The Value of Not Defining a Solution

Word cloud of my review of 'The Value of not defining a solution'

Last night I attended the latest Sydney UI/UX Meetup hosted at Canva in Surrey Hills. I meetup with the amazing Miss A (Alice Zhong).

The night was broken into two talks

  1. Eric Folger – The value of not defining a solution
  2. Matt Anderson – Canva’s Design System

The venue was great and the food and drinks were lovely. The only downer about the venue was the constant talking of people in the back of the space while the talk was going on. The space didn’t help having no sound sucking up materials.

Eric Folger – The value of not defining a solution

Eric has a design management consultancy, Design*. To start he shared one of his quotes ‘The first design problem is to create a space for design’ (This is a paraphrase.) Then continued on to there being one of two root causes to all problems for business’s.

  • How do you make money?
  • How do you save money?

He then continued to talk through the problem with the current design process and how you can skip important bits and aim for solutions too early. Isolating the main problem with the design process as problem framing.

Things I agreed with in the talk

The most important thing is defining the problem. In any research the most important thing is the question that you ask. Framing the question or the problem has the largest impact on the outcome of the project.

Consistency of personnel throughout the project. The person who did the problem framing and research should be there for the whole project. This is important to keep the solution in alignment with the problem and with the research that has been undertaken.

The first 2 or 3 interviews are not that useful and that you should conduct 15-16 to get 12 good quality interviews. But as someone in the audience pointed out from 7 interviews you get 80% of your insights. The bit agree with around this is the fact that when you are interviewing the first 2-3 people you are still refining the research question.

Ask open questions to interviewees about their day then guide them using the information they have provided.

The facts are the user/customers perception

Avoid ‘Motherhood’ statements

Insights are non-obvious behaviours that make us say “aha!”

Things I’m on the fence about

If you weren’t involved in the research you can’t be involved in the ideation. I’m on the fence about this one because I agree in principle but have problems with the practicalities. Doing ideation with one or two people who undertook the research doesn’t seem to add much value to the process. Also I think it is the responsibility of the researchers to share their research in a way that all of the stakeholders understand the customer/user. Ideation is a great way to check their understanding. It also give the opportunity to create buy in to the value of the research and solutions that will be created using the insights from the research.

Things I don’t agree with

Quantitative data is useless in defining the problem. I need to argue against this one. I understand that quantitative data is looking at the past but unless you know where you are how do you know how to get to where you want to go. I’m in agreement that it won’t define the problem but I believe it can point you in the direction of of the problem and prove that a problem exists.

Personas are not useful in design I think that Personas built on research and real people are a very important part of design. Design doesn’t just stop with the UX or UI designer. Design decisions will be continued to be made through the whole production process. I think personas give everyone in the process the focus on the customer. Not everyone will have access to actual customers to build empathy but if a persona is properly researched and described then there is an opportunity for empathy to be built with the users/customers. Here are a couple of articles that talk about the same point Are Personas Past Their Prime and Replacing Personas with Characters.

Matt Anderson – Canva’s Design System

After a break Matt from Canva ran us through the design system that they have implemented at Canva. This talk was less thought provoking but quite informative. They have implemented 3 components. Two in production the other currently being built.

  1. Storybook – A living style guide
  2. UI Kit – A global library with sub libraries for each platform
  3. Documentation – This one hasn’t been implemented yet but it aims to provide the reasons for existing solutions, Help understand the use of components and Provide guidelines on how to contribute

What’s next?

  • The creation of a Design System Team
  • Invest in documentation
  • Bridge engineering and design

There was then a general discussion about the inner workings of the current set up. With lots of talk about forks and branches so Alice and I left.

Wrap up of the night

It was a great night. Eric’s talk was thought provoking and enjoyable. I learnt a fair bit. The challenge is always what is the problem or the research question that needs to be investigated so it can be solved. Interestingly I automatically implement design systems for my projects but I guess that’s the engineer in me.

Thanks to Sydney UI/UX Meetup for organising this event. If you want to offer your opinion on the topics discussed don’t hesitate to contact me.

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