A Thursday edition of RTO this week bring a quartet of articles for you to enjoy. We get started looking into how design principles can improve your ability to pitch projects, then move on to some considerations for autocomplete textboxes over select boxes. From there, some advice to deal with clients that don’t get back to you quickly, the risks and rewards of sticky headers, and finally, an awesome look at dark patterns in mobile.

Would you like to recommend an article for a future episode? Don’t hesitate to let us know at our contact page.

Followup Resources

  1. Why Good Design Principles Can Create Better Designs
    1. Episode Flashback: #14 – I Got My Design Philosophy and I Trust it Like the Ground
  2. Stop Using Select Menus for Known User Input
  3. 6 Ways to Speed Up Slow Clients
  4. To Sticky or Not to Sticky
  5. Dark Patterns And Other Design No-Nos For Mobile

Transcript

Listen, we all just need to be honest with each other at this point. I’m 33 episodes into Real-Time Overview now, and there are only so many web developer jokes I can make before they start getting pretty awful. Like this one:

What is the most used language in programming? Profanity.

This is Real-Time Overview for Thursday, September 27th, 2018, and I am your host Michael Fienen. Stay tuned to the Drunken UX Podcast next week when Aaron and I sit down with Joel Goodman from Bravery Media to talk about starting your own web development business for episode number 20. Joel’s background in design, development, and strategy provides a wealth of advice for anyone who’s thinking of moving from a normal 9-to-5 into freelancing or starting a full blown small business. He’s also super smart, funny, and I might have a bit of a man crush and where was I… oh yeah, it’s Real-Time Overview. Let’s get to some articles.

It doesn’t matter if you work at a company, for an agency, or you’re a freelancer, when the time comes to present and explain a new design for a site or product to stakeholders, we all stop to hold our breath for moment in anticipation of the critique that we’re sure we’ll follow. The reality is, we have a bit more control over how that process goes than we might think.

Over Equator, Scott Henderson has written an article to help with this that explains Why Good Design Principles Can Create Better Designs. This is all in service to that idea of not just designing something beautiful, but something that is correct for the purpose it needs to fulfill.

I’m a car guy, and I like to think of this idea in terms of concept cars. From the 30’s to the 60’s, there are countless examples of beautiful, amazing vehicle designs that ended up lending features to other models, but never themselves became a production car, despite how precisely and expertly the designers laid out the metal. Part of this is because of how concept cars work, but part of it also has to do with how well you you’re able to explain the design and connect it to what users need or want.

That’s context, and it’s one of the driving points of Scott’s article. Developing strong design principles is the tool by which you’re able to attach the context of a design to its outcomes, and then explain that to a stakeholder. Of course, you might be able to make your case without those principles, but the point is that it gives you something to launch from, and provides a well you can come back to when questions come up.

Run by Equator and check out Scott’s article for more advice on how design principles can help you be a better designer, and then come back to The Drunken UX Podcast and look up episode 14 where we chatted with Greg Podunovich from Expand the Room all about design principles and how they can help your work.

If form UX is more up your alley, run by UX Movement this week to read Anthony’s article making the case to eliminate the usage of select boxes in situations where you know what the user will enter.

I liked this article, because it made me stop and think. My initial reaction might be the same as yours – how would you use a select box without known user inputs? The answer lies in the difference between whether or not the user knows the answers they will be presented with. In the case of the article, an example is selecting a state name. If you ask the user their state, they already instinctively know those options.

This, as opposed to asking what age range they might be in. Yes, they know their age, but they don’t necessarily know the ranges you’ve predefined depending on what the application of that information is.

This is all a setup to make the argument that autocomplete fields are inherently superior in many cases where select boxes have traditionally been used. To ground the user frustration for a lot of us folks who are state-side, consider our country name: United States. Sometimes people create country select boxes where it’s at the top, other times, it’s 4/5ths of the way down a really, really long list.

Another thought I had while reading the article is that autocomplete fields can also offer a route to progressively enhance your form’s existing select boxes, so no functionality is lost, and you ensure that the field remains completely usable in the event the autocomplete field doesn’t work.

And now I’m left thinking about how cool it would be to have a native HTML element designed for autocompletion, but that’s an argument for another time. For now, stop by UXMovement.com to catch this article.

Michelle Deery is next up in our round up this week at Web Designer Depot with 6 Ways to Speed Up Slow Clients.

There are few things worse in the freelance world than getting something together that needs client feedback, and getting stuck waiting on them to give answers to you. This might be choosing between certain layouts or color schemes, providing content or copy for pages, and doing technical review and acceptance testing of features.

This is especially true if you aren’t handling multiple projects at once, and their slow turnaround time brings your productivity to a halt. After all, if you aren’t working, you probably aren’t getting paid. Michelle dives into some project management tips that can help this along so that you set yourself up from the beginning to put together a feedback cycle that keeps a project moving along.

A lot depends on your work process, naturally, but most of these suggestions can find a place whether you operate using Agile, Kanban, or anything else. More than anything, it comes back to communication processes, and making sure that you ask the right questions at the right times, while feeding information to the client at a pace appropriate for their schedule. After all, odds are they haven’t put their world on hold while you design a new website for them, and that’s important to acknowledge. Your time is valuable, but so is theirs.

Among Michelle’s suggestions are things like asking questions early, establishing expectations, setting up a predetermined feedback cycle, and working to keep them as excited as, hopefully, you are about the project.

There is an art to walking that line between pressing an issue forward and nagging, and you don’t want to cross it. Learning how to deal with clients can take time and experience, and every one will be different, but hopefully this article can give you some good advice if you’re starting out. You can read it over at WebDesignerDepot.com.

This next piece is an article that lists more articles, so really, it’s like three for the price of one. Over at his blog Thoughts and Stuff, Robert Marshall shares some resources that have helped him when thinking about whether or not to use sticky headers in web design.

His article doesn’t necessarily draw an immediate conclusion, though it does offer suggestions. He starts by outline three articles that look at the UX of fixed header bars while reviewing the pros and cons found in each of those articles.

The thing about fixed headers is that they tend to be tricky, and there are many ways to implement them. Do it wrong, and you have little more than an annoying bar taking up valuable content space and getting in the way of user interactions, which is the exact opposite of what we want to accomplish.

The general idea that is pressed, however, is that bad implementation leads to bad experience. And it’s easy to make the mistakes that will get you there. But, if you can take the time to do it right, users will generally react well to a sticky header and find it useful. It just requires attention to detail and effort to control the nuance of the header’s behavior.

Spoiler alert: The answer isn’t as easy as just slapping position:absolute on a div and calling it a day. You can find his thoughts and links to additional resources on the topic over at Robert’s blog, Thoughts and Stuff.

And lastly this week, since it’s been like five whole minutes since I dipped into the dark pattern well, I want you to drop everything you’re doing besides listening to this podcast and run by Smashing Magazine where Suzanne Scacca has written up a comprehensive piece on patterns to make sure you avoid in mobile design. Also, Suzanne, if you listen to this, I apologize if I got your last name wrong. I know how that goes.

Long story short, the article summary really nails the core takeaway: that’s that dark patterns frequently trade off superficial and short-term rewards in exchange for the long term impact it can have on your users and how they perceive you.

Suzanne’s article on dark patterns is one of the best ones I think we’ve featured on Real-Time Overview to date. It’s thorough, comprehensive, and is packed with examples and explanations of the issues being reviewed. If you’re interested in design in general, or are looking for ammunition to help make the case against a bad design direction, you should settle in for a few minutes and read through this overview.

For the uninitiated, she starts off explaining just what dark patterns before moving on to the different types. While her contextual focus is on mobile, these concepts aren’t at all limited to that space, and you can use that to help you build better tools regardless of the audience you’re targeting. You’ll also get use cases that span both design and behavioral patterns so you can learn about how the way something looks can affect the user, but also why the way you create a business process needs consideration.

In total, she covers 14 different dark patterns that you need to be mindful of and avoid. I’ll bet a shiny new quarter you can’t name them all before reading the article, which means you need to go read this article. Eventually, I promise Aaron and I will devote a full show to this topic, but until then, I think this piece shouldn’t be missed. You can read it along with all 14 examples over at Smashing Magazine.

Thanks for listening to Real-Time Overview and we hope you found these selections helpful for whatever it is you’re working on this week. For the Drunken UX Podcast, I am Michael Fienen. If you want to find the links to any of the stories in today’s episode, be sure to swing by our website at drunkenux.com, they’ll all be linked in the shownotes there. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you can find us at /drunkenux. You can also find us on Instagram at drunkenuxpodcast.

Until next time, keep your personas close, and your users closer.

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