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Alexander Skogberg

UX, Web & Writing

Writing

Contributing to a great developer experience as a designer

Code shown on a monitor with a post-it note with a to do list stuck to it

Over the years, I’ve learnt that a great developer experience plays a large part in a successful project. Here are my tips for contributing as a designer.

For the past eight years, I’ve been working as a UX designer and frontend developer in Stockholm, Sweden. When I look back on the projects I’ve been a part of, the ones that were successful and provided a great user experience always had a great developer experience. When it was neglected, the projects often fell short of set expectations.

Developer experience (DX) could (somewhat oversimplified) be described as user experience (UX) for users that are developers.

While the term developer experience isn’t uncommon, I feel it doesn’t get the attention and love it deserves. While a great developer experience requires a joint effort, I think designers can make a solid contribution and make a lot of things easier for their fellow team members.

Be open and positive to criticism

When starting a new project, be upfront that you want to tailor your tools and methods for collaboration. This makes for an excellent first impression and proves you have a good attitude to teamwork. I recommend having regular feedback sessions on this topic throughout the project (perhaps during your sprint retrospectives).

Treat developer feedback just like you would treat user feedback and improve your tools and methods for collaboration.

You should ask for specific feedback on your tools and methods for making and sharing design deliverables. Even if your tools and methods have worked well in past projects, they can always be improved. Make a habit of questioning and improving them with feedback from your developers.

However, don’t be a pushover if team members don’t want to try new things. Argue for what often has worked well and show them some samples of, for example, a clickable prototype in InVision or an exported style guide in Zeplin. It can be an eye-opener for everyone involved.

Teach yourself some code

Should designers code? This question has sparked many heated debates within the design community over the past few years.

Read Contributing to a great developer experience as a designer.

The good, the bad and the ugly UX of Red Dead Redemption 2

Offical red Dead Redemption 2 artwork

Rockstar Games’ long-awaited title Red Dead Redemption 2 was released on October 26, 2018 and has been met with enormous praise. In this post I go through the good, the bad and the ugly UX of this western epic that most likely will go down in history as one of the greatest games of all time.

After releasing Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) in 2013, Rockstar Games has had gamers waiting patiently for the follow up to their 2010 smash hit wild west adventure Red Dead Redemption.

In this prequel to the previous instalment you play as Arthur Morgan, a member of the Dutch van der Linde gang just like the previous game’s protagonist John Marston. Arthur is trying to make a life for himself and his fellow outlaws after a failed bank robbery in the rapidly changing and less and less wild west.

As Arthur faces both opportunity and hardship, you as a player will face both good, bad and ugly UX.

Read The good, the bad and the ugly UX of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Lost in copywriting – experiencing Japan as a designer

Holding a Japan Rail Pass on a Shinkansen platform

The nature, architecture, people, language, food and culture. During my trip to the mesmerising country of Japan in October this year, I felt there was no end to the impressions I got. In this post, I’ll tell you what stood out about design.

Was it playing Super Mario World as a kid in the early 90s? Could it have been eating sushi when going to college on the Swedish west coast? Maybe seeing Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece Lost in Translation multiple times had something to do with it.

I don’t know, but for the past few years my curiosity about Japan had been steadily increasing. This fall I finally stopped dreaming and booked a flight to the land of the rising sun.

In this post, I’ll tell you what made impressions on me as a designer.

Riding the Tokyo subway with 38 million people

I started my trip in the nation’s capital of Tokyo. For getting around in this mind-blowing city, the subway is the best choice by far.

Since most of the city’s 38 million inhabitants also prefer the subway the experience is at first overwhelming, but after a few rides completely manageable (as long as it’s not during rush hour).

Packed subway car in Tokyo.
During rush hour, the subway cars in Tokyo are packed. Luckily, the commuters are respectful towards each other.
Read Lost in copywriting – experiencing Japan as a designer.

Making your design by breaking your design

Character destroying car in Street Fighter 2 bonus level

User interface design is hard. Smartphones, tablets and laptops come in all shapes and sizes with and without keyboard, mouse and touchscreen input. For making your design great in this context, you must first learn to break your design.

Too often in projects I’ve seen design fail late in the development process due to it not being tested enough in different ways. This waste of time and energy can easily be reduced.

There are several reasons for this failure. Sometimes it’s stress, last minute content changes or unclear initial requirements. But sometimes it’s simply because we designers can be unstructured and sloppy. We need to get better, we need to start breaking our design before someone else breaks it for us.

Here’s my guide for putting your design through the wringer.

Break your design with real content

Every designer I’ve ever spoken to has agreed that using real content as early as possible is the way to go. Yet, I often see design filled with placeholder images, Lorem Ipsum text and comfortable made-up content.

Read Making your design by breaking your design.

Writing emails people will read, understand and reply to

Email. Love it or hate it, you probably have to use it on a daily basis anyway. Here are my best tips for writing emails people will read, understand and (most importantly) reply to.

Screen for entering a new email in Apple Mail

I’ve sure sent my amount of crappy emails over the years. Emails with vague subject titles, unnecessary CC:s and forgotten attachments. Once, I’ve even hit the Reply All button and sent an email to over 500 coworkers.

I’m always trying to write fewer and better emails and faster and more helpful replies. However, I can always get better and so can you. Now, I’m gonna teach you how!

Here are my best pieces of advice.

Write a detailed subject title

Just like a well-written link on a website, you should know what an email is about just by reading its subject title. This makes searching your inbox less time-consuming and your recipients will hopefully find and read your emails sooner.

So make your subject titles are simple, non-clickbaity and have their keywords as early as possible.

Examples of poor subject titles:

  • “Logo”
  • “Meeting notes”
  • “Send info”
  • “Slides from talk”

Examples of better subject titles:

  • “New logo in EPS format”
  • “Meeting notes for preparing usability testing”
  • “Send conference itinerary (if you have it)”
  • “Slides on talk about wireframing in Sketch”
Read Writing emails people will read, understand and reply to.
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