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Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”

In his “2017 Design in Tech Report,” John Maeda writes that “code is not the only unicorn skill.” According to Maeda, who is the head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic and former VP of design at VC firm Kleiner Perkins, words can be just as powerful as the graphics in which designers normally traffic. “A lot of times designers don’t know that words are important,” he said while presenting the report at SXSW this weekend. “I know a few designers like that–do you know these designers out there? You do know them, right?”

By pointing to writing as the next most important skill for designers, the report suggests a corrective to an overreliance on the interface–to the extent that writing itself has been left behind as a design skill. “A core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of ‘what if’ scenarios,” writes designer Susan Stuart, in a blog post highlighted in the report. “These are the skills of a writer — all kinds of writers, but particularly fiction, screenwriting, and technical writing.”

Learning how to write isn’t just an important skill for the future: It’s applicable right now. Trends in digital design emphasize clean lines and few words–giving language itself more weight. “Art direction and copywriting are as fundamental to the user experience as the UI,” as Paul Woods, COO of the digital design firm Edenspiekermann,wrote here on Co.Design. “Sure, you can have a beautiful UI/frame, but once you have that (we all know a great UI is an invisible UI), all the viewer cares about is what’s inside: the artwork, the story.”

It’s not just that designers should treat their copywriters better, as Maeda mentioned at his Design in Tech SXSW talk. As chatbots and conversational interfaces become more popular, writing becomes the vehicle for experience design–so much so that writers are being integrated into those design teams. Companies are already starting to use AI to customize language for users on a mass scale. This writing-based design could transform the very nature of UX.

“We talk about the power of words—both content and style—all the time,” writes R/GA brand designer Jennifer Vano in blog post featured in the “Design in Tech” report. “When it comes to friendships, romance, work dynamics, and, dare we even mention it—though nothing is more telling, more relevant—politics, words have the power to change our opinions, incite action, divide or unify us, move us. Words can shape reality.”

As a well-known voice in the design world, Maeda’s report will help cast light on the issue–but design schools also have a role to play, as well. The report details how design education is falling short in other areas, as well. For instance, the top three skills needed by designers in practice–data, business, and leadership skills–are not available to them in most basic coursework.

 

This article was originally posted at:
https://www.fastcodesign.com/3068938/forget-coding-writing-is-the-new-unicorn-skill

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Call to action (CTA)

A call to action is a marketing term that refers to a prompt that invokes a response leading to a sale. When referring to a call to action (CTA) in the digital design world we usually mean the interactive element that leads to the next step in the experience - something that needs to be clicked or tapped.

User testing

User testing refers to a technique used in the design process to evaluate a product, feature or prototype with real users. There are several reasons why you might want to undergo usability testing, the most common is that it allows the design team to identify friction in a user experience they are designing, so that it can be addressed before being built or deployed.

WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG (pronounced WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get". It helps identify an an interface that allows user input resulting in an output that is rendered in a similar way. For example; a word processor application interface might resemble a piece of paper,so when printed the user can see how the output will appear.

Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is an tool that allows a website editor/administrator to manage the content that is displayed. Websites are made of HTML and CSS to create pages. Pages can be hard-coded but would require technical development skills to make changes. A CMS usually allows a person without coding knowledge to amend existing and add new content to a website using a WYSIWYG interface.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design refers to a web page that dynamically adapts its layout to fit the size and orientation of the device on which it is viewed. A responsive design allows for a more optimised user experience across desktop and laptop computers as well as smartphones and tablets of varying sizes.

User Stories

User stories allow the functionality of a product or service to be expressed as written descriptions of an experience as seen from the users perspective. The writing of user stories creates a list of design and development tasks to complete in order to create any required functionality.

User Interface

A user interface (UI) is a conduit between human and computer interaction - the space where a user will interact with a computer or machine to complete tasks. The purpose of a UI is to enable a user to effectively control a computer or machine they are interacting with, and for feedback to be received in order to communicate effective completion of tasks.

Personas

A persona in UX Design is the characterisation of a user who represents a segment of your target audience. On a project you might create any number of personas to be representative of a range of user needs and desires. The solutions you design must answer these needs in order to deliver value to your target audience.

Card sorting

A great, reliable, inexpensive method for discovering patterns in how users would expect to find content or functionality. Card sorting is used to test the taxonomy of data with a group of subjects, usually to help inform the creation of the information architecture, user flow, or menu structure on a project.

Brainstorming

A technique used to generate ideas around a specific topic. Often done in groups, but can be done individuals. The process usually involves writing down all ideas around a topic onto paper, a whiteboard or stickies often implying some kind of association.

Minimum Viable Product

An MVP is a product that has the minimum set of features to prove the most essential hypothesis for a product. Businesses building a new product can create a Minimum Viable Product to prove that an idea is viable and warrants further investment. A further benefit being that the next stage of development can be informed by feedback obtained from testing that MVP.

Sitemap

A sitemap is a diagrammatic representation of a hierarchical system. It usually depicts the parent-sibling relationship between pages in a website, showing how sub pages might be arranged underneath their parent groupings. This arrangement forms a map of the site.

User journey

A user journey represents a sequence of events or experiences a user might encounter while using a product or service. A user journey can be mapped or designed to show the steps and choices presented as interactions, and the resulting actions.

Prototype

A prototype is draft representation built to test ideas for layout, behaviour and flow in a system. Prototypes are an indispensable tool for resolving a large number of potential issues in a concept or business before too many resources are deployed to put a design into production.

Wireframes

A Wireframe is a visual schematic that conveys a basic level of communication, structure and behaviour during the design of a system. Wireframes are low-fidelity designs that bypass including a detailed user interface or visual design, conveying just enough to get across the core idea.

Usability

To say something is usable is a qualitative statement about how easy that thing is to use. Usability is an assessment of how learnable a system is and how easy a user finds it to use. The usability of a system or product is a key factor in determining whether the user experience is a good one.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the design and organisation of content, pages and data into a structure that aids users understanding of a system. A more organised system enables users to more easily find the information they require and complete the intended tasks.

UI Design

User Interface Design is the discipline of designing software interfaces for devices, ideally with a focus on maximising efficiency, responsiveness and aesthetics to foster a good user experience.

UX Design

The practice of User Experience (UX) Design is the coming together of many specific design related disciplines to improve the usability, responsiveness, uptake and aesthetics of a product or service.

User Experience

A general term that covers all aspects of a user's participation while engaging with something that has been designed. Usually when talking about User Experience in the digital design field it refers to the interactions, reactions, emotions and perceptions while using an app, service, website or product.