Design is about solving problems that humans have, not problems that products have.
that quote's going in my signature
That one quote stuck out to me as well. Great article.
Really important piece, I hope people don’t dismiss it as “just a rant” as it can be quite harsh — but truthful — in some parts.
I think this is actually very balanced. Although he gets tough I think he does a good job qualifying his points.
What he does exceptionally well though - unlike so many rants online these days - is actually discuss a way forward, presenting the solution to the problems he's highlighting (recalibration of concerns: focus on users and their problems).
His end notes are great too: "what's needed isn't ... buckets ... what's needed is plumbing."
This hits home for me. I work on healthcare apps, including an EHR (electronic health record system). EHRs are unilaterally panned by doctors and healthcare professionals. Despite the US gov incentives (e.g., a doctor can receive as much as $18,000 for using an accredited EHR), EHRs lead to lost revenue, increase administrative work, and overall a poor UX.
The goals of EHRs are noble and, academically, are a good idea. But the execution of EHR design has historically been terrible. The problems they aim to solve however are elusive. Are they meant to improve patient outcomes (yes, according to the US gov) or are they meant to increase doctor productivity? Can they do both?
That's super interesting. Where do you work? Is there somewhere I could learn more about that?
I feel for you. I also work on healthcare apps, but not on anything approaching an EHR. Patient outcomes, clinician productivity, billing, liability...the number of problems EHRs attempt to/must juggle is overwhelming.
Yeah, for sure. One of my favorite constraints with EHRs is that a doctor can't simply edit or delete a clinical note. There are liability, legal, etc regulations that prohibit it. Despite the good intentions of such a system, it makes for extremely unforgiving software.
So I'm sure this has come up before, but why not have an edit feature with an edit history? This is all super interesting by the way.
That's a good idea! Edit history would be a good solution prior to signing. However, when a physician signs the clinical note it becomes locked. You can't touch it. If there are errors, the physician has to make an amendment (doesn't that sound scary!). With an amendment, the errors are still in the record and any corrections have to be referenced in the amendment. Physicians don't like this because it makes them look bad and opens up possibilities for malpractice and litigation.
What were trying to do is prevent them from making mistakes in the first place. It's a hard problem but would have really beneficial outcomes for doctors and patients.
I work in a similar heavy industry which is also heavy regulated. I don't think it's as simple as just having an edit history. There are bunch of laws prohibiting that. Most of the time you submit a new note or form to override the first one. It takes a long time approving process and no one wants to wait, especially in this case of medical.
One of the best read i had about design since a long time. Indeed we need to remember everyday what it is to design and what our goals are. Product Design teams in big tech companies need to learn from Service Design, it never looses it's focus on what to bring to all concerned people while creating a new service or enhance an existing one.
This was a really good read. Thanks
Thorough, fair, and challenging. Quite refreshing to read this as opposed to the rant-style posts that are getting pumped out hourly it seems.
someone give this guy a medal, but first teach him how to use those big words he's slinging around.
I thought he did a pretty good job. Did you need to whip out the thesaurus?
agreed, it's great overall. it could use some editing, particularly in the opening and closing. things like: "There were valedictory encomia about the power of design[...]" or "Combining epistemological humility, psychological perceptivity, and technological-systematic thinking" don't actually make sense. and the overall verbosity of the article weakens its focus.
but that's besides the point. well thought out and much needed article.
Throwing stones in a glass house: "well thought out" could use one or two hyphens, depending on who you ask. It could also be suggested that "much needed" requires a hyphen since much is a modifier on needed.
yep. "well thought-out, much-needed" would be correct. also i should have used a semi-colon for "agreed; it's great overall." i should also capitalize my sentences. and I.
i wasn't talking about grammar though.
True. Fair enough.
Designers should have A seat at the table, not be THE table.
This is so much more than a rant. At it's heart it has a passionate call for the design community to put it's skills to work somewhere useful and significant. Very challenging. I'm not a designer, really, but often I feel this way about the work that I do. Is it significant? Is it contributing to society in a meaningful way?
Being aware of these things is an important step towards making sure we do quality, worthwhile work.
Also, kudos to the author for excellent choices of language.
I'm humbled by the courage it must take to write something so honestly critical and to demand more from some of the brightest and most talented minds in the hottest companies building the most publicized apps.
The ideas are so important and worthy of consideration, regardless of delivery.
But surely the point being brushed over in incredibly arrogant broad strokes, is that designers don't have a seat at the table - and that most of the problems raised with the 'case studies' in this piece stem from being fundamentally flawed at a product/business level - an area in which a lot of tech companies (including those listed) still lead with execs and product managers, not designers. The people on these message boards are, largely, not in the board rooms deciding the core, conceptual nature of products. And when they are, the reality of maneuvering through the maze of politics and stakeholders can be very real, and very tough.
In sentiment, this article is like all the hypothetical redesigns that 2-bit designers do - passively aggressively berating the existing without real consideration for the realities of everyday design in a professional context.
The notion that this is some kind of profound rallying cry, a well needed wake up call to designers that they need to make something that actually functions and makes business sense, is at best insulting and confused.