stress, anxiety, fear, shame, and crisis. We might experience harassment or abuse, lose a loved one, become chronically ill, get into an accident, have a financial emergency, or simply be vulnerable for not fitting into society’s expectations.
None of these circumstances is ideal, but all of them are part of life—and, odds are, your site or product has plenty of users in these moments, whether you’ve ever thought about them or not.
Our industry tends to call these edge cases—things that affect an insignificant number of users. But the term itself is telling, as information designer and programmer Evan Hensleigh puts it: “Edge cases define the boundaries of who and what you care about” (http://bkaprt.com/dfrl/00-01/). They demarcate the border between the people you’re willing to help and the ones you’re comfortable marginalizing.
That’s why we’ve chosen to look at these not as edge cases, but as stress cases: the moments that put our design and content choices to the test of real life.
It’s a test we haven’t passed yet. When faced with users in distress or crisis, too many of the experiences we build fall apart in ways large and small.
Instead of treating stress situations as fringe concerns, it’s time we move them to the center of our conversations—to start with our most vulnerable, distracted, and stressed-out users, and then work our way outward. The reasoning is simple: when we make things for people at their worst, they’ll work that much better when people are at their best.
Communicate context and intent:
- Be intentional
- Be transparent
- Be precise
- When it matters most