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The one question great designers ask

No matter your skill level, there’s one question you can start asking in order to think like a great designer:

“How should it work?”

Yep, it’s that simple.

Not “How should it work?” But “How should it work?”

Ignore what everyone else is doing. Ignore what the engineers say is possible or easy to build. Start with a blank slate and then think through the ideal experience. 

A real-life example

If you’re a blogger building out a sales funnel in your email software, how should you edit that form?

When adding visual automations to ConvertKit we thought hard about this. But instead of getting caught up in what would be quick or easy to build, we simply asked, how should it work?

Well, I should click on a form, make the change, and jump back. All in a few seconds.

To edit an email it should be the same. One click, loading the email in under a second, keeping the context of my automation on the side, and then jump back just as fast. Seamless.

This solution is so obvious… after it seeing it done. But it’s clearly not obvious since Active Campaign, Infusionsoft, Drip, and every other visual marketing automation tool has a clunky, many-step process for making a simple change to an email.

When Dylan (our UI designer at ConvertKit) and I first came up with this we didn’t know if it was possible—or at leas too difficult to build to be worth it. But instead of scrapping the idea we pushed for it. We trusted that our engineering team could deliver something difficult–something that no other company had done before. And they delivered. This interface launched to our first beta customers today.

A month ago I demoed this interface on stage at Craft + Commerce and the crowd actually gasped when I clicked on a a sequence and it animated to edit an email inline. It turns out speed and an intuitive experience are always in style.

You have the tools

You don’t need to know Photoshop, Sketch, or code to think in this way. Instead start with a blank slate in your head and ask yourself, “What’s the ideal experience?” Then grab a pen and paper and start sketching it out.

Don’t get caught up in the implementation details. Aim for perfection. The fewest number of steps.

Then once that is nailed down, turn to building it. How can you make it happen? You’ll hear things like, “we can’t build that”, “it won’t work”, “that’s too expensive”, and “if we do it this way we can ship faster.”

All valid thoughts, but they’re also harmful to the user experience. Push for your original vision and keep iterating until you can get there.

Once you create this kind of experience it will be obvious to everyone else. But that only happens once someone does it first.

Simply ask, “In a perfect world how should it work?” and you’ll level up your design abilities immediately.


Interested in playing with the new ConvertKit yourself? Sign up for the beta of our new automations.

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