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3 design takeaways from Season 1 of the 'Now What?' podcast

Designers from Medium, Modsy, and Resolve to Save lives on designing for unintended consequences, thinking big, and the future of e-commerce

An colorful grid featuring the headshots of the guests on the first season of the Now what? Wix podcast.

Illustration by Anita Goldstein.

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As the world has continued to reopen in fits and starts over the past year, one thing has been constant: uncertainty. The world–and design within it—is at an inflection point. What will the future look like for our discipline?

That’s exactly what the first season of Wix’s future-oriented Now What? podcast aimed to answer. Throughout the season, host Rob Goodman brought on leaders from across business, design, e-commerce, and development to talk about what the future looks like in their fields.

In the final episode, Goodman recalls the season’s biggest moments. Here, we've gathered the three key takeaways that web designers need to know, from Aaron Walter, acting director of product for US COVID Response at Resolve to Save Lives; Alexis Lloyd, VP of product design at Medium, and co-founder at Ethical Futures Lab; and Shanna Tellerman, the co-founder of Modsy. Just think of the episode as a future forecasting greatest hits album—listen to it in full below.

1. Move away from in the moment thinking

Like many of us, Aarron Walter, acting director of product for US COVID Response at Resolve to Save Lives, spends a lot of time addressing day to day tasks and stressors, and working towards getting his most immediate projects done. But Walter suggests that coming up for air every once and a while for a bigger picture view could help you come up with new solutions to everyday struggles.

“To be able to zoom out and see the big picture of things, especially when it's an opportunity to look at the space that you're working in, [is] tremendously valuable. It helped me see that many of the challenges that I had as a product designer, as a design leader, they weren't just my struggles,” says Walter. “They were the struggles of the circumstance, they were the struggles of the discipline. That's interesting to see. It makes it less of the flaws of the individual. And it shows us if it's a common problem, then there's probably a pattern that we can solve for it. We could find some common solutions, too.”

2. Design for unintended consequences

A “user-centered” design approach, which asks the designer to step into the user’s shoes and consider their intent as they develop a project, has become the gold standard in UX. But according to Alexis Lloyd, the vice president of product design at Medium, and co-founder at Ethical Futures Lab, that approach isn’t as holistic as it needs to be.

“By focusing on the user, we have a tendency to obscure other participants in the systems we design, who aren't end users per se, but who interact with or are affected by the system,” explains Lloyd. “And in some cases by focusing on ease of use, it doesn't eliminate friction in an experience, but instead gets offloaded onto some of those other participants who aren't as visible to us. Who are less visible, who are less privileged.”

UX designers also need to consider the potential for unintended consequences, according to Lloyd. “The thinking we were doing was really around systems thinking and how that might become an additive layer on top of user centered design,” she says. “So not to replace it but to add to it, as a way of better thinking through what unanticipated consequences might happen as a result of the systems that we're designing and thereby be able to preemptively counter any negative effects that we might see.”

3. Adapt to the future of e-commerce with personalized UI

Pandemic related shutdowns have sent more shoppers online than ever before. In order to meet consumers where they are—and keep them—e-commerce sites need to adapt. According to Shanna Tellerman, the co-founder of Modsy, an online home design start-up, that comes down to personalized UI experience.

“What you want to do is put the best possible thing in front of the customer that is most likely to buy it fastest. And to give them the information that is most likely to convince them to purchase it. That's what both parties actually want,” says Tellerman. “The world is headed towards personalization... the data we have available and the way we use that data to really understand what the consumer is looking for and to put the right product in front of them is going to continue to have a lot of legs as we move into the future.”

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