Various stimuli made me think about the topic of staying relevant lately.

Cover art symbolising focus shift.
Cover art symbolising focus shift.
Glasses by Xinh Studio and Binoculars by Tom Ingebretsen, from the Noun Project.

The key contributor, I think, is the constant reminder of how highly valued a glossy surface is. A slick and modern UI will get the votes in 2020 (instead of the insights and process that should proceed it).

The problem is that anyone can design a slick and modern UI in 2021.

But first, some history.

Being a UI designer in 2001

The craft of UI design was hard in 2001. Most of the time it was a matter of applying usability and creativity (ever so stifled) to a medium that had limited styling options. It was a constant struggle of making the most of small screens with pixels large enough to detect on screen. To our help we had Photoshop, which wasn’t made for UI design but worked well enough to still be used to this day by some UI designers. And there was Flash, of course, for when you needed something more Flash-y so to speak.


What is the best way to enter the date of birth in mobile forms? Here are four options to consider.

Illustration of form fields.
Illustration of form fields.

In one of my recent projects, I’ve been designing the registration form for an iOS app. Form design is a classic UI challenge — One can spend a day designing a registration form, spend the rest of the week honing it, and the rest of the year optimising it once it’s live. Form design is notoriously known for being filled with pitfalls, and in mobile forms, it gets even trickier.

A simple text input field isn’t much of a cumber, but the birth date input forced me to think carefully before settling on something. …


Questions to ask yourself to pin down where you are and what to do next.

Illustration of a messy design process.
Illustration of a messy design process.

‘Where are we?’ is not only one of my favourite tunes — It’s also a good question to ask ourselves when we join a new product development project.

You know that illustration of the design process as it really is; the one that turns a straight line into a tangled piece of yarn? It’s kinda like that when you step into a new project, trying to work out what the brief is really about and how you can best support the project goals.

It can be quite stressful knowing that it’s up to you to define the design plan but at the same time not be sure about the next steps. …


If you ask a UX professional what UX strategy is, you’d get answers as widely spread as hippo poo, of which the majority would be vague.

Illustration of a venn diagram
Illustration of a venn diagram

Why? Because strategy is a confusing catch-all phrase, but still we want to include it in our skillset. Because it’s expected of us:

In any project in which you work as a UX designer, it is fundamental to start by drafting a solid strategy.

Jerome Kalumbu

I’m guilty of this; calling myself a design strategist but secretly hoping no one would call me out on it. If someone did, I would probably say something about defining the right approach for the target audience. …


Illustration of the ‘Double diamond’ design process.
Illustration of the ‘Double diamond’ design process.

We all know that the design process can get messy. And that’s fine.

Every project is different and needs its unique approach for full efficiency. On top of that, every designer has their own preferred way of getting to the finish line. That’s obviously fine too.

There are only really two things that matter when you join a new project as a designer; the beginning and the end. Or in other words — the project definition/brief and the design documentation.

Everything in between; how you explore, iterate and test design is up to personal preference. But the brief and the hand-over are when we, as designers, ultimately have to interface with the rest of the business, so they matter the most. …


Here’s another rant from someone who’s been handed the UX designer title for the last seven years. Things have accumulated over the years, you know. It’s time to get it off my chest.

Call it therapy if you want.

A road sign stating ‘Wrong way’.
A road sign stating ‘Wrong way’.
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

In a recent post on the InVision blog, Brittany Anas wrote:

Many job listings use the generalized term “UX designer” to mean different things.

This is true from my experience. I often landed in design teams as the ‘UX designer’ expected to deliver anything from user insights to user stories and visual design. But almost always was there someone else in the company who felt that I was intruding on their turf, doing their job.

And I’ve experienced that side of the fence too; new team members assuming ownership over something I considered being my responsibility to review and sign off as the UX designer on the team. …


Man sitting against a wall with a book in his hand. He looks lost and mentally drained.
Man sitting against a wall with a book in his hand. He looks lost and mentally drained.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink lists three things you need in order to be content at your workplace:

Autonomy, mastery and purpose.

After ten years in product development I had carved out a pretty decent path for myself. There was no shortage in opportunities to practise and improve my skills. As a senior consultant autonomy was usually given to me as well. But as you may have guessed by the title of this article, I had a nagging sense that I was lacking purpose.

As Pink pointed out in Drive, you need purpose to feel completely content at work. Quite likely this doesn’t show until you’re a few years into your career. As a junior my focus was on mastery. As a mid-weight I got obsessed with Autonomy (which eventually made me quit my perm job and start freelancing). Eventually purpose caught up with me and asked why I should care at all — How was I contributing to a world that I wanted to live in?


I’ve been into mechanical watches for some years now. I could get lost in this topic very easily but I’ll keep it brief and to the point here.

One thing that you simply cannot avoid if you’re buying a mechanical watch is to post-rationalise your choice of mechanical before quartz (or own your emotional bias, which we rarely do — another extremely interesting topic). From a rational standpoint quartz is the better movement, period.

Already in that choice we’re seeing a strong emotional bias. The choice to pay more to satisfy an emotional need rather than a practical one is very interesting to dissect and understand for anyone involved in product design. …


“Are you UX or UI?”

The recruiter that sat across the table was dead serious. From a recruitment standpoint it makes all the sense in the world to profile your database of job candidates.

I have to admit I was taken aback by the question.

This was back in 2015, and UI designer as a job title had only just started to emerge. The UX designer title had already existed a few years, often paired with visual or graphic designers to cover the full spectrum of user interface design.

So here I was, being asked the cryptic question wether I was UX or UI. X or I, Experience or Interface. …


For a while, maybe around 2010, ‘experience’ was the hottest buzzword in tech. It was used interchangeably with ‘user interface’.

I was listening to a man demoing his company’s latest product.

“The dashboard experience has been completely reimagined.”

Bingo!

‘Reimagined’ was also a really hot buzzword back then.

Everything was an experience.

Image for post
Image for post
Apple spearheading the experience bandwagon.

About

Martin Sandström

Designing digital interfaces. Kitesurfer. Travels a lot. https://martinsandstrom.com

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