To teach digital design and content whether the UX itself or content strategy or content design, the conventional approach is to help the audience learn how to design the interface, and plan and write the content. This includes training the audience for why to design anything in a certain way, to do research and validate it, and to work with teams. This is what designers think that they get paid for.
In Bard College, New York, the architecture students are being trained to interrogate how architecture is practiced and what it produces. “Rather than learning to design the space for a house or office or a shop, the students are being prepared to think how architects function in a world where their rhetoric of nurturing sustainability in the built environment has crashed against the reality of climate change—fuelled by the carbon emissions their buildings generate?”, as reported in this CityLab story.
What kind of cities they shape and for what kind of life? What happens to the people’s life after they have lived for five or ten years in a building—what changes in their life because of the building or the neighborhood.
In digital design where words helps the design to communicate a message, that moment itself impacts many more lives than what the designers design plan for. When you design a shopping cart for the checkout experience, our dashboard says one abandoned cart. We cannot always imagine what the customers go through for not being able to complete the transaction—that fraction of a second and that impulse when their brain gives them a signal to stop and drop out, the possible impact on their family and peers and their network too.
What if they are trying to save a relationship and that transaction could have help it? The second order effects and the third order effects.
Or, if we have 100 paying customers in a B2C app such as for ride sharing or grocery delivery, it impacts 500 individuals because one customer’s delight or agony might be traveling to five individuals on average, whether at home, work, or in any kind of network. If you have 100 paying customers in a B2B such as a CRM, the impact could be much more.
Sometimes, the reason of why two employees at work decide whether to have their lunch together or to have it independently might be related to how they felt while using an app that you designed. Look at the stakes—these are ridiculously high.
We cannot say that our job is to design A because we are paid to design A. This is not how designers work.
Imagine another scenario where a customer is trying to use an app at home. Their partner or kid ask them for something (pass the sauce bottle or slip the remote?). It is taken as a distraction because the user is unhappy with something in the app. Whether the sauce bottle or the remote is passed or not, this annoyance travels to others—whether at home, at work, or anywhere.
So it was not about a button with inaccurate CTA (Call To Action), it is much bigger. As designers, I believe that if the engineering is broken then the design is also broken which means that we did not ship the right thing as designers too.
Design and content education should start with our work’s impact on life—the larger life of the audience and their network. We tend to associate our work’s constraints with technology, we were happy to design and ship before Figma and GitHub too and we shall talk about the constraints in 2023 as well. If content leadership can work with design leadership to look at the constraints beyond technology, we can do what a few architects are trying to do—designing for the life beyond its shelf life.