Category: Design

Why creative people sometimes make no sense

Matthew Schuler has been browsing Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention—the result of over 30 years of research into creative people by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.—and has distilled many of the creative quirks cited into a short, but uncannily accurate post.

Matthew quotes nine apparent contradictions that creative people apparently exhibit; I must say that I identify with all of them—to a greater or lesser degree.

As I have been carrying out a UI/UX review of our product—which I designed a few years ago—I find #8 particularly apt at present.

Most creative people are very passionate about their work, but remain extremely objective about it as well. They are able to admit when something they have made is not very good.

Throughout my career—from my humble beginnings in print, pottery and sculpture, through graphics and print, right up to the applications that I currently design—I find that, from many hundreds (possibly thousands) of things that I have created, there are only a few that I am still really proud of.

Indeed, I find that I am, at best, luke-warm about the vast majority of the work that I do only a few months afterwards.

This is less true now than when I first started working in print design, back in 1997. In those days, I was creating posters for the student theatre: budget constraints meant that full colour work was simply not available. As such, I learned to leverage the power duotones and tritones. And, of course, I could really go to town with metallics, fluorescent and other specialist inks.

The world has moved on since then: printers are now set up to produce full colour work incredibly cheaply—and now it is all of those interesting spot inks that I can now longer afford to dabble with. And, of course, real metallics simply don’t exist on the web.

Some of my pieces, however, transcend the limitations of their production methods: and some of these I have loved for many years.

The best tribute that anyone ever paid me was that they had come to see an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Mr Punch1 purely because he “loved the poster”.

Which leads me to draw your attention to #6 on Matthew Schuler’s list:

Most creative people are genuinely humble and display a strong sense of pride at the same time.

Perhaps…

1It was through Mr Punch that I discovered the art of Dave McKean: the poster style was influenced heavily by McKean’s work, and he remains my favourite artist of all time.

The “post-comp” era

A few days ago, I wrote about moving into the “post-comp” era in the web design process. I linked to a post by Brad Frost, and now Dan Mall has written a reply to that article.

As I mentioned in the comments, I think it’s an expectation problem. The typical workflow for web design projects is to send a client a “preview” of the site to approve before beginning development. This “preview” usually comes in the form of a comp that shows how a page might be laid out and often contains specific, pixel-perfect choices with typography, spacing, images, columns, and other very fine details. The problem is that this says to a client, “We’re now at a stage where we’re focusing on details.” It’s only natural that their feedback focuses on details.

A responsive design process is like a scandal. You’ve gotta pre-emptively control the conversation. If your client wants to have conversations like this, it likely means you didn’t do a good job of setting expectations.

As Dan points out, this expectations need to be set in the Sales process—at this point, the designer should be engaging with the potential customer and trying to establish the deliverables.

Rather than promising multiple rounds of page designs as some of the first design deliverables, we’re setting the expectation that the first things they’ll see are unstyled HTML to demonstrate content hierarchy and flexibility across various screen sizes and a few pieces of a visual style—works-in-progress and unrefined broad strokes, not polished visuals that call for critique at a fine detail level. That’s why I’ve grown to love element collages; they’re literal enough that your client can start to see a picture of things coming together but still enough of a work-in-progress that there’s no expecation that the site would actually look like this for everyone.

This is, in this age of multiple devices, simply not sustainable; in short, it creates false expectations for your customers.

To be fair, I don’t think we’re in a post-PSD era, but I do think we’re moving towards a post-“full-comp” era. I can’t envision a project where I don’t use Photoshop. Photoshop isn’t the problem. It’s a great tool. My favorite, actually. It’s the stigma that comes with presenting a full comp (I define “full comp” as an image of a website viewed on a desktop, typically around 960px wide). By default, presenting a full comp says to your client, “This is how everyone will see your site.” In our multi-device world, we’re quickly moving towards, “This is how some people will see your site,” but we’re not doing a great job of communicating that.

As an industry, we sell websites like paintings. Instead, we should be selling beautiful and easy access to content, agnostic of device, screen size, or context. If you can get your client to believe in the sales process that you’ll do that for them, they won’t care what the site looks like.

This is precisely right. Of course, when you are in a company that has a Sales Team—rather than the salesman being, principally, you—then the first people that you have to convince is the Sales Team.

As I mentioned in my previous post on this subject, we have just started moving our first customers towards this process; however, we are feeling our way to a certain extent and not yet nailed down the outputs.

Yes, the projects on which we have deployed this process do seem to be going fairly well: however, we need to firm up the process very swiftly now—and then sell it to our Sales Team.

I am absolutely convinced that we are moving into a post-comp era and that it is going to lead to far more satisfying results for both designers and customers. However, it needs to be presented in the correct way, and both sides need to understand the deliverables. In short, expectations need to be sold, set and delivered.

I will continue to update you all on how it goes…

Applications that I use

Having mentioned Sketch in my previous post, I thought that I would expand on the applications that I use in my workflows. And to start with, I need to expand on what those workflows actually are.

Which is tricky—because I do quite a number of varied jobs.

First, I do a considerable amount of management, both in my team and in the wider business. This is why my job title is the, slightly unwieldy, Creative and User Experience Manager (usually shortened to CrUX Manager).

Essentially, I lead the team that designs and builds our customers’ websites and intranets on our company’s content management platform (CMS). However, I also design the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) for the CMS—plus I also design a lot of the new functionality too.

Occasionally, I give talks at events—both internal and external—about the web, CSS, Accessibility, and other related issues.

Because I know a lot about the web, our product and our customers, I have also spent a lot of time in customer pitches, Information Architecture (IA) workshops, and in discovery meetings for new software. In other words, I am heavily involved in a customer’s entire journeys with our company—and, in many cases, for determining the steps along that journey.

And, since I run the CrUX team, I am also responsible for recruitment to that team and, with the operations team, for managing resources on a day-to-day basis. And, of course, when we have a new starter, I am responsible for sorting out software and hardware—which means that I know how much we invest in our applications!

Which brings us back to where we began—the applications that I use to achieve all of this.

Graphic Design

For the moment, I find myself continually coming back to Photoshop—like a dog to its sick. I don’t really like Photoshop for design (and I loathe Illustrator) but it is familiar and thus relatively easy to dip into.

However, I am gradually weaning myself off Adobe’s products in favour of smaller, cheaper applications that are, in many ways, better for the job than Adobe’s bloated behemoth’s.

I have been playing about with Sketch (about £30) a lot, and I think it’s a wonderful application. It is very capable and, with every update (usually monthly), it becomes more capable and more stable. I am aiming to make it my primary design tool.

For non-vector based work, I have been getting into using Pixelmator (about £20) which is also an excellent (and cheap) photo-editing and design application.

Browsers

My browser of preference is Safari. Its Web Inspector tools are almost as capable as Chrome’s, and I find the browser faster and more reliable than Google’s offering.

However, I do test in all major browsers—including Internet Explorer 7, 8, 9 and 10. To achieve this on my Mac, I use VirtualBox (free) and the wonderful IEVMS script to automate the conversion of Microsoft’s supplied disk images to a format that VirtualBox can read.

Coding

A few years ago, I found myself, with a colleague, in a café with free Wi-Fi; up until that point, I had used Dreamweaver to code my work. However, my laptop was not equipped with my meatier applications and so—needing to do some coding and having read a good review of it—I downloaded Panic’s Coda.

And I have never seriously used another coding environment since (although I have also dabbled with MacRabbit’s Espresso—before they merged it with CSS Edit). I certainly never launched Dreamweaver ever again.

Coda was, essentially, my first foray into the sunlit uplands of indie Mac Developers. Up until that time, I had basically used Adobe applications and little else; for someone with this experience, the speed with which Coda launched and operated, as well as its feeling of lightness, were a revelation.

That independent developers are challenging Adobe in its core areas of photo-editing and vector design (this latter being an area that Adobe basically stole when it killed my beloved Freehand) is one of the very best things about the Mac platform right now.

I write in LESS and use the excellent CodeKit to process it, as well as for compressing images, and other useful things. Be sure to read CodeKit’s amusing release notes, by the way…

Finally, I started using CodePen a lot for experiments, reduced test cases, reference files, etc. I particularly like the fact that it compiles LESS on the fly. I haven’t had much time to continue playing with it recently, but that should change in the next few days.

Software Design

My role in this area is, essentially, to gather customer needs, to productise them, and write requirements specifications.

For this I use Apple’s Pages (£14) for the text and, for the workflows, Celestial Teapot’s very nice little diagramming application called, simply, Shapes (roughly £3!).

This latter app is—like most Mac indie apps—under active development and Celestial Teapot seem very good at taking feedback and incorporating it into releases.

Administration

For most other administrative tasks, I use Pages, Numbers and—for presentations and speaking engagements—Keynote.

When presenting, I use Apple’s Keynote Remote—running on my iPhone—to control the slides and display presenter notes (where necessary). In the absence of Wi-Fi (a rare thing these days) I carry a standard, hardware Apple Remote.

Miscellaneous

I do dabble with a few other apps, and I like to try out new applications quite often.

Wireframes

Where necessary, I use MockingBird for building up wireframes; it is simple, elegant and easy-to-use. The lack of development on it over the last couple of years has been disappointing, but it is still an excellent online application.

Animation

One app which has a great deal of potential is Tumult’s Hype. Using this application, you can build up complex animations using a timeline model, and Hype will then generate a file containing CSS3 animations (including complex matrices): even better, it will also generate the Javascript required to cater for older browsers.

Combine this with Modernizr and the built-in YepNopeJS, and you have a modern, compliant solution for creating complex animations.

Project Planning

Since I have taken over my current job role I don’t use OmniPlan as much, but I still find it useful for internal scheduling: it’s a fully-fledged project management application, with proper concepts of utilisation and efficiency.

Font Management

For font management, I still use the free version of Linotype FontExplorer X (which, whilst difficult to find now, has lasted me for years and years!), but I am starting to switch over to Bohemian Coding’s Font Case.

For web fonts, I use TypeKit (although, since Adobe has taken over, I am finding some issues with reliability. What a surprise) and, occasionally, Google Web Fonts.

And that’s about it. There are one or two applications that I play with, but the major ones are those listed above.

Do you have any favourite applications? Feel free to leave your preferences in the comments…

Subtle patterns

My team have a great habit of sending around things of interest, and so it was one of my colleagues who pointed me towards Meng To’s website.

Whilst the site is, indeed, a thing of beauty (as one would expect from a UI/UX designer), I was most interested to see that, on his blog, Meng was pushing Bohemian Coding‘s Sketch.

Sketch is a brilliant vector-drawing application—a replacement to Illustrator and much of what I use Photoshop for—that I have been moderately evangelical about at work. (This may or may not have something to do with my personal mission to eliminate Adobe’s over-priced, bloated software from my work-flows).

One of Meng’s posts is about how to get started with Sketch, and he links to a number of great resources—including icon sets and, usefully, a new-to-me website called Subtle Patterns.

Subtle Patterns does exactly what it says on the tin: it provides pages and pages of free subtle patterns for use in your designs. I have immediately book-marked it…

I will write more about Sketch at a later date, but I heartily recommend giving a trial.

A Link List Apart

A LIst Apart's new home page
The new A List Apart home page, viewed at my browser’s full height. No, I haven’t scrolled down.

A List Apart have embarked on a redesign, and I have to say that I am not a fan. Let me very briefly lay out the reasons why:

  • the cut-off logo looks weird. Not cool—just weird. I keep checking whether my scrolling has gone haywire.
  • it has massive text. Why does it have massive text? Seriously, why would you want to force me to scroll more than I already have to? And yes, I do have a scroll-wheel at home; but no, I do not have one at work. And that applies to Zeldman’s site too.
  • the RSS Feed is now full of endless links to other endless resources. If I spent every hour of my day checking them, I would be unemployed.
  • part of the excellence of A List Apart was its carefully selected articles that did not clutter my RSS Reader with endless link lists of other people’s things to read. I thought that ALA’s principled stand against the constant barrage of information whoring was admirable—it showed a confidence in its format and writing. Now it is just another Daring Fireball or Shawn Blanc.
  • I wouldn’t mind lots of link lists to interesting articles if all of these massively profitable sites—like Daring Fireball and Shawn Blanc and, now, ALA—weren’t basically linking to the same stuff. (I know, because they are all in my Feed Reader.)
  • yes, I do know that I can modify my ALA Feed: but why should I have to…?

I don’t pretend to be the world’s most amazing designer—and, even if I did, you certainly wouldn’t know it from this largely unmodified template—but I rather think that ALA’s redesign is not an improvement.

And I really wish that people would stop trying to make money by piggy-backing off the time and effort that other people put in. I mean, I don’t always agree with them, but at least the denizens of Boagworld write their own material.

The increasing prevalence of blogs consisting of little more than daily link lists is a bit like having a bunch of friends who think that repeating Monty Python sketches word for word for an entire evening is either amusing or interesting.

Eventually, the tech internet is going to consist solely of link lists of link lists.

At which point, I shall pray for the Apocalypse.

Removing comps in web design

For a few years now, I have had the feeling that we are approaching web design in the wrong way. Many designers—and their clients—have made the transition from the medium of print, and transferred the design processes too.

In print, we were all used to producing proofs with millimetric—nay, pixel-perfect—precision because we had to: the high-resolution of print meant that that one pixel gap was obvious when the material came off the press.

But it made absolute sense to produce these proofs—or composites (“comps”)—because print is a fixed medium: what you see is, pretty much, what you get.

Building a nightmare that never stops

Hence the bane of the website builder’s job: a pixel-perfect Photoshop comp married—in Hell—with a customer who doesn’t understand that their website is never going to precisely match that beautiful image proof that they have signed off.

The web has always been a fundamentally fluid medium: in print, the amount of text was often governed by the size of the printed page—in web design, the very opposite is true.

And this point is compounded when designing for a content management system (CMS), where the designer could not—and should not—absolutely control how much text a user can insert.

The death of the static image comp in web design

As such, I really believe that we need to kill this idea of using static image comps in web design and, a few weeks ago, Brad Frost succinctly summed up why in a post entitled The Post-PSD Era

Throughout my career, I’ve watched immensely talented designers waste a shitload of time creating fully fleshed-out comps of what a website could look like. Pixels get pushed, details are sweated, pages are printed out, hung on walls, and presented to clients. Clients squawk their feedback, then designers act on it. They repeat this dance until everyone is content (or until nobody gives a shit anymore, which happens more often than you’d think).Only then do those pristine comps get handed (more like shoved) over to developers to build.

It’s an increasingly-pathetic process that makes less and less sense in this multi-device age.

As it happens, Brad wrote this post at roughly the same time as I was presenting a new design process to my fellow managers—and I found it when looking for some pithy comment with which to populate a slideshow presenting said process to the rest of the company.

Bringing it home

My company designs and implements websites on its own Content Management System (CMS). I have moved through different positions within the company over the last five years, but I was put in charge of the new Creative and User Experience Team in July.

In between delivering customer projects, I have been attempting to make our processes more efficient. It swiftly became obvious that there were a number of problems with the way in which we designed and build our websites and intranets.

Improving our process: driving efficiency

The first has been largely improved by the adoption of an increasingly robust CSS LESS framework.

The second, however, was more difficult to address—customers’ expectation that their websites would look precisely (yes, even in IE7) like the lovely images that they had signed off .

We were also duplicating work.

So, the first thing that we did was to push the responsibility for producing wireframes solely onto the Information Architects; wireframes were already an output of these workshops (driven largely by the Attention Mapping exercises), so duplicating this work seemed ridiculous.

Next, we created a selection of mood boards—with recognisable, non-techie names—which, combined with the wireframes, enabled our designers to get a very good idea of what the customers were aiming for.

Zombie comps that will not die

But, at the end, we were still producing fixed image comps that were taking too long to create and, importantly, amend. Customers were getting hung up on the positioning of elements when, in our CMS, you can place anything anywhere (just about).

So, in December, I my research turned up Samantha Warren’s styleti.es—a website dedicated to promoting the use of said Style Tiles.

Style Tiles are similar to the paint chips and fabric swatches an interior designer gets approval on before designing a room.
An interior designer doesn’t design three different rooms for a client at the first kick-off meeting, so why do Web designers design three different webpage mockups?

Style tiles are for when a moodboard is too vague and a comp is too literal. Style tiles establish a direct connection with actual interface elements without defining layout.

The sites and systems that we build are huge.

There is simply no way that we can proof up all of the pages that make up the tens of functional Modules that our customers may have bought.

Style Tiles and a way forward

As I saw it, Style Tiles—with a bit of modification—would enable our company to provide the important elements to our customers (the look of a menu system, how a Staff Directory entry might be displayed) without them getting hung up about where on the page these elements might appear.

After all, not only is the web a fluid medium but our CMS also gives the customer total control over their page structure.

With Style Tiles, clients could focus on the important details, rather than getting hung up on where those things appeared on a page. We would, in fact, be aligning our processes with the flexibility of our product and thus reinforcing its superiority.

There were, of course, other benefits, including being able to turn around work much more quickly and thus increase the productivity of the team.

It’s never enough…

But Style Tiles wouldn’t be enough—especially in the age of Responsive Design.

As such, we decided to build Live Prototypes alongside the Style Tiles. With our LESS framework (which has mobile @media break-points built in), and the CMS’s inbuilt styling options, this became a viable proposition.

The first run is scheduled for Tuesday morning: I’ll let you know how it goes…

Solving problems in a framework

Ian “Hixie” Hickson, editor of the HTML “Living Standard”* at WHATWG, is one of the most influential people on the web today. HTML5 Doctor has a very interesting interview with him, but I wanted to highlight one passage in particular.

In my day job, I usually describe myself as a web software designer. Trying to describe what that means is usually a little tricky: there are, of course, aspects of User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)** design in there; I also bring in some Information Architecture, a degree of HTML and CSS mastery (though, alas, my Javascript is pretty basic) and a great deal of market knowledge.

However, there is one passage from Hixie’s interview—in a context not entirely unrelated—which pretty much sums up the nitty-gritty of what I do.

Often when people send feedback (not just authors, pretty much anyone who hasn’t been in the process for a long time starts this way) they send feedback along the lines of “I want to add feature X” or “I want feature X to be extended in manner Y”. But when we drill down, ask them “what problem are you trying to solve”, or “what’s your use case” (same question but phrased differently), we often find that either (a) they actually don’t have a real problem, they just thought that it would be a good idea, or (b) their solution wouldn’t actually solve their problem. Often we’re able to come up with much simpler solutions (or point to already-existing solutions), which is quite satisfying.

Like Hixie, I am working within an existing framework—our Enterprise Content Management Framework—and, when a customer requires some new piece of functionality, I need to take into account what others have fed back and how to best solve their problem within our existing framework.

Luckily, we designed and developed the framework fairly recently—and in response to existing customer requirements—so often we can point the customer to an existing function that solves their issue.

However, when that isn’t the case, I never rely on our salesmen or, indeed, the customer’s own specification. Whenever faced with a development request, my first question is “what is the driver”, i.e. what is the problem that they are trying to solve.

Designing within a framework, understanding multiple customers’ needs, taking account of possible future developments and, thus, solving problems in the most elegant way are what give me pleasure in my job.

And deriving that enjoyment from such is what makes me good at what I do.

 

* Otherwise known as HTML5.

** There’s a school of thought that maintains that there is no difference between the two; indeed, many hold the opinion that any way in which customers interact with your company or its products is, in fact, UX.

Designers, customer feedback and measuring effectiveness

One of the most important things about being a designer—especially when you are dealing with clients who think that “design is totally subjective”—is to be incredibly precise about soliciting customer feedback.

When gathering design requirements, the first thing that I always ask a customer is “why? What are the drivers?”

Customer feedback on timescales

This even extends to the deadlines that the customer gives me: why do you need it by that date? Is there an internal driver—such as a presentation to the Executive Team or, maybe, a pre-defined publicity event?

These things are useful to know because it enables you to understand what latitude you have: and, when you are dealing with large corporate clients, you do need to have some latitude—not least because the main risk is that the customer themselves very rarely meets their own deadlines.

Customer feedback on design

Establishing drivers in design is equally important, because they help to ensure that your design meets the customer needs. I have always maintained that “design is art with a function” (and seen variations of that sentiment elsewhere), and in order to provide design that is going to meet that function, we need to know what the end goals are.

All of the above might seem unbelievably obvious, but I am constantly astonished by the number of designers that I encounter who design for themselves, and not for the client.

That is not to say that the client is always right as regards design—but the client is always right as regards the end goals that they want to achieve.

When pushing back, always do so from solid foundations

Designers should not argue with the customer on the basis of their own personal preference: designers should only argue with the customer when they are absolutely sure that the customer’s proposed design changes will harm the end goals.

Apart from anything else, arguing from solid design principles linked to the goals that the customer has set does a good job of removing the assumption that design is purely subjective: design is not subjective—that’s art.

Customers are often intimidated by the design process

It is easy to under-estimate how intimidated people often get around designers. Some years ago, I had a manager who said that he didn’t understand design and therefore was unable to manage a me.

This is, I believe, partly because people imagine that designers possess a weird, eldritch power that no one could ever hope to understand. Whilst this mystique often means that customers and companies will pay good rates for top-notch designers, the flip side is that many often distrust designers more than other functions.

This lack of trust often causes a lack of clear communication between customers and designers. At best, this can engender frustration on both sides and, often, a project that no one is entirely happy with; at worst, it can lead to a catastrophic break-down in the relationship (which is a subject for a future post).

Dealing with imprecise customer feedback

I shall expand on this tendency, and how to counter it, at a later date; however, for now, the most immediate consequence to consider is that customers are often unable—or, through intimidation, unwilling—to articulate criticism properly.

Mike Monteiro has written a particularly good post on this.

When a client says, “I don’t like green”, most designers translate the sentence into “You must change the green.” But no one asked you to, did they? They merely made a statement about their subjective dislike of a particular color. Your job, as a designer, is first and foremost to listen. And then to gather data. Don’t jump the gun. How, if at all, does the client’s subjective taste enter into the success of the project?

Your role is to be a problem-solver, not a people pleaser. So beware the urge to change your work simply because someone voices a displeasure. You weren’t hired to be nice or to make friends. If you can do either of those while also doing good work, then go for it. But don’t do it at the expense of doing your job.

At the beginning of this post, I pointed out that you should always establish what the drivers are—for just about anything. So, when the customer says that they don’t like the green, don’t assume that you know what they mean—as Mike says, probe them for the real reasons behind this view.

Let’s also remember that clients aren’t trained at giving feedback. When they make a subjective statement like “I don’t like green”, they might actually be trying to tell you that they don’t think the green works. It’s on you to figure that out, though. Ask the right questions to steer them back from that subjective answer.

“Do you think the green decreases the likelihood of a user achieving their goal? If so, can you elaborate?” (Insert your own specific goal there.)

You’ll most likely get an answer like “I don’t know. I just don’t like it.” It’s at this point that you better have a non-subjective reason for why you used that green. And give that reasoning in an objective manner. You don’t want to fight their subjectivity with your own.

But, on the off-chance that the answer is “Yes!”, ask for specifics on how. The client may have a valid point that you hadn’t thought of.

It is extremely rare—even after you have been through the whole preparation process of Information Architecture meetings, mood boards and wireframes—that a customer will sign off that very first design concept.

As such, the design process is built on successive iterations. Whilst these will—in most cases—ensure that everyone (or, at least, the customer) is happy by the end of the process, each iteration takes time.

Design iterations cost money

The more iterations that you go through costs you or your company more money. Most design firms have their own particular stages in design presentation, and so iterations will cost more or less depending on your exact process. However, unless you are billing time and materials through the whole process (very unusual in the market sector that I work in), the main point is that every, single iteration eats into your profit margin.

In my experience, many designers are not particularly financially aware: to them, making sure that the end result is right is far more important. This is, of course, a recipe for bankruptcy.

Most outputs are not subjective and can be measured

Think back to the manager who wouldn’t manage designers because he “didn’t understand design”: he had fallen into the trap of thinking that design was purely subjective, and he was intimidated by the mystique surrounding design.

This manager felt that he couldn’t judge, subjectively, whether something was a good design or not.

However, what he could have done was to find some way of measuring my effectiveness in regards to what the company needs to do—make a profit.

There are a number of ways to approach this, including looking at how many other resources it takes to implement the design. However, in the context of what we have been talking about, there is one, simple way to understand whether your designers are providing good value for money through proper engagement with your clients.

Measuring a designer’s effectiveness

A good designer is not simply one who can judge spacing, or colour complements, or can use Photoshop or Fireworks, or whatever: a good designer is one who can communicate with the client, tease out their true drivers, and create designs in response to good, solid data.

So, I would like to propose that you start to judge your designers not simply on how whizzy or pretty their designs are, nor even how accurately those designs fulfil the customers’ goals.

Your really good, productive designers—the ones who know how to communicate with clients and understand their needs the best—are the ones who achieve all of the above in the fewest possible iterations.

Measure this, and you will have a good idea as to which of your designers are listening to the customer, communicating clearly, and then applying their own creativity in a focused, sensible manner.

Summary

Whilst monitoring iterations is far from being a silver bullet, it will give you a objective, measurable platform to start from; you can then start to look around at the other factors which might help to streamline your design processes, and deliver better solutions to your customers—whilst also increasing profitability.

Website wireframing

Some time ago I became a Beta tester of a website wireframing tool called MockingBird; our company has used it as a wireframing tool for some years now, and it has always served us very well.

MockingBird is an HTML5 application that enables collaboration on projects, and is extremely easy to use. This ease of use is partly conferred by the smallish number of widgets within the application.

As websites get more sophisticated, however, this selection of widgets seems a little limiting; personally, I had expected the creators to add more options after the formal launch of the application. They have not done so, and the blog has not been updated since December 2010.

Whilst I am not about to jump ship just yet, it seems natural to look around for other alternatives for our website wireframing needs, and so I followed a link to Moqups—another HTML5 website wireframing application, and apparently free.

I haven’t then experimented with it, but it does seem to have reasonable features—and a somewhat more design-oriented set of widgets.

But why have they adopted the awful kind of hand-drawn typeface for the text? It embodies everything that is awful about Comic Sans without actually being Comic Sans…