Relatedly, for most designers leverage over existing products is not available in the UI. Rare is the scaled product which, thanks to some new gesture, affordance, visual treatment, or interaction changes meaningfully. Most of what influences these products is upstream of this: less “where should the button be” and more “what is the privacy model”; less “what does the animation for this transition look like” and more “how can we align user outcomes with business outcomes”; and so on. Snapchat’s UI is not that important; the fact that they have no profile and therefore you can’t be searched and judged by others is. We should try to learn more about business, sociology, psychology, economics, and technological history than we maybe thought we should! If we understand how development works (and fails), how people form mental models, and what the most usable patterns for our platforms are, we’ll be in good shape.
As a product designer guard Story thought over System thought. This is not because engineers, as people, or PMs, as people, are “prone to system thought”; they may or may not be, but their disciplines and the configuration of their organizations almost always are. This means that over time, best practices accumulate that favor system thought, and many of design’s partners will favor the measurable, the reducible, the general over the ineffable, the holistic, or the narrative in how they make decisions. (Bad designers will only favor the latter, giving their thinking a precious, privileged, arbitrary quality which can be costly).
- imagine an ideal or “first principles” your content should reflect, based on imagined audiences or extrinsic morals or anything else; you can then make decisions based on this idea and these principles, asking yourself “what people think about this mix”; or you can
- measure what people click on and try to make more of that; assume that whatever they click on is what they want (how else can clicking be interpreted?), and made decisions based on usage data.
Obviously, good organizations mix these two approaches — the former a story approach, the latter a system approach — but observers of the media industry would likely agree that over-indexing on the latter is at least partly why media is distrusted and disliked by consumers. Yes, those same consumers — or a majority of them — “engage” more with clickbait, sensationalism, and news-as-entertainment, but in the longer-term, people think that the desperate pursuit of attention at the expense of principle is disgusting, and they lose trust in media as such.There was probably no measurement that made that outcome clear as it happened. No one could have articulated a position against the stakeholders pushing CNN to become more sensationalistic which those stakeholders would have accepted; they would have had to appeal to “story thought,” including speculative assertions about long-term phenomena that we cannot measure well: values, culture, individual judgments apart from mob movements.