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Seeing vs. Using

Sometimes, gathering constructive feedback on the design of a feature is poorly served by the creation and evaluation of a set of static screens in a tool like Figma.

In these cases, we often end up providing feedback based on the imagined workings of a highly-dynamic experience with software.

The critique of a set of static mocks is often an exercise of indirectly-impacted technologists imagining the needs and goals of directly-impacted humans with a dynamic piece of software against a static screen of UI.

Looking at static mocks, imagining a set of goals, and saying “yeah that looks good” is one thing. A whole other is completing a task with interactive software and saying “yeah that works good”.

The placement of a specific UI element may seem obtuse in a static mock, but when contrasted with an experience set in tangible goals and tested in a dynamic environment, you may end up with a directly contradictory evaluation — that same placement might seem genius.

Seeing and using are two distinct methods for evaluation. Reminds me of this statement from Jason about “distracting” UI elements:

Mockups aren't real. Looking at screens or designs in isolation limits your ability to think about the whole system. Reducing elements to their objective qualities (size, color, etc) flattens them and removes the richness of the situation, the moment, the time, and the context in which they exist. The user isn't evaluating, the user is using for a reason, in a given context, with more going on in their world than just that element, that object, and that screen in front of them.