19. April 2017 - Comments Off

How to design useful products

Three years ago I was starting e-shop selling teas. I saw an opportunity to promote its boost effect and sell it to the various workplaces. We have spent half a year building product, developing e-shop and branding. After a launch, we have sent four bags of tea. It was devastating. What did we wrong? Was that positioning of a product, or product itself? Besides looking for ways to improve, we decided to focus on other activities and quit.

Every business owner knows, doing things people need is the only way to success. But how to make sure people won't reject your idea? Is there any way to design a product for success? Human Centered Design looks like a promising answer.

Building for the people

Human Centered Design (HCD) is a design process oriented on people needs. Doing it, you are constantly interviewing and understanding people you are designing for. You can use its pre-made techniques and quickly implement it to your process.

goldfish walker

The most useless product - Goldfish Walker

Typical client centered design process also care about the user, but there is a person who is always more important - the client who is paying. There is nothing wrong about that unless client understands needs of his customers. Once there is a flaw of uncertainty, even with your best intentions you can end up building a useless thing. Take a goldfish walker for example.


Identify people you are designing for and invite them to the process. Rather than asking them what they want, observe how they operate. Create storyboard capturing situation with your product and identify points of the pain.


Design-Thinker can be everyone

"Design thinking can be practiced by everybody. There is no reason why everyone, including CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, cannot master these thought processes as well" - Tim Brown

Great way how to avoid false assumption is to include everybody responsible, to the process. Organize a workshop for all CEOs, stakeholders and decision makers. Everyone working on your product is a designer. Make sure you have clear business goals and solving needs of the customers. Create a representative persona and place it on the visible spot, to remain who’s problems are you solving.

It may feel uncomfortable to get everybody talking you to your work. However, embracing ambiguity during process loosen up tension and help you open the doors to valuable insights. Operating on a level of possibilities and concepts is always less expensive than product failure at the end of a project.

Interviews with users and experts may uncover key insights, what makes final solution looks obvious. You never know where you find it. Maybe short talk with the cleaning lady in your office change whole direction.

In-Home Toilets for Ghana’s Urban Poor

IDEO.org stood in front of a huge design challenge. They designed the whole service with HCD and the results were stunning.

They spent six weeks of talking with sanitation experts, shadowing a toilet operator, understanding the history of sanitation in Ghana, and talking to scads of Ghanaians. All these interviews brought key insights about what the desired toilet should look like and how waste should be collected.

Researchers ran a prototype. They used off-the-shelf cabin toilets and tested service at 80% of a cost. The results were surprisingly good. After that, they started manufacturing.

Researched also learned during interviews, how the service should be positioned, early ideas around marketing and promotion, as well as certain technical limitations. Clean Team now serves 5,000 people in Kumasi, Ghana, making lives cleaner, healthier, and more dignified.

More understanding less guessing

The design process has few different phases. You first need to understand the problem, and you look for some inspiration. After that brain starts thinking about a possible solution. It generates tons of ideas a what may work. Some of them may be unreal some out of the budget, but some may be promising to implement. This idea is the one what you want to make real.

inspiration, ideation, implementation

Client centered design focuses mainly on the last phase. Client hire designer just to do the work. Endless questions from the designer feel like slowing a process. Usually, it’s compressed to a few meetings where Inspiration and Ideation phase takes place. Implementation creates the main part of work and has 3 possible outcomes. The client will reject, feedback or accept design. As you noticed, there is no touch with the people for whom is the design made. And every decision stands on designer's and client’s understanding of the market.

Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation in HCD have approximately same duration. It stretches first 2 phases, to better understanding and more creative freedom exploring possible solutions. Actual work is on the other side reduced only to create a working prototype, which can be tested in real world, with a person who is similar to one hanging in your meeting room.

Re-thinking Facebook News Feed

Last months, fellow designers and I took part in Human Centred Design course. At our after-work meetings, we wanted to take a look at social media addiction, which is reported by various resources, and it also touches our lives.

With this goal, we identified points of pain and formed "How Might We..." question. Since the temporary effect of browsing news feed is positive, people feel regret after that, and sometimes they appear scrolling even without the intention to do so.

How might we increase a quality of time spending on Facebook for young people?

We have interviewed five daily Facebook users and one psychologist. Some feel depressed after browsing News Feed, others are not aware of that feeling. However, it is not associated with using other Facebook services as Messanger, Groups or Events. After this findings, we re-framed our original challenge.

How might we make news feed more about friends and give it form where a user has more control over it?

Generating various ideas of implementation, we decided to implement News Feed to Messenger bot. After quick research, we built a simulated facebook News Feed Bot without line a code and got it to the hands of users.

Testing the prototype showed people are used to scrolling form and this one seemed to them wired. Sequencing information gives them control, but also slowing them down and make users unable to scan content quickly. Added value of suggested solution is in curating and reducing content.

In the next iteration, we would give up a messenger bot form. And look for ways how to serve more scannable and enjoyable content. Also with the problem in mind, to protect people feeling pain after interacting with the Facebook product.

Since this project failed to fulfill its goal, it generated a lot of insights, what could we re-use in another form. During the process, we felt the urge to built our own messenger bot straight away. Doing it we would end up spending months of development, on things nobody needs. Same as with the tea e-shop. And this is exactly where is the value of HCD.

Is the HCD the ultimate process for designing?

Certainly not. Ultimate solutions don’t exist in this messy world. It always depends on the context you are working on. HCD has certainly place in big projects, where long testing and interviewing is less expensive than the final product. It also helps understand people you are not familiar with, for example, the ones living in extreme poverty.

Once the client has such a good understanding of the market, there is any need to waste a time with research. Small startups may find useful only some parts of a process, because they solve the problem of usefulness, by quick pivoting.

Understanding of both design approaches will lead you to do a better informed decision. So that you can pick up berries from the both worlds.

3 techniques from HCD you can apply right now

Anyway, there are few takeaways, you could apply right now to get a better understanding of people you are designing for.

1. Get to know the people you are building for

Find ways to know your clients. Look for data of people using your product, examine support tickets or just go to the market and sell your product personally. Creating empathy and understanding them helps you create obvious solutions. 

2. Test ideas in the context

Get in touch with them but do not ask them, show them what are you working on and observe actions. Never show an unfinished product. If yes, always find a way how to make it look like the final one. All these features you have in your head will wait, and you can get valuable feedback and start selling.

skate, bicycle, car

Build from skate to car - https://medium.com/@awilkinson/skateboard-bike-car-6bec841ed96e

3. Document your process

The creative process generates tons of ideas. Sadly, nobody can see into your head. Get ideas out. Write them, capture photos or make paper prototypes. Then other people can contribute, and you may find new solutions, you overlooked. Remember that creative genius called Leonardo Da Vinci? He left hundreds of his thoughts on paper. Not because he needed to prove the world, he was the genius. Rather he was putting the ideas to the reality.

More resources about HCD

Design Kit - great place to start. It explains everything around process and shows specific methods. It is developed by IDEO.org, who are doing great work in spreading this approach.

DESIGN KIT: THE COURSE FOR HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN - you can enroll until May 23rd, 2017. Good for applying theoretical knowledge in the real world. For better implementation to your design process, you should look for some qualified instructor.

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation - easy-readable book illustrating how design thinking could be used through all range of business challenges. With great examples and business implications.

Complete Beginner’s Guide to UX Research - great place to start.

How to apply a design thinking, HCD, UX or any creative process from scratch - more in-depth explanation of the mentioned design process.



I would like to thank Jakub and Patrick, who took a part in HCD course.

Do you find this article useful? Click the heart to let me know. Also, you can tweet me your thoughts. Looking forward hearing from you. 

23. March 2017 - Comments Off

All you need to know about marketing before building a website

Beautiful websites don't necessary bring revenue. User's experience with your company online more than browsing a single site. Their journey has zig-zag shape. They come from your Facebook fan page to website and then jump back. Web sites what works are part of thoughtful marketing strategy. How to build website what connects all your online activity and works for you?

Evolution of the online presence

Communication chaos and channels.

Communication chaos and channels.

In 2017 there are many ways how you can jump online and start communication with your existing and potential customers. Are people interested in your product on some discuss board? That is a great place to start to be active. Facebook or Instagram may cover another part of your online presence. A mailing list is also a powerful tool and it is the channel where most of the revenue is made. Remember tailored offer you received last time from e-shop?  All these communication channels are tools, what may help you and each one has the specific role. Every marketing activity is useless without bringing you revenue. Your website is the best place what welcome all users who came to your front door. And it is the best place to hit "buy" or "bring me a pizza" button.

Facebook homepage

Benefits to the left, strong call to action to the right. Leading user's sight to the action. Even without buying anything Facebook earns money when people using it.

A landing page is single web pages with one purpose. It contains a strong call to action button what push the user to the next stage of the buying process. With targeted communication on social media, mailing lists and google ads it is more effective than traditional websites.

What are your active communication channels? Simply google the name of your business and you find out. Maybe you will see your Twitter profile, google plus, youtube channel, and some articles mentioning you. All this is part of your online communication legacy.

Communication is your only tool in the online world

The one who talk too much, appear as the one have the truth

Remember when you entered the store and the salesperson started speaking about products. At the start, you didn't mean to buy anything. But after a while, you are leaving with new LCD TV. Speaking continuously removed untold barriers you had before and convinced you it actually the right thing to do. This works online too.

To be visible online, you need to communicate. Appearing constantly in people's minds. Investing in communication regularly builds momentum. In online communication, there are channels what requires high or low frequent activity.


Build the website what covers your business needs and communication. Connecting all relevant social media activity to your website, covers entry parts of your sales funnel. Let it be the last point of purchase.


High-frequency channels

Is it worth to post on Facebook your fan page monthly? Hardly, Facebook's algorithm makes a low activity have low reach to audience. But sharing on a daily basis is rewarded by reaching people outside your fans. At least at the time of writing this post, Facebook tweak it constantly. These channels are great to raise awareness and find out interest about your brand. How many website URL do you type directly into the address bar daily? Have a plan for high frequent social media activities or content marketing. When starting your business up reserve your usernames on all social media. And then decide wich one's suits best your needs.

Building business on another business always involves some risk. Uber drivers protest against Uber and Youtubers complain about Youtube. When your only channel is controlled by somebody, your business is too. Dividing your communication to various channels helps you handle this and is more stable for your business. Once you build an audience, start to distribute it to other channels.  And then just lead users to place which is fully under your control - your website.

Low-frequency channels

Your website is most trustworthy and representative online channel of your business. Place where users should be converted to the customer. Yes, this is place in users mind where you want to be. (advertise) A Website needs to contain all relevant and up-to-date information. But you don't need to update it daily. Unless you have a team of developers increasing the conversion rate by 0,5%. These little tweaks have such effect, they are totally worth it. That is another case.

Have you ever experienced, finding misleading information? Recently I was searching for contact information of one Tea room. Google said one thing, Facebook another, telephone numbers and opening hours were different. There were 7 friends, expecting me to make this reservation. I already experienced minutes of pressure, before having a sip of tea. Rather do not share info than sharing misleading one. Once you share it, it is your duty to keep it updated.

User experience on the website - from clear message to action

Like street signs to your store, online activity should all lead users to the conversion point. Point where users change to customers. There are so may powerful tools to build websites even without knowing about design or code. Strive for custom development only when you What is custom made in the online world? It is anything that has not been done yet, and it is made especially for your needs. You want to edit content on the website, there are plenty solutions. When you are looking for premium presentation with own e-shop and product management, its better built for your needs. Building website, keep in mind 4 tips to improve your user's experience.

1. Build trust with every step

Clear navigation beats beautiful button. Make logical and clear transitions. Not only on your website but also between your channels. Every step user takes (wording) is building or ruining trust. There is no in-between. Be sure to have all things clearly communicate, button taking the user to unexpected place, harm the trust. Well-organised things are easy to understand for our brain. Copywriting, microcopy and call to action are things to focus on. It should work even as plain HTML page. Remember world's first website? It is nor, sexy, nor attractive, but it works. It was made 26 years ago, and it is even responsive! It has nothing more than text and links.

2. Content is WHY people came

The reason why people come to your website is content. You may have the greatest design but, when it says "lorem lipsum, dummy text" it is useless. Copy sells. The design builds trust and enhances emotions. Do not try to appeal everyone, Appeal to the users who already found a way here. Focus communication and assumption that people had to do some activity to reach your page. People won't be on your sales website without interest in your services. If yes, they can close a tab in a few second.

3. Attract with a tagline and then call to action

Communicate clearly what are you offering. Make sure your site is supported by your real world presence. Users are constantly looking for proofs, you are not just a scam business. So give it to them, and highlight it. Communicate what others said, use photos of your offices, people working and share your contact information.

4. Use sexy attention grabbers

Icons, illustrations, and pictures enhance the content. It hooks people's attention. Also, animations definitely have a place on the website. All these assets can support your brand identity too. Once you compare design made by professional and amateur, you may won't know why, but you will feel the difference. It is hard to express it with the words, because the only trained eye can see these subtle differences.

A website as own distribution channel

Louis CK is standup comedian and TV shows producer. He decided to do bold move - skip distributors of his shows and tickets. He is using his powerful media presence, to refer people to his website. It is only way how you can buy the ticket to his standup. And this is what every business owner wants, right? Online you are always one step from your customers. Only they need to make that step.

How can you make most your website?

User experience is created during whole communication with user. Rather than building the website just for the sake of having one, build one what covers your business needs and communication. Connecting all relevant social media activity to your website, covers entry parts of your sales funnel. Let it be the last point of purchase. Do not re-design. Update. Rather than spending money only on custom design and development, plan your communication strategy effective. Build upon assets you have and create your brand.

7. March 2017 - Comments Off

Why should a UI designer try using Git?

In 2005, Linus Torvalds created something, which completely changed the way developers work today. As one of the creators of Linux kernel and a great contributor to the open source community, he is responsible for one more thing: He created Git. Git is a version control system for software development. Today, developers can’t imagine writing even one line of code without Git. And when you look at it closely, you'll find out why you should give it a try. But first let me tell you a story about me and Git, and how we met each other.

First contact

Even though I am a designer, I recently found myself at a workshop about Git led by some web hosting company. When they opened the terminal and hit the keys, to me they looked like hackers from the movies.

I was amazed and scared at the same time. After a few minutes I realized this workshop is not for me and I ran away.”

The next day, one of my colleagues asked me to use Git – completely out of the blue. I swore on the graves of my ancestors that I have no clue how to use it.

Git screen

"As designer working in Photoshop, looking at the terminal scares ."

My colleague explained to me some of the advantages of Git and persuaded me to give it a try. I was surprised how smooth it works and even the UI looks pretty nice. So like my colleague, I'll try to talk you into using Git. Please, be patient and don't run away.‍


SourceTree interface

Hmm, a nice interface... most of the times you use just 2 buttons. What else is there?

It creates a snapshot of your codebase, so you can easily collaborate with other developers. It also allows you to roll-back and review changes. You can also work on new things, without affecting original code, that's already live.

In general Git makes it really hard to screw things up.”

Git vs Github

Don’t be confused. Maybe you have stumbled upon GitHub or saw some of it’s stickers. Yes, that cat-topus. Well, GitHub is a platform for developers where they publish their work and contribute.

Git is a system for version control.”

It’s the core part of developer's workflow. Git helps prevent unpleasant situations and take a step back when things go wrong. It also helps to merge and manage changes when more than one person works on a project. It is built to work with code (text), but it can be also useful when working with UI assets and resource files.

The pros of integrating Git to your workflow

If you are looking for specific setup look here and here. Or ask a colleague developer. Maybe he'll be even pleased that you showed interest. Or not, anyway...

Once you're done with the setup, you need to know 3 commands:

  • Commit (save changes)
  • Push (send)
  • Pull (download)

Change quickly, review visually

Keeping your files and assets organized is really hard these days, especially once you make it to the 5th revision and further.

Photoshop versioning

I know, how many times have you seen this picture...

Using Git help you keeping updated one file. When you are designing variation. Make branch and divide path. Branch is independent path of revisions and changes. You can navigate visually in history and review logged changes. Remember when committing write down description of changes. Never commit without that, you may lost your breadcrumb.

Git branch

Git keeps your work safe

Accidentally deleting a file can happen to the best of us. However, with GitHub this would never happen. Everything is backed up to the extent that you can A-L-W-A-Y-S come back.

Sure, Git is built primarily for developers so pushing/committing 100KB .php files is easy. But uploading giant .psds around 1GB takes forever.

But there is a way...

You can avoid painfully long upload by integrating Git Large File Storage. Also, please keep your PSDs and Sketch files small. Split to more files when possible. I know you might like to keep more artboards or layer groups in one file, but lightweight files generally equal faster workflow.

Same file structure

Set up some basic structure and keep your assets updated and in sync. If you don't really know how to keep in sync with your developers, just ask them about their file structure. Especially for naming this is extremely important. E.g. name all icons e.g. “icon-kitty.png”, add state after the name of a button “button-getmecoffee-hover” and so on...

Are you working with Sketch?

Then you might use this plugin. It helps you commit and push straight from the Sketch app. It also creates a thumbnail so you can browse versions visually.

Sourcetree no preview

Sourcetree with preview

For Mac users there is also Folio which makes it quite easy to add a Git repository and allows you to browse all files assets and work with them. When you update your Sketch file, Folio will automatically update (commit and push) it. It also keeps all versions of a file, so you can easily review them. However, it's a bit messy since there is no folder organisation – just one library.

Folio for mac

Folio for keeping your designs in order.


Give it a try!

Nowadays, developers can’t imagine writing even one line of code without Git. The idea of having to live in a world of mess scares them pretty much like the terminal scares me.

That doesn’t mean designers don’t feel pain when requested to make changes – especially in agile teams. You see, there are a few version control solutions for a designer, but at the end of the day it works only for design, not code.

Git is a great platform for entire teams. It has more possibilities and could be used even for marketing purposes. Product managers, copywriters and other creatives could use Git extensively as a centralised database. It’s possible without getting your hands dirty of code and writing commands to terminal. However, the learning curve is a bit too steep, especially for people in creative or agile teams. So if you don't have the time to learn all of the commits and pushes, keep your design revisions and assets in sync in Avocode. I heard there is a new and more detailed version control system coming soon...

I hope you'll at least try exploring Git. Even if you won't use it, it might show you new ways how to think about your team's workflow. Let me know in the comments, what tools do you use to keep your designs and assets in sync with your team.

This article was originaly published on Avocode Blog


4. July 2016 - No Comments!

Two wolves – symbol design

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”



Two wolves tatoo

Always remind yourself of that choice. It's only up to you.


story source