What is the one thing that vastly improved the way you work?

over 6 years ago from , UX Designer

It can be a book you read, a tool you started using or just a piece of advice someone gave you. What is the one thing that made your work as a designer significantly better?

For me, what recently improved my work was having an A3 notebook on my desk at all times. It's liberating to have a big space to sketch and write, and it helps get me in the flow much faster. Plus, the big pages help me keep a consistent documentation of what I'm working on.


  • perfume lperfume l, over 6 years ago

    Wake up early.

    (which has to compensate by going to bed early too, or else it'll be worse if you don't have enough sleep)

    It's amazing how much you can do in a couple of hours. Zero distraction, but unlike working at late night - your mind calm, your brain fresh, your body not tired, your self control still intact, and a sense of accomplishment that you can beat your procrastinated self (and some silly thing like the good feeling when you found that you wake up before most other people in the town)

    This is the "20" in Pareto's 20/80 principle, where important stuff get done. It's best for..., seriously, anything you want to do.

    I used to be in night owl camp all my life, but getting older, my body tells me that it's not healthy to work overnight like that anymore. Plus having to work full time job made me tired and don't want to do anything productive anymore when I back home.

    So I switch my sleep habit...and I wish I could found it earlier. 10/10 would do again.

    16 points
  • Robin RaszkaRobin Raszka, over 6 years ago


    10 points
    • Jimmy HookerJimmy Hooker, over 6 years ago

      Blocking websites that I was checking far too often has been the single best decision I've made in a long time. I feel way more at ease, much more focused, and have started reading far more actual books.

      I realized in hindsight I was compulsively consuming information around the internet, just reading constantly. Much of it was substantive, but ultimately it made me way more on edge (especially the news). I saw a quote recently that said something to the effect of "Our ability to know things has not kept pace with our ability to deal with this knowledge". This is profoundly true.

      Anyway, things like editing your hosts file or using Self Control App are great for your computers, but I would always just jump on my phone. One app that helped was AdBlock. I just created a custom block list for websites I was visiting too much (the ad blocking was a side benefit). I'm sure other similar programs can do the same. I recommend it.

      2 points
  • Lucian .esLucian .es, over 6 years ago

    Modafinil :))

    7 points
  • Aaron SagrayAaron Sagray, over 6 years ago

    Lightweight documentation – Writing about the interactions, and cover each case in the flow. Talk about the micro interactions (when the user scrolls, drop the keyboard). Talk about the non-happy path stuff (if a connection times out, present the dialog again) Writing helps me both crystallize and error check my designs.

    There are so many times where I've laid out a design for an engineer and as I write, I realize I forgot about a scenario, or didn't think through an interaction well. I jump back into Sketch, redesign a few screens, then jump back to my flow layout and continue writing.

    I should blog about this sometime.

    6 points
    • Andy MerskinAndy Merskin, over 6 years ago

      Please do! Always good to hear successful designer-dev interactions and tricks to make things more efficient for passing things off.

      2 points
    • Stefan TrkuljaStefan Trkulja, over 6 years ago

      As a complete sidenote, do you use any special software/toolkit to create interaction flows (static ones)? It feels tiresome doing them in Sketch/Illustrator, and too ugly when done in diagramming software.

      0 points
      • Aaron SagrayAaron Sagray, over 6 years ago

        Axure. Because you can draw lines from screen to screen and publish to a URL. Engineers love that it is horizontal scrolling to see all views, vs clicking on hotspots in Invision.

        I don't really worry about it being lovely. These are specs, not deliverables.

        0 points
        • Stefan TrkuljaStefan Trkulja, over 6 years ago

          Got you. Thanks!

          Edit: I am looking for something for clients rather than developer sign-off, hence the "look nice" part.

          0 points
  • Poyi ChenPoyi Chen, over 6 years ago

    One of the most significant change for me from an efficiency standpoint was switching from Photoshop to Sketch a few years back. Indirectly, it made me focus on the design itself more rather than making the software work the way I want it to.

    6 points
  • Jon MyersJon Myers, over 6 years ago

    I've become fierce about

    demanding clarity - what exactly do you mean, why, why.

    design systems - versus one-offs.

    4 points
  • Wes OudshoornWes Oudshoorn, over 6 years ago

    Stopped commenting on DN.

    4 points
  • Adham DannawayAdham Dannaway, over 6 years ago

    Writing lists :-)

    I jot down a list of all the things I need to get done in the morning, prioritise each item and then knock them off one by one.

    4 points
  • Evan MacAlpineEvan MacAlpine, over 6 years ago

    Buying a dumb phone and reading this book : Deep Work. Both have helped me with focus and have decreased the amount of stress/anxiety in my life.

    4 points
    • Daniel Fosco, over 6 years ago

      Whoa, this is exactly the book I needed right now. Thanks!

      1 point
      • Evan MacAlpineEvan MacAlpine, over 6 years ago

        Glad to hear it! The book does a great job of exploring both the practical and philosophical reasons for making space for "deep work". It really connected with me. Hope you enjoy it!

        1 point
  • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, over 6 years ago

    A book called "Designing with Type" by James Craig I think. Simple, basic, but it was eye opening for me when I read it.

    2 points
  • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 6 years ago

    What helped me cope with life as a designer:

    Realise that EVERYTHING related to design is just a set of tools.

    "Set of tools" means that something might be a hammer or a screwdriver, and one of these is better at nailing a board to a wall than the other. Occasionally, even though you're an expert hammer-wielder, you might have to use the screwdriver instead or, alternatively, leave the job to lil' Bobby Screwdriver, who's better at it then you.

    This goes for ui patterns, software, design processes, coding frameworks, conversation techniques, etc. Literally anything that relates to the field should be considered a tool.

    This should help you make less biased decisions during your career about which approach, technique or process to pick for each individual project. This, in turn, will make you a pleasure to work with since you'll be flexible, open to discussion and able to get to resolutions faster.

    In fact, even the approach outlined above is just a tool. You can make an exception to the "consider everything" approach, for example if you want to create a process that will smooth out your production because you DO stick with 1 pattern, app or system.

    But the point is that this lets you take a step back on everything and analyse without bias.

    .edit: This skill is best combined with a metric tonne of empathy. Empathy will allow you to look through the eyes of a third party, imagining what tool would be ideal for the situation.

    .edit²: This tool-based-approach also will make you realise why "tool X" vs "tool Y" discussions should never be about better vs worse, but about strength vs weakness, unless the discussion clearly defines the situation in which the tool is used.

    2 points
  • Olivier FOlivier F, over 6 years ago

    For me it was getting a Lenovo Yoga Book. I had been struggling to go "all-digital" for my brainstorming notes and sketches (I used to do all thinking on paper, but I got tired of lugging notebooks around). Now I keep the Yoga Book on my desk and as soon as I need to sort something out (design, development problem), I start scribbling on it (directly on the digitizer, not using the paper). Because I have infinite colors and pens and highlighters my scribbles are more lively and I find I get to my answer more quickly and confidently than with paper.


    2 points
  • Ghaida ZahranGhaida Zahran, over 6 years ago

    Working through problems on paper before jumping into Sketch.

    1 point
  • Ryan Martin, over 6 years ago

    I spent ages trying to learn processes and methodologies; should I learn to code? Do I need to do more testing? Do I need more features? Do I need to carve out more time for myself? Write more? Find more inspiration? Steal more?

    The thing that changed the way I thought about everything was a simple maxim:

    Ultimately the user experience is the product/service that the users engage (or don't engage) with at the end of it all.

    As Dirk explained really well - everything else is just a tool to get you there. Wireframes and prototypes aren't the user experience, just communication tools.

    This idea, challenged me to focus on greater collaboration, creating shared understanding across teams, less documentation, more experiments and learning. A lot of Lean UX stuff.

    As I work for an agency I started to spend a lot more time 'thinking business' and helping clients set themselves up to build successful experiences (based on these principles), as ultimately, that'll make the UX work I do, more successful

    1 point