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The Google UX Playbook and the Pursuit of Truth

The Google UX Playbook and the Pursuit of Truth

It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So – Mark Twain

Google recently released the New UX Playbook for online retail. It consists of a checklist of features to include on your web-store to enable better user experience and ultimately increase conversions. While it’s a 108-page document, it makes for a reasonable and easily digestible read to the average UX designer. For the moment, at least, it’s a definitive guide to approaching your online store. This wealth of information uses real-world examples to show the reader the “best in the industry” web-stores and provides real-life examples of successful designs.

So, if you’re a newcomer to the world of digital design, these resources can be instrumental in the development of your design methodology. Even more importantly, they can help you demystify some of the general UX clichés that have arisen through the attempted solidification of some of the more abstract concepts surrounding UX design.

A great example of this is Google’s analysis of revolving carousels on your landing page. They state that these do not work for three main reasons: the user’s eye reacts to the movement and thus serves to distract the users from more important engagements; too many messages mean that none are actually getting across, and users ultimately also get distracted from your banners (which contain your value propositions).

Rightly so, their research shows that carousels rarely work in real life, a theory that seems logical and sensible to the average UX designer, but the question now becomes how you convince your manager or client not use them.

The incredible thing is that Google can make these statements, not because they have made assumptions, but because they are doing massive amounts of research. They have collectively taken on great responsibility and have achieved great power because of it.

This is where the pursuit of truth comes in: statements like “users don’t scroll” or “users don’t read” are far too often used by designers exclusively to dominate and win arguments, rather than opening the discussion for the entire team and enabling project managers to make the right decisions. Especially when you are just starting your design career as a UXer, you will often have to vie for attention and fight for your seat at the table, by proving that you can provide insight into the usability concerns that stakeholders in the project will naturally have. That’s why these sorts of statements are often used as weapons in that ideological war.

The simple fact, however, is that these are subjective; and the role of the designer is not to give a definitive answer or postulate a cliché as a truth, but rather shed light on the fact of the matter at hand, in order to help other stakeholders in the project to better understand why we say these things. This means that your mediation skills, adaptability, and communication will have a far larger impact on the project than your knowledge base. The most detrimental thing to the project is, therefore, your assumptions – the things you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Ultimately, then, your focus doesn’t have to be on extensive research and constant ground-breaking innovation, which quite often only leads to burn-out and unsustainable growth, but rather on communicating well to others through seeking the truth.

After all, If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain

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Written by: Stiaan le Roux – Lead UX Designer

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