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I don’t want my designs to accidentally kill people.

Building digitally is a lot less stressful

I don’t want my designs to accidentally kill people.

Building physical things is tough. When I worked as an architect, I was constantly stressed about making sure everything was built properly. If I designed a faulty building or managed equipment or materials incorrectly, people could die or get severely injured. Eventually, the stress got to me, and I switched to software design.

Software is a lot less risky, physically. The worst you can (usually) do is lose a ton of money. Software is just a bunch of text on a computer. And unlike physical objects, mistakes in software can be fixed nearly instantly.

In a previous UX role, I was responsible for styling changes in code for a trading application. In one of my first deploys, I accidentally changed all of the text color to white…on a white background. The app became unreadable. This could have been a very expensive error. My team worked after hours to rollback my mistake and we were back in business the next day.

Design is softer than software. Designers can ignore the constraints of programming (at least to start). We can dream up a multitude of new ideas and move faster than code. Even when a design takes form in code, it retains its fluidity. Where an architect’s blueprints solidify into permanence, software dances between designers and developers, built and unbuilt.

Designing software is relaxing compared to construction. Just don’t let designers push things to prod unattended.


P.S. I portrayed a narrow view of the practice.

The implications of our work can have an outsized impact. I was reading about the Triple Bottom Line this weekend: aligning people, profit and planet. Profit is easier to quantify, so the other two are generally ignored.

The infinite scroll pattern is my favorite example of unintended impact. It's an ingenious and utilitarian UX pattern that has turned us all into dopamine addicts.

I tweaked this on Thu May 09 2024 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)