Inspiration > UX/UI Links of the Month

UX/UI Links of the Month


Each month we pick our five favorite UX and UI links and post them to our blog. Here you'll find all the archives in one place.

November 2018

1. Drop-Down Usability: When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Use Them

Drop-downs quickly become difficult for users when they are presented with an overwhelming number of options to choose from.

Enjoy this updated, classic "do's and don'ts" article about drop-down input controls. Especially useful is the "what to use instead" section.

2. 3 Pro Tips on Alignment

Little-known truth of UI design: if your designs look sloppy/cluttered at all, you’re probably not aligning the elements enough.

I love the attention to detail in this smart article about alignment in design. It's an accurate reenactment of what goes on in a designer's head on a regular basis.

3. UXmas

Each day through December, enjoy a delightful little treat from some of the world's leading UX specialists.

The "advent calendar for UX folk" resumes. It's one UX-related resource a day for 25 days, posted on uxmas.com. Informative, festive, and fun.

4. How to Add Innovation to UI Design Patterns

People like what’s familiar, but they also covet what’s uniquely useful.

How do you use established design pattern templates, yet find a way to stand out? This thoughtful article shows how you can improve upon basic templates to cater your design to your specific audience.

5. Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

I’ve come to feel that a system that promised to increase my mastery over my work has, instead, increased my work’s mastery over me.

A fantastic longread by the author of "The Checklist Manifesto." It's a great story about the lives of people impacted by design decisions made far away.

If you need a reminder why UX matters and who it matters to, this is for you.


October 2018

1. Only One Deliverable Matters

"We’re all here to make amazing, meaningful, lasting products. The explorations we make along the way are ephemeral, and it’s okay to treat them that way."

Why would we link to an article that tells you to skip wireframing? Because this thoughtful article about prioritizing the end product over intermediate deliverables is mostly in agreement with our philosophy that wireframes are not an end in themselves. It's not wireframes that are the problem, it's the way that they're so often (mis-)used.

2. Balancing Usability with Innovative Design

"As UX practitioners, we should be constantly striving to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of UX design, but we should do so in a way that feels logical, natural, and intuitive."

This article about balancing usability and innovation is a refreshing departure from two ubiquitous, yet seemingly contradictory, voices: one shouting "innovate or die!" while the other yells "people hate change!" Who could have guessed that the truth lies somewhere in the middle?

3. Things UX Designers Should Know – A conversation with David Travis

"A core concept at the heart of user experience is, 'You are not the user'. Intellectually, this is simple to understand but even the brightest UX designers seem to forget it as soon as they get in front of Sketch or any other prototyping tool."

Anyone trying to learn about UX will eventually come across David Travis. Very few people are able to explain the basic concepts as well as he does. There is so much wisdom about avoiding common UX traps in this rare interview. Highly recommended.

4. The Psychology of Design

"By revealing features at just the right time, we enable our users to adapt to complex workflows and feature sets without feeling overwhelmed."

This smart article dovetails nicely with our latest video course called "The Psychology of UI Design". It covers the key principles governing human behavior that affect how people interact with digital products, like cognitive load and "chunking." An excellent reference with good examples.

5. What Do Designers Really Want From Product Managers?

"We need your help making user experience a priority. Acknowledge that details matter. Give us the time and space in the process to focus on details."

The relationship between product managers and designers has the potential to be symbiotic, but coming from two very different worlds produces an ongoing challenge. This thoughtful piece from a seasoned designer presents insights on how PMs can get the best out of their design companions.


September 2018

1. Web Design: How to Use Icons on Landing Pages

"Structured information is easier to read and memorize, that is why lists are a part of HTML."

Lots of good, easy wins here for making lists, pricing tables, and other landing page elements look better.

2. Treehouse Introduction to Wireframing

"Throughout a website or mobile app project, you will have a lot of ideas and the best way to sort through those ideas is to brainstorm. Wireframes are a visual artifact of brainstorming, and the goal is to make them with minimal effort, as to encourage ideation."

One of the oldest and most reputable online learning platforms just released their first course exclusively focused on wireframing! Definitely worth checking out.

3. UX and Agile don’t work together — right?

"UX is not meant to work against anyone. It’s a cross functional team that can make the business succeed by maintaining the focus on the user."

UX doesn't have to slow down an agile development process, but getting it right does require that both teams be open to change.

4. Refactoring UI: The Book

"Refactoring UI takes everything we know about design and bundles it into one comprehensive package, including a book, screencasts, a component gallery, custom designed assets, and more."

Their first book isn't out yet, but you can sign up to be notified and get a discount when it comes out. We have no affiliation with them, we're just fans. These Canucks really know their stuff.

5. Principles for product designers: 10 Tips for Getting Unstuck

"The core principle is to keep the concept moving forward, whatever it takes."

A quick read that you should reach for whenever you're stuck. Print it out and stick it to your wall, even if you don't call yourself a designer.


August 2018

1. Simple Rules for Designing Web & Mobile Forms

"Enable a clear path to completion by enabling smart defaults."

Forms constitute the quintessential way of gathering information and enable businesses around the web, and yet they remain the hardest elements to get right in our designs.

Fortunately, the web is full of great resources, and Simple Rules for Designing Web & Mobile Forms is a perfect example. Follow the link to uncover 22 maxims for better forms.

2. Checkbox vs. Toggle Switch

"It is better to focus on the usage context instead of their function."

Asking our users to choose between two possible states is a pretty straightforward task to design. But what if there's more than one option available? And, what happens when we have to ask our users to make two or more decisions at once?

Checkbox vs. Toggle Switch offers all the right answers by examining case by case what's the appropriate UI controls to use in every situation for optimal user experience.

To further your understanding of these exciting components make sure to checkout Toggle-switch Guidelines by the Nielsen Norman Group and Radio Buttons and Checkboxes, an article from our resources page.

3. Carousels on Mobile Devices

"A hurried mobile user looking for specific content may never notice a carousel."

Carousels (also called slideshows, sliders, or galleries) were first introduced to solve a space problem. These are a typical method for sequentially displaying many pieces of content in the same place. The thing is, the ubiquitous solution to the space problem comes with important usability issues, especially on small screens.

In Carousels on Mobile Devices, you can learn about the main issues caused by carousels and how to alleviate them.

4. Mastering the Problem Space for Product/Market Fit

"If we don't understand the problem, what are the chances that we're going to get the solution right?"

All the fun of the product creation process seems to be in the solution space. There's where all our ideas and expertise come to play, so we skip ahead. But more often than not, jumping in too early without understanding the problem will lead us into a product/market fit dilemma.

In Mastering the Problem Space for Product/Market Fit, Dan will guide us on how to think of the problem space and how to use that knowledge to reach product/market fit with our solution.

5. Customer Recovery: Turn Bad Experiences into Unforgettable Good Moments

"Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to twenty-five times more expensive than retaining an existing one."

Chances are we put more effort into converting as many leads as we can than in helping our existing customer base be more awesome. However, it's by making our customers happy that we'll bring the best results for our business.

Customer Recovery: Turn Bad Experiences into Unforgettable Good Moments describes a process to handle a pivotal moment in our relationship with our customers: the moment in which we drop the ball.


July 2018

1. 10 Rules for Better Dashboard Design

"The dashboard has a specific purpose that it’s undertaken to serve."

Designing dashboards is always a challenging task. To ease every stage of the process, the first step to take is to delineate its purpose. But you will still find some uncertainty ahead.

From how to tackle the content layout to how to use interactions, 10 Rules for Better Dashboard Design is a helpful resource to have on hand at all stages.

2. Content Design: How to Write Any Error Message

"Error messages are structural necessities."

We use apps every day, and yet do you notice the little details like the particular way an error or success message is phrased?

Error messages might not seem like critical elements of your design, but they can "help [the] overall user experience become more grown-up, more solid and more stable."

Content Design: How to Write Any Error Message describes the experience of the Deliveroo team creating a framework for error messages. It's a great lesson to take away to your team.

3. Visual Hierarchy: Organizing Content to Follow Natural Eye Movement Patterns

"The item that first grabs the eye’s attention is at the top of the hierarchy."

What is a visual hierarchy? What does it mean for your website or app?

Learn how to organize your content in an easy to read flow by following the tips outlined in Visual Hierarchy: Organizing Content to Follow Natural Eye Movement Patterns.

4. The Delicate Art of Interviewing Stakeholders

"Someone is a stakeholder when they care about the outcome of your project."

Interviewing stakeholders is crucial for any project. We tend to put our primary focus on users and technology, but let's not forget about the business side of our design solution.

The questions outlined in The Delicate Art of Interviewing Stakeholders are a great vehicle to start involving your stakeholders in the design equation.

5. Why Bad Technology Dominates Our Lives, According to Don Norman

"We were addressing the symptoms, not the core, fundamental issues."

We need to switch from a technology-centric view of the world to a people-centric one. That's our key takeaway from Why Bad Technology Dominates Our Lives, According to Don Norman.

The article is an enticing invitation to reflect on building technology to enhance people's lives. It's also an opportunity to think of reframing our priorities. Hopefully, from faster to better technology.


June 2018

1. The Squint Test: Making Your Design Better Since Today (UI Case Study)

"If you don’t know what’s important on your website, you can only create a good design on accident."

Try looking at this page with both eyes partly closed. What do you see? A big block of text aligned to the center of the page. Bold subheadings. Some contrast between sentences. Different text styles. The list can go on.

That's a Squint Test. A simple way of evaluating specific principles on your work. These principles are Contrast, Hierarchy, Proximity, and Alignment.

In The Squint Test: Making Your Design Better Since Today, you'll uncover the full potential of its application.

2. Visibility of System Status

"At its essence, it is about communication and transparency, which are critical to many aspects of life."

Mitigating usability problems in our designs is possible if we follow some principles. The most relevant set of principles for evaluating usability are Nielsen's ten heuristics. Knowing them well can enhance our design on every iteration.

The article Visibility of System Status pores over the first of Nielsen's heuristics. A great read to dive deep into the role of communication and feedback in your design work.

3. From First Mile To Nth: Onboarding Beyond User Onboarding

"Users integrating a feature into their lives isn’t something that just happens, it’s something you pursue, and something you fight for."

Onboarding is a key factor in customer retention. But, when is a user onboard? And, does it really end there?

From First Mile To Nth: Onboarding Beyond User Onboarding offers answers to these questions. Considerations to keep top-of-mind when thinking of feature adoption and customers success.

4. Downplaying Empty States in Design

"Downplayed empty states are wasted opportunities."

Empty states are the in-between. The interactions that "can boost engagement, build consent, educate, delight, and entertain users." But we keep forgetting to design them.

Downplaying Empty States in Design is about taking advantages of these opportunities. A great starting point to learn how to go about using these states.

5. Integrating Privacy by Design Into Your UI Design Strategy

"You can’t simply block all EU IP addresses in order to avoid having to comply with the GDPR."

There's no way around the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR. Although it seems like an intricate and prohibitive set of rules, it is not. Becoming compliant boils down to common sense and a few practical implementations.

Integrating Privacy by Design Into Your UI Design Strategy presents a viable way of reaching GDPR-compliance. It takes four main steps:

  1. Introduce clear privacy and data sharing notices.
  2. Provide information about how you manage users' personal information.
  3. Empower your users to manage their personal data.
  4. Reduce the amount of data you collect.

May 2018

1. An Overview of The Factors of Success for New Product Development

Creating a new product is exciting! Who doesn't love the rush of making something new, something not seen before?

There are so many ideas out there, or maybe in your head, how do you bring that idea to market? Developing a new product, or even just a new feature, is a team, and company-wide effort. Each person's job supports someone else or more than one person.

In An Overview of The Factors of Success for New Product Development by the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF), you can learn about how a team works together to bring something to the market.

2. More Than Pixels: Selling Design Discovery

Design Discovery is the term used for the first phase of a project following the standard design thinking process. It is incredible how many companies skip this phase and jump to solutions. How do you know what to build if you do not know who your users are and what problems they need to solve?

Where do your solutions come from if you are working off of assumptions? More Than Pixels: Selling Design Discovery has some great tips to get everyone on board with this investigation phase. Learn from Kyle Cassidy, Head Of User Experience Design & Insights at Dept, how to get your stakeholders on board with Design Discovery.

3. 7 Rules of Using Radio Buttons vs. Drop-Down Menus

A standard interface problem is when to use which control for a specific interaction. In 7 Rules of Using Radio Buttons vs. Drop-Down Menus, Author Saadia Minhas takes two controls and breaks them down as to when to use them depending on the scenario you need to solve.

A quick tip: think of option visibility.

To take a deeper look at these two controls, check out our UI Controls Dictionary.

4. 9 A11y Tips For Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Believe it or not, geographic location falls under accessibility guidelines. For example, people who live in rural areas with limited bandwidth are required by federal law to use all of your website or app.

Website accessibility aims to address any limitations that may prevent the general public from being able to use a site that was explicitly built for public consumption. In 9 A11y Tips For Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Web Designer Depot, Suzanne Scacca shares a few simple ways to add accessibility to your projects.

5. Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is designed entirely for players with disabilities

We hear a lot about accessibility and the web, but what about other mediums? People do a lot more than using the internet every day, or so I hope! Gaming, a favorite past time for teenagers, and really, anyone these days, has entered the accessibility scene with Microsoft's new Xbox adaptive controller. Polygon lays out the thinking behind the creation of Microsoft’s new hardware.

Microsoft's Xbox Adaptive Controller is a device designed to pair with an array of existing peripherals to let more people with disabilities play games on Windows 10 and Xbox One. The design is not intended to address one specific disability, but instead to be a base on which any number of adaptive options can be added on. This is scalable accessibility.


April 2018

1. How To Design Emotional Interfaces For Boring Apps

I recently actually paid attention during an airline safety information video for the first time. It was a British Airways collaboration with Comic Relief, and it was genius. Safety information doesn't have to be boring. In fact, it shouldn't be.

Products that help us do unexciting tasks don't have to be humdrum.

Alice Kotlyarenko, Staff Writer at MacPaw explains How To Design Emotional Interfaces For Boring Apps. It's possible using five effective techniques:

  1. Gamification
  2. Humor
  3. Animation
  4. Illustration
  5. Mascots

2. Here's everything I've learned from designing 10,000+ UI screens as a lead product designer

Jon Moore is a Senior Design Partner at Innovatemap, co-founder of UX Power Tools, and also a generous writer.

In Here's everything I've learned from designing 10,000+ UI screens as a lead product designer Jon distilled ten maxims to design better products from his years of experience.

Our favorite: "Business and user value usurps EVERYTHING ... If you can deliver value to the user, you will create customers who will drive value to the business."

3. How to Figure Out if Your Product Actually Solves Problems

There are many facets of the user experience of a product. Seven, according to Peter Morville. We can balance them out in different proportions, but Useful and Valuable should be at the core to guarantee success.

How to Figure Out if Your Product Actually Solves Problems is a project reflection published by Katie Cerar, Product Manager at Shopify Plus. In it, Katie shares the process of a team trying to mitigate risk and ambiguity, to build value and usefulness into a product.

4. Users Don't Hate Change. They Hate Our Design Choices

Change is neutral by nature. The circumstances in which change happens is what makes it a positive or negative experience.

In Users Don't Hate Change. They Hate Our Design Choices, Jared Spool, Founder of UIE and Co-founder of Center Centre reminds us that we can help users embrace change by following four principles:

  1. Reduce the change to the smallest units possible.
  2. Give users control over when the change affects them.
  3. Show users how the change benefits them.
  4. Respect the users’ existing investment in your design.

5. Why You Don't Need a Representative Sample in Your User Research

We all struggle with the number and type of participants we should include in our studies. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Usability Expert Jakob Nielsen concluded many years ago that "the best results come from testing no more than five users and running as many small tests as you can afford."

More recently, David Travis, UX Strategist and Researcher at Userfocus challenged this topic and identified four reasons why you don't need a representative sample in your user research. He also shares an antidote for mistakes: iterative design.


March 2018

1. How to Display Tooltips on Mobile Forms

Ideally, people would understand the information they must fill in in a form with little effort. If not, we need to offer some assistance. Tooltips are an appropriate UI component for this task.

How to Display Tooltips on Mobile Forms by UXmovement, rounds up best practices and recommendations for "easy to spot, tap, and read" tooltips to raise the performance of your forms.

For an in-depth dive into Tooltips, check out our UI Controls Dictionary entry for them.

2. The UX Logout Lapse

We spend all of our energy walking in our users' shoes and giving them an exceptional in-app experience, but what about the moment they want to leave? "Because the logout is such a staple action in our day to day digital processes, it is a prime place to inject some substance."

Roxanne Abercrombie, Online Content Manager at Parker Software, reflects on The UX Logout Lapse, and why and how we should avoid it to provide an optimal logout experience.

3. Ethical Design: The Practical Getting-Started Guide

Digital products based on the capitalization and monetization of user data (a.k.a. Surveillance Capitalism) that deliberately take advantage of human behavior and make us addicts, in order to make money, should be considered unethical.

But not all data-driven design falls into this category. In Ethical Design: The Practical Getting-Started Guide, Trine Falbe, researcher and author of White Hat UX explains "how unethical design happens, and how to do ethical design through a set of best practices."

To know more about Trine's work on Ethical UX, listen to this podcast episode of UI Breakfast.

4. The Spectrum of Design Roles in 2018

Designers' skills are "better understood as a line of wet paint drawn across a canvas." But for clarity (and sanity) at the time of hiring (or looking for a job,) we tend to emphasize the areas where the paint drips down intensely.

In The Spectrum of Design Roles in 2018, UX Engineer Jasper Stephenson does a fantastic job at explaining the breadth of design roles today, and what kind of designer your company needs (or what kind of designer you are).

5. Feedback Driven Growth: A Process for Sustainable Growth

"I’ve launched my app and can’t get any users, what should I do? - Delight the few users you have." That's the advice Stuart Hall, Co-founder & CEO at Appbot has for all entrepreneurs struggling with their business growth.

Feedback Driven Growth: A Process For Sustainable Growth is a great read for all of you searching for a strategy to advance on the road to bootstrapped success.


February 2018

1. 7 Practical Tips for Cheating at Design

Don't get confused by the title; there's no cheating when applying the tips in this excellent article. The authors Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger from RefactoringUI.com do a superb job at explaining wise but straightforward "tricks you can use to level up your work that don’t require a background in graphic design."

7 Practical Tips for Cheating at Design is the kind of article you'd like to have on hand the next time you want to make the most out of your projects without regretting not going to design school.

2. The 9 Rules of Design Research

"Businesses have embraced the idea that meaningful innovation requires understanding their customers as humans with complex lives." This new reality reflects outstanding progress, but we still have to revise "myths, misperceptions, and hedges" surrounding the process of acquiring such understanding.

Ericka Hall, Co-founder of Mule Design and author of Just Enough Research and Conversational Design, put together 9 Rules of Design Research, a concise list to help us correct our path towards better products.

3. Why the Best Interface Is Just Enough of an Interface

As voice interaction find its way into our lives through our phones, cars, and even our refrigerators, it's easy to imagine a near future where we primarily talk to our devices but does this means that we can get rid of screens?

Like Neil Turner from UX for the Masses states "having a screen is pretty useful," and the key to knowing how much of an interface we need is in "allowing users to focus on their job to be done, rather than having to focus on using an interface."

The article Why the Best Interface Is Just Enough of an Interface is a fun read with valuable hints to design better UI.

4. Design Like a Teacher

Getting users to adopt a new technology is always a challenge, especially if the new solution has a steep learning curve and causes legitimate frustrations.

It's in situations like this when approaching design as "a way of defining and planning what we want a user to learn" and therefore, thinking of ourselves as teachers, can result in an effective tool.

In Design Like a Teacher, Aimee Gonzalez, UX Consultant and a member of the teaching team for Harvard’s UX Engineering course shares her experience of facilitating the adoption of a sophisticated Health Care System and how this new perspective transformed her UX practice and helped her achieve the project's goals.

5. The business of SaaS

(Not a design article but still a great read.)

If you're an entrepreneur in the software industry, going through the fundamentals of The business of SaaS with Patrick McKenzie from Stripe is a good investment of your time. This piece "will help you make better decisions for your product (and company), allow you to see business-threatening problems months or years in advance of them being obvious, and help you in communicating with investors."

If you're not an entrepreneur, it still is a fascinating look at the SaaS world and might even spark ideas for your next adventure.


January 2018

1. Discovery on a Budget

Research is not a phase you can afford skipping in the process of creating or refining a product or service. Answering "do I have a problem worth solving?" is essential to every business success story, and Discovery on a Budget is a practical starting point to help you with the task.

Meg Dickey-Kurdziolek, a freelance UX Researcher, delineates "strategies for conducting discovery research with no budget, existing user data, or resources to speak of" so you can revise and enhance this crucial step of the process.

2. Understanding the Value of Workarounds

Understood as "an unintended solution to a problem," a workaround is also an opportunity for improvement. But "how can we identify workarounds and assess their value in order to come up with an even better solution?"

In Understanding the Value of Workarounds, Michael Morgan, UX Researcher for ADP's Innovation Lab, shares some pointers towards the answer.

3. Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Wireframing

We build wireframes to communicate our ideas and get everyone on board before committing to code or elaborated visual designs. We build them to reduce time and effort. We make them "not just to have a skeleton for the UI design, but to be able to quickly iterate, modify and get feedback."

In Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Wireframing, Nazli Kaya, freelance UX Designer, explores the usefulness and relevance of wireframes as a communication tool, and how we can take advantage of them throughout the design process.

4. Designing Friction For A Better User Experience

The standard practice is to reduce friction to the minimum in the experiences we design, but there are "a few use cases" where friction can be just the right feature to add.

Zoltan Kollin, Head of UX at IBM Cloud Video, expands on these few use cases in Designing Friction For A Better User Experience. In the article, he analyzes a set of scenarios and examples showing how "the right amount of friction at the right time" is what makes designs efficient.

5. 5 UX Books That’ll Change How You Think about Design

Every field has a definitive reading list that practitioners trust for learning and refreshing. But there are also some hidden gems that fall out of the cracks of these lists until some generous colleague brings them to our attention.

Here are 5 UX Books That’ll Change How You Think about Design according to Petr Augustin, Lead UX Designer at Kentico Cloud. Enjoy!


Leon BarnardBy Leon Barnard
Got questions or feedback? Email leon@balsamiq.com.