The blog I've always dreamed of writing, written.

Disadvantaged Style Guide

I'm sharing all these great questions, and my best attempts to answer them in a series of interview posts.

13. What has been the most interesting project you have worked on and why was it interesting to you?

My favorite projects allow me to stretch my technical skills in developing prototypes to help prove out concepts and support research.  A recent project involving UI for a global brand needed support in many languages, and I was able to develop an entirely new system for performing live text replacement with a popular prototyping tool.  With much faster localization updates, there was more time available for planning and communicating the results.  I get a major charge out of finding ways to work more efficiently, and this was a large step-level gain.

14. How would you explain the benefit of a user-centered design approach to a project manager who is not familiar with it?

I'd speak to their needs. Benefits to a project manager could be speed, clarity, and effectiveness of the project. 

UCD places the user of a product or service first in the definition of what's being built. It follows up by exploring the context and goals of those people. It also keeps their "voice" involved in the lifecycle of the project.

  • By starting with defining the users, the project won't end up solving the problem for everyone, so the project scope is smaller and more quickly delivered.
  • They can express requirements in terms of "what it needs to do for these people" which is more specific and clear for the design and development teams to satisfy.
  • Finally, they know who to test it with to make sure it succeeds and is an effective result for the business. 

(...and I'd use a bulleted list.)

15. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a web style guide?

Style guides in general offer commonly touted advantages of consistency, centralization, and control of the strategic design decisions. It can broaden the reach of a well thought-out and cohesive design approach for known situations and cut off impulses to experiment in ways that go against the general principles of the brand. In some cases, new team members can avoid re-inventing things that are "set" by the guide, and can get to solving the unique part of their design problem more quickly.

Still, they need to be living, accessible documents to work well. Authority doesn't come without responsibility, and a dated style-guide that isn't well maintained or adapted to the current product landscape will often go ignored.   They work well when there's clear paths to contribute, and a visible process to evolve the guide with diverse contributors. They work poorly when used as a cudgel to bludgeon creative people into compliance.