A few years ago, I was passing by one of my favorite coffee shops in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was a little cozy place, carefully designed in a rustic atmosphere with dark red bricks. As I was slowly finding my way to my spot, I noticed a father and his young son sitting right in the corner, with a sketchbook and a glaring screen in front of them.
The son, maybe around six years old, was absolutely mesmerized by pixels moving around on the screen, with his father passionately moving things around on a mock-up. Eventually, he’d ask his father if he could join in as well, firmly grabbing the mouse with his entire little hand — and not letting go.
I remembered this moment because I realized back then how powerful that particular image was. When I was growing up, I wanted to become a writer, or an engineer, or an astronaut, or perhaps a lawyer. The professions we have today didn’t even exist back then, yet here we are, in the world of UX designers and front-end designers and UX engineers and service UXers.
For years, all the way until this very day, I kept imagining in my head a conversation that could have happened, but probably didn’t: the same little guy saying to his parents one day: “I want to be a UX designer when I grow up.”
This newsletter is for all of us who want to become UX designers, or already found their calling: designers with all the different roles and all the different tasks. This newsletter highlights just a few little tools and resources to help us all be a bit better at design: making it harder for humans to make mistakes, start out with internationalization, discover your own unique style and measure usability with dedicated KPIs. We hope you’ll find it useful.
— Vitaly (@smashingmag)
1. Preventing User Errors
Errors happen. However, in most cases, it’s not the user’s fault but rather a consequence of an interface that is confusing or, well, an interface that makes it too easy for the user to make a mistake. So instead of trying to train the mistakes out of users, the solution is to redesign the product in a way that prevents errors from occurring in the first place. Jordan Bowman shares practical tips for how to achieve that.
Jordan’s tips provide a safety net that makes errors less costly and tries to prevent the user from making the same mistake again in the future. It could be an airline site that doesn’t allow users to pick a return date that falls before the departure date, for example, adding explanatory labels to form fields, or double-checking with the user before they permanently delete something. Little details that make a huge difference. (cm)
2. Tips And Tools For User Testing
How do you know if your site is easy to use? How do you measure its usability? While a lot of options are relatively time-consuming to implement, Paul Boag shares a cheap and quick method of measuring usability: the system usability scale.
The system usability scale is a simple survey that asks users to express their agreement with a series of statements, ranging from five points, which means that they completely agree, to one, which means they strongly disagree. For more tools to assist you with usability testing, you might also want to check out Paul’s article “UI Testing Tools I Use All The Time” where he collected some of the rather hidden gems that he likes to keep close in his work.
Another comprehensive guide to user testing comes from Christopher Murphy. It focuses on why and when to run a usability test, how to prepare for it, and, of course, how to run it. Happy testing! (cm)
3. Internationalization In UX
Designing for users across the globe does not only create more inclusive experiences and products, it also is key if we want to make sure that our products prevail in the fast-paced and interconnected world we’re living in. But how do we make our designs global-ready? Nicole Assini, UX Designer in the International Team at Indeed, explores how UX designers can improve their work by considering users of other cultures, languages, locations, and backgrounds. A great guide that goes beyond translation and considers the entire product, right from the start of the design process.
Hua Zheng, Engineering Manager at Airbnb, shares an inspiring behind-the-scenes look at how they built Airbnb’s Internationalization Platform to bridge the language gap and work towards the vision of a world where everyone feels a sense of belonging. If you want to dive in even deeper into the topic, Robyn Larsen’s SmashingConf talk “International Is The New Mobile First” from 2019 is full of valuable insights on how international is forcing us to fundamentally shift our way of thinking. In it, you’ll also learn more about the UX principles and tooling that Shopify used to launch their product in 18 new languages. Interesting insights guaranteed. (cm)
4. Upcoming Front-End & UX Workshops
You might have heard it: we run online workshops around frontend and design, be it accessibility, performance, navigation, or landing pages. In fact, we have a couple of workshops coming up soon, and we thought that, you know, you might want to join in as well.
As always, here’s an overview of our upcoming workshops:
- Designing For Complex UI Masterclass UX
Vitaly Friedman. Apr 6–14
- Deep Dive On Accessibility Testing Dev
with Manuel Matuzović. Apr 7 – 21
- Interface Design Patterns UX Training UX
Vitaly Friedman. Apr 15 – May 13
- Successful Design Systems Workflow
with Brad Frost. Apr 18 – May 12
- The TypeScript Masterclass Dev
with Stefan Baumgartner. Apr 19 – May 3
- Jump to all online workshops →
5. The State of User Research
User research is a growing field. But who are the folks doing user research? Where did they acquire their skills? How do they do their research? And what’s the state of user research teams in companies? The State of User Research 2022 report wanted to find out and surveyed 562 user researchers and people who do user research as part of their jobs. They are based in 54 countries, more than half of them in the US, and do user research for very small organizations just like multinational behemoths.
The full 86-page data report offers interesting insights into the current state of user researchers, user research teams, the art and science of user research, the tools of the trade, as well as into making and measuring impact. If you don’t have the time to read through the full report, you’ll also find a summary of the most important findings. A great initiative to quantify, analyze, and uncover trends in the field. (cm)
6. Image Editing With AI
It’s always exciting to see what AI is capable of these days. A little AI-powered helper that saves you a lot of time by taking care of a rather tedious task is Magic Eraser. It removes unwanted things from images in seconds.
Instead of putting your image editing skills to the ultimate test when you want to remove a certain detail in an image, you can simply upload an image, mark the bit you need removed, and Magic Eraser will, quite literally, do the magic for you. The tool is free to use, there’s no sign-up required, and its creators guarantee that they do not store the image beyond your interaction with the tool. One for the bookmarks. (cm)
7. A Journey Through The World Of Illustration
From the very first cave paintings to today’s vector graphics, illustration has been a cornerstone of our visual culture and a way for artists to depict stories and concepts since the most ancient times. In his article “Illustration Techniques: Types of Styles & Designs”, Jeremy Elliott takes us on a journey through the history of illustration and different illustration styles.
On the way, you’ll learn more about illustration techniques — from the woodcuttings dating back to the 9th century to freehand digital and vector graphics illustration — and you’ll explore illustration styles like concept art, children’s books, graphic novels, advertising, packaging, and more. A great overview of the diversity that the field has to offer. (cm)
That’s All, Folks!
Thank you so much for reading and for your support in helping us keep the web dev and design community strong with our newsletter. See you next time!
This newsletter issue was written and edited by Cosima Mielke (cm), Vitaly Friedman (vf) and Iris Lješnjanin (il).
- Front-End Tooling
- Interface Design Tools
- Front-End Debugging
- UX and Interface Design
- Web Performance
- UX and Interface Design
- Little Front-End Utilities
- Front-End Accessibility
- New Front-End Techniques
Looking for older issues? Drop us an email and we’ll happily share them with you. Would be quite a hassle searching and clicking through them here anyway.