If you prefer trees for shade, that means you’re not buying umbrellas, lean-tos, or other shade-providing options.

Your use, together with everyone else’s in aggregate, is market behavior. Your experience with the products you use drives your decision to keep using them, modify them, or replace them with something that works better.

As UX designers, our work is to ensure that users have the absolute best possible experiences with our products, from the initial purchase to every repeated use. These experiences are the most meaningful driver of the success of a product. If users don’t like it, they won’t keep using it.

Everything else is just hype.


Recently, Jared Spool wrote a provocative article decrying the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) framework as an occasionally useful UX gimmick.

While JTBD does force a user-focused approach, he argued, it also has numerous pitfalls. Actually uncovering the core functional job that users of a product hire the product to do far harder than most pretend. More important, Spool argues that JTBD can become a crutch. Practitioners of JTBD often fail to learn other useful approaches that work better in situations where user motivations are less rational.

Fellow designer Coryndon Luxmore provided even more damning criticism on Twitter. JTBD, he argued, is intentionally dehumanizing:

“It appeals to executives because it forces human goals into simple rational transactional behavior allowing them to side step emotions and empathy.”

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Design Startups & Tech

The real problem with scope creep isn’t missed timelines.

It’s not that it takes too long, or costs too much, though these may be true. The real problem with scope creep is that you lose sight of why you were doing something in the first place.

An engineer adds a feature here, a designer makes some UX improvements there, a marketer requests a “simple” change, and suddenly your MVP has turned into something else entirely. Yes, the functionality is all there, but the analytics are incomplete, the test is muddied, and your team hasn’t validated or invalidated its hypothesis.

Product teams need to be careful to keep their eyes on the prize.

At Hipmatic, we solve this by doing a daily Product Standup. Unlike your typical engineering standup, our product standup focuses less on tickets and blockers and more on the big-picture strategy. Are the things we’re working on still moving us closer to our goals? What’s the best next action we can take to move us forward.

Sometimes these meetings take 5 minutes, and they assure everyone on the time that we’re doing the right things. Sometimes they take 45 minutes, but we course correct before wasting weeks on something we didn’t really need to do.


I don’t want a bendable phone. I don’t care about the next generation of wearables. And I definitely don’t need the vast majority of Internet of Things products.

The sad reality is that most products don’t solve a problem, even a tiny one for a small group. They’re just more landfill.

Even in the world of User Centered Design, Lean Product Thinking, and more user data than you can shake a stick at, most companies seem hell-bent on creating useless products nobody’s asking for.

If your job is focused on squeezing that last iota of value out of ambivalent customers, maybe it’s time to leave and tackle something bigger. People are begging for solutions to big problems like these:

  • High-quality, aesthetic housing that everyone can afford
  • Paradigm-shifting replacements for major utilities like fuel, food, water, and internet
  • Transparent, affordable alternatives to traditional health-insurance
  • High-quality replacements for Universities (yes, we can do better than bootcamps)
  • High-trust solution to evaluating the quality/fit of existing products and services

As Seth Godin notes, extraordinary benefits go to those seen as part of the Top 5% of their fields.

This is as true in UX as it is anywhere else. Perhaps more important, the top UX designers have an outsized impact on the industry and the world at large.

But what do the top UX designers do differently?

Yesterday, I asked some of my favorite designers, and the discussion snowballed:

Here are some of my favorite answers:

Design Personal Growth Startups & Tech

When you’re facing a particularly challenging task, it can be helpful to incorporate a forcing function into your routine.

A forcing function is any task, activity or event that forces you to take action and produce a result.

Need to stay productive at a meeting? Make everybody stand. Want to cut online time wasting? Leave your charger at home. Having trouble writing enough? The Most Dangerous Writing App forces you to keep typing until the timer ends, or you lose all your work.

When designing the most important steps of your app—or your life—think about ways  to incorporate behavior-shaping constraints.


I’ve lost count of the number of groans I’ve heard when the subject of user research comes up.

Most UX designers hate talking to users, and most non-design executives consider research a navel-gazing exercise.

Here’s the thing though: users don’t care about your product.

They don’t care that your product has better specs. They don’t care that it’s newer. They don’t care that it’s technically or aesthetically superior.

User only care about their problems. They care about the nitty gritty details that make something that should be easy difficult and something that should be fun frustrating. So you’d better understand those details like you understand every frustrating moment of your morning commute. And you’d better have a detailed plan for addressing those issues that you’ve vetted with actual users.

User research isn’t about asking users to evaluate their problems. They may not know what they are. It’s not about asking users to design a solution. If it’s a real problem, they’ve already pieced together the best solution they can.

User research is about giving the entire team enough information to make informed decisions about a solution as if they were solving the problem for themselves.

Unless you can honestly say that everybody in your organization is already empowered with that information, your product needs more research.

Design SEO

Content discovery is broken.

Android’s news feed shows the same 5 stories. There’s an entire industry dedicated to helping you find new content on Netflix. Medium only recommends more of the same content you’re already reading.

This is partly because most content is crap. It’s derivative, verbose, and designed more for search engines and recommendation algorithms than actual people.

But there’s also a bigger discovery issue at play.

Today’s AI is bad at navigating the line between novelty and your current interests. While a person might understand that their friend likes Game of Thrones not for its fantasy setting but for its political thriller overtones, most of today’s algorithms default to the lowest common denominator: “people like you.”

Collective sorting was a useful stepping stone. But it’s time for something better.

Analytics Design

It’s far easier to lose weight by eating better than by exercising.

Even if you run five miles a day, you’re going to get fat if you subsist solely on cheeseburgers, candy, and soda. Bad inputs undermine hard work.

The same is true when designing products.

Good designers look at popular designs as sources of inspiration for their designs. To a designer, the entire web is one big pattern library.

Indeed, most “formal” pattern libraries include examples from popular sites. What they rarely include, however, is any data analyzing those patterns. Some patterns actively help users, but some are barely usable. This is probably because designers have been confusing pattern libraries with style guides and design systems for at least as long as they’ve existed.

We need more data-driven pattern libraries. The folks at GoodUI have made some great strides in this direction. The web needs more projects like that.


Most user stories are total shit.

As a user I want to create an account so I can access the application.

No real user has ever said something like this, because no real user has ever wanted something like this. Nobody actually wants to create an account or access an application.

People want more time or more money. They want to feel more in control or more connected. They want fulfillment or food in their bellies. They want to solve the real problems they face every day. They want concrete, significant improvements in their lives.

If you’re writing user stories like that, stop fucking around. Identify who people are and what they really want. Real user stories sound like this:

As a Boston professional, I want a casual, work-appropriate shoe I can wear when it rains heavily so I can look good without getting my feet wet or sacrificing comfort.

As designers and developers, we shouldn’t accept user stories that look like the first example. They lead to crap software and horrible experiences for users.

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