How Graphic Design Improves your UX Design Skills

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Skills that Designers Often Overlook

Product/UX designers find their way into the profession from all sorts of backgrounds. Some were engineers, some were self-taught, some were business majors who stumbled on product design as a profession after seeing Jony Ives introduce a shiny new Apple product.

I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications Design — which is the fancy academically accepted label for graphic design. However, for the last few years I’ve been a product design lead for a Series A startup.

Over my 10 year career, I’ve worked with designers from all sorts of backgrounds, but here are the top 3 things I’ve noticed about folks who come from graphic design that give them an advantage over others. Coming from other fields has their own advantages (engineers have strong logical problem-solving skills) but we’ll leave those for another day.

1. Designing for emotion

I once interviewed a design candidate who stunned me with his product thinking. His analysis of business problems, user problems, and solutions was deep, thought through, and clearly practiced. He knew how to dig into the functional problems people had and get clear answers that he could then use when proposing solutions.

The one crippling weakness the team brought up? He never once talked about people’s emotions.

Every problem that product/ux designers solve for people have two components — a functional one (something is too slow, tech doesn’t work, too expensive, etc.) and an emotional one (because it’s too slow, it makes me feel inadequate in front of my friends, for example.)

The candidate I was interviewing was amazing at making things faster, more usable, and less error-prone but was never able to create an experience that got users excited. His aesthetics skills were sub-par and he treated copywriting as an explanatory exercise that was only needed to tell people why something was there and how to use it. There was no brand, no storytelling, no emotion.

The best products don’t just tell us how to do things better, they make us feel more empowered, self-confident, intelligent, and more.

Think of your current go-to products. Maybe they’re a pair of Airpods, a Tesla, a black leather jacket or a liquid nitrogen-infused Nespresso. The feeling you get when it just works and you feel like you have superpowers and can’t wait to tell everyone you know about them? That’s design — it’s an emotional and functional experience that leaves you wondering how you ever lived before this product was invented.

Sometimes that experience even makes you forget about all of the times the product is completely unfunctional. Like trying to switch Airpod pairings between your iPhone and your Mac, for instance.

Graphic designers? They’re trained from day one to elicit emotion from people. Even if you’re self-taught, you’ve examined typography and the effects of letterforms in conveying emotion. You’ve investigated how colors make people feel, their associations, and how certain combinations will either calm or provoke.

Understanding emotion and how to control & create it is an indispensable part of great product design — and it’s often overlooked by folks from other backgrounds.

2. Craft

Imagine buying a shiny new Mac, only to find the keyboard was visibly off-center — not from a manufacturing defect but an oversight in design.

I’m not a meticulous person. But when I was studying graphic design, that carelessness got knocked out of me. We had to cut our designs out by hand using colored paper and scalpel, and glue it all together with something called rubber cement that was basically nuclear waste. Smelled like it anyway.

My first designs had glue stains and fingermarks, miscut and misaligned elements, and perhaps even a faceprint at some point when I was ready to throw in the towel at 4am.

What that taught me was the value of craft. Pixel-perfection is almost never shipped due to constraints, but it should still be the goal and only intentionally put aside — not mistakenly unnoticed. Especially with digital designs and layouts that respond to device sizes, taking pride in craft often comes with a traditional graphics background.

Folks from graphic design backgrounds will catch visual tension points, misalignments of visual elements, obviously incorrect font sizes, and more — without so much as a second glance. I once worked with a type designer who would kern by hand using printouts and tell you the exact font-sizes and what they should be changed to without ever glancing at a screen.

3. Visual Principles

Almost all designers, self-taught or not, can list off a set of visual principles that are important in product design. But if you’ve only ever designed for digital applications, your experience with form and its many possibilities is severely handicapped.

I’d find myself in a product critique giving suggestions like:

“The large dominant shape near the top creates a feeling of unease and anxiety since gravity also applies to what we see on a page.”


“The asymmetrical balance seems heavily skewed to the right, which leads me to focus all my attention there when the visual hierarchy should have me first reading the type in the top left”

While everyone in the room understood what asymmetrical visual balance was, few had the years of experience playing with a million layouts to be able to tell at a glance that it was imbalanced and/or what to do about it.

I’d strongly suggest any designer not trained classicly as a graphic designer to practice designing posters, magazines, and other print media — it broadens the horizon of what’s possible in a composition and shows just how restricted we still are with digital applications.

4. Ideation

I once had a professor that told me the best designs typically come from a problem so difficult you’ve tried a million solutions and just can’t get something to work. Then, after a period of banging your head on the wall, you reach a eureka moment and that’s when the magic happens.

Because of this, I remember having to create often over 100 thumbnails and 10+ comps (sort of like wireframes) before a solution was reached — all in black and white. I brought this practice to my work as a product designer and saw the immense value it added.

The product designers I worked with at startups used to start with an idea and that idea would carry through all the way to a pitch on the team. After bringing in the graphic design practice of brainstorming en masse, we’d have much more frequent conversations on much lower fidelity sketches.

The team used to present only one design during a critique, now they would propose at least 3 so we could discuss the relative merits between each one. This significantly elevated the quality of discussion that ensued. Instead of people saying:

“I think the Information Architecture isn’t being represented properly”

They would say:

“The Information Architecture in version A is much stronger than B and C because of XYZ.”

The teams also used to try and get feedback from stakeholders by showing colored mocks. The feedback was all over the place — often times people kept commenting on the color, when the designer presenting needed feedback on the layout. Once we stripped out color and added a grayscale step the quality of feedback significantly increased and was much more focused.

These are just a few of the ways having a graphic design background helped me succeed in product design. I’m sure there’s more that other folks could add, and again I’m not advocating that aspiring product/ux designers should necessarily start with graphics — and that’s the beauty of it.

Design is a human-centered field, so as long as you are in something related, you’ll have your own set of skills to bring to the table!

I’m doing a 30m Freeform Q&A Session on March 8th at 5pm Pacific, join me!

Join me for weekly product design insights where I share conversations I’ve had with top designers from companies like Dropbox, what I’ve learned from scaling a Series A startup into the millions in revenue, and more!

How Graphic Design Improves your UX Design Skills was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


5 Pillars of an EdTech startup success

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What attracts consumers towards investing in your tech-education startup?

If you are running an education tech startup, chances are you are either struggling to gain signups from users 😐 , or you are killing it 💯. Registrations and paid customers are falling right — left — and center, and you are looking to scale your platform in ways no one has ever done before; if you are a founder of a thriving education tech startup, congrats 🎉 , you have made it 🙌.

But if you are struggling to make a mark, working to scale your services/courses, and increase your funnel size, then I have a secret for you. People don’t care about you or your startup. They care about what you and your company can do for them.

People don’t care about you.
They care about what you can do for them.

If we look at the growth data, according to HolonIQ, the Total Global Education Expenditure will be the US $8 trillion by 2025. The Global Market size value for EdTech is expected to grow from US$89.07 billion in 2020 to US$285.23 billion in 2027, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.1%.

More data from HolonIQ

A lot of companies are going to jump in to get a large-sized of this global pie. Here are five things you can do to bring more users to your landing pages and make your EdTech startup a success.

#1 Inspire your users

If a user chooses your platform as their learning partner, they should get inspired by your product, service offering, instructors, and the overall package. Some of the ways you can bring more users to your platform are by inviting distinguished faculty members from big-name companies and having them speak as guest lecturers for various course topics.

Featured Instructors Website Screengrab from Product School


People can get inspired to attend courses by your platform by gaining access to certification they cannot anywhere else. In today's internet world, the actual weightage of certification is so much less as compared to the real-life experience. Data from instructors suggest that a certificate is the number one reason people get motivated to complete a course.

The University of Michigan accredits some Coursera certification courses.


If taken from the right people, testimonials can serve their purpose and go beyond just empty words. Testimonials from industry experts can attract talented people to your platform. For example, the testimonials page on Interaction Design Foundation’s website has positive remarks from Don Norman, Forbes, and SAP.

Testimonials on IDF’s website

#2 Teach your users

Pixar in a Box course at Khan Academy

One of the reasons students churn out of a course is because it fails to provide knowledge and value to them in a way that is easily understood. The best teachers are the ones that can teach complicated and tedious topics in an easy and fun manner.

For example, check out Pixar courses at Khan Academy or the money management comics at The Woke Salaryman website. Animation is a fairly complex topic. Now imagine teaching it to kids. The course at Khan Academy is so easy to follow that I was instantly hooked to the lectures after watching the first video. On the other hand, we have money management. Most people fail or never become mature to manage their money. The Woke Salaryman tackles this topic by making fun comics that drive money management's importance using attractive storyboards.

Money management comics at The Woke Salaryman’s website

#3 Build a community around it

Although being a Solopreneur is a good thing. Teamwork and community support are probably the best for raising spirits and getting quick feedback from like-minded people. Users love to interact and be a part of the community to plan future activities and projects with people who have the same interests. The simplest way you can build a thriving community during and after course completion is by organizing large or byte-sized Facebook groups. A good example is Nas Academy’s FB group that users get to be a part of after completing their courses.

Nas Academy Alumni group on Facebook

#4 Challenge them hard

Challenging students to pass an exam makes them think is the perfect recipe for gaining industry recognition for your certifications. For example, Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) uses a combination of multiple-choice and long-form writing-type questions to challenge its students to pass the courses. Additionally, the course instructor checks these essay-type answers, and marks are allowed based on the level of correctness. Later, students get ranked on a leaderboard per course — which is another gamification level that drives them to be on top and continue engaging with the lessons.

Multiple-choice and essay type questions on Interaction Design Foundation

#5 Help them make money

Possibly the best way to incentivize professionals to become part-time teachers is by treating them right and inviting them warmly to your platform. By teaching them right, I mean not eating 60% of their course profits because the platform doesn’t belong to them. If teachers could be valued more then, they will be motivated to give back more of their knowledge to the students so that the cycle will continue.

Teaching perks on Skillshare

But what about the students?

Students are always on the lookout for internships and pro bono work. It is not easy to apply your latest acquired skills immediately to a project. And that’s why offering students a gateway to paid internships, and Bono-work work partnerships might be the most value-driven thing that your platform can provide.

General Assembly offers Pro Bono work opportunities to students.

End Notes

As an education tech startup, you should be laser-focused on helping students achieve the best possible outcome when they opt-in to your platform. Only by driving value to your users can you win 🥇 and take home a large portion of the pie 🥧 .

Give me a shout!

Thank you for reading this far! 😁 Let me know if you have any questions or comments on my design — or — If you’d like to have a chat about anything design-related, I’d love to hear from you!

Before you go…

👨🏻‍💻 Connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube (Subscribe).
💭 Comment
your thoughts, feedback, anything!

5 Pillars of an EdTech startup success was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


30 UX Design Resources You Should Know About

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We’re all stuck at home right now. If you’re like me, you’re probably using this time to spring clean, organize your bookmarks bar, write letters to friends and family, and maybe even learn something new.

As someone who’s fairly new to the field of UX design, I reached out to other Designlab team members, mentors, students, and community members, for advice on which UX design resources to look to for learning.

These UX resources span books, blogs, podcasts, videos, newsletters, and more! Check them out, and let us know what we’ve missed 🤓


#1: Design Matters Podcast by Debbie Millman

The world’s first podcast about design, and an inquiry into the broader world of creative culture through wide-ranging conversations with designers, writers, artists, curators, musicians, and other luminaries of contemporary thought.

#2: UI Breakfast Podcast

Conversations about UI/UX design, products, marketing, and much more.

#3: Design Better Podcast by InVision

Listen to chats with design leaders to uncover how they achieved success, and hear stories and insights from the best in product design.

#4: The Futur Podcast

The Futur is an online education platform loaded with content and tools to help you build better design skills.

Websites & Blogs

#5: Inside Design by InVision

InVision’s official blog, discussing design thinking, design teams, and design inspiration.

#6: Adobe XD Ideas

Find inspiration for your own projects on the website of this powerful UI/UX design and collaboration tool from Adobe.

#7: UX Planet

UX Planet is a one-stop resource for everything related to user experience, with a whole section dedicated to UX for beginers.

#8: Nielsen/Norman Group

The UX/UI consulting firm, founded in 1998 by Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman, continues to be a true leader in the field, and regularly publishes groundbreaking usability research.


Prototyping, UX design, front-end development and more can be found on this site.

#10: Muzli

Muzli provides design inspiration, news, and trends, curated from over 120 sources.

#11: Sidebar

Sidebar collects and showcases the best links each day about UI/UX design, typography, CSS, user research, and more.

Videos & Films

#12: Gary Hustwit’s Documentaries

The creator of acclaimed design films like Helvetica and Rams is streaming a new free movie every week during the Covid-19 crisis.

#13: Abstract: The Art of Design

There are now two seasons of this acclaimed Netflix original series, which explores computer design and modern contemporary design with some of the world’s most highly regarded designers.

#14: The Creative Brain

In this 2019 Netflix original film, neuroscientist David Eagleman taps into the creative process of various innovators while exploring brain-bending, risk-taking ways to spark creativity.

#15: Sarah Doody

Sarah Doody is a UX Design & Research Consultant, Founder, Writer, and Speaker. Her YouTube channel is full of valuable wisdom for new designers-from imposter syndrome to how to get a job in UX design.

#16: AJ&Smart

This design agency is constantly updating their YouTube channel with educational content on UX/UI design, design sprint methodologies, product design, and product strategy.


#17: Ruined By Design by Mike Monteiro

Monteiro showcases how designers destroyed the world-and what we can do to fix it. It’ll make you both furious and hopeful.

#18: How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert

This book outlines a step-by-step process for making sense of messes made of information (and people), and is equipped with a hyperlink enabled indexed lexicon and worksheets to complete while reading.

#19: Don’t Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug

This classic-originally published in 2000-argues why a good app or website should let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible.

#20: The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

This best-selling book by cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald Norman talks about how design serves as communication between object and user, and how design can make experiences delightful.

#21: by Jeff Gothelf

In this insightful book, Gothelf teaches sets out valuable “lean UX” design principles, tactics, and techniques-like how to rapidly experiment with design ideas, validate them with real users, and continually adjust your design based on what you learn.

#22: by Jake Knapp et al

Designer and author Jake Knapp teaches readers how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days through a method he invented while working at Google Ventures.

In this book, Mule Design co-founder Erika Hall distills her experience into a brief cookbook of research methods. Learn how to discover your competitive advantages, spot your own blind spots and biases, and understand and harness your findings.

#24: Conversational Design by Erika Hall

Get to know the human interface, and learn why conversation is the best model for creating more human-centered design.

#25: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter) by Susan Weinschenk PhD

Dr. Susan Weinschenk shows how to apply the latest research in cognitive, perceptual, and social psychology to create more effective UX/UI designs.


#26: Typewolf

A short and sweet roundup of the latest type news and typeface releases delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.

#27: UX Design Weekly

A curated list of the best user experience design links every week.

#28: HeyDesigner

Design news for product people, UX designers, product managers and frontend developers.

#29: Web Designer News

A collection of the best news for digitaldesigners ranging from apps, business, design, typography, tech, UX design, web design, and more.

#30: The Designlab Digest

Ready to build your UX Design skills, and switch to a new creative career? Check out our UX Academy program, which combines 1-on-1 mentoring with rigorous curriculum and group design critiques.

Here at Designlab we send out a monthly newsletter with posts from our blog, articles from friends around the web, free video training, and heaps more UX/UI design goodness. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up at the bottom of this page!

30 UX Design Resources You Should Know About was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Accelerating Design Process With Plugins

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Vlad Chetan’s Speeding

Are you willing to speed up your design process but the majority of your time goes in just grouping and arranging assets? Here is one solution for you. Bring the functionalities and features directly into your XD file and just sit back to watch how accelerated your work will look like.

Selecting from over 250+ plugins can be overwhelming, but if you’re a beginner here are some of the useful plugins curated just for you-

  1. Icons 4 Design

Something you should not miss out on. With over 5000+ free vector-based customizable icons, you’re just one step click away. Search from a variety of options for one type of icon and change the size, colors, thickness, and much more.

Sit back and relax this sip of coffee! ☕

2. unDraw

Not interested in surfing hundreds of illustrations when doing your internship/job assignments? Here is unDraw for you with beautiful images for your projects and customized illustrations.

uD and that’s of course you Design! 👩🏻‍💻

3. UI Faces

Select any shape and fill it with an avatar. From selecting male and female to selecting emotions like happiness and neutral or to look for a particular age group. Now avoid placeholder icons for faces as this plugin has it all.

Everything you need to color your project with! 🌈

4. Stickles

If you and other designers are willing to leave descriptive notes to explain and clarify certain things, this plugin is right for you. It helps you to add sticky notes near to your artboard, you can even classify the notes according to different colors.

Knowledge is an island! 🏝

5. Stark

Stark makes designing with accessibility easier. From colorblind stimulation to rapid contrast checker, it can do this right into Adobe XD. Building products that are inclusive to everyone is one step closer now.

To infinity and beyond! 

6. Fancy Maps

It lets you add a customizable map to your designs with the help of Google Maps API. You can select the map style, from colored to black and white to select the zoom level. Zoom level refers to the point if you want the map to be of a state or city or a particular street. It is just a few clicks away.

Don’t drop a win, drop a pin! 📍

(If you’re curious to know what these quotes indicate, install these plugins right now, and it will give you a clearer image of how the wordings and the emoji give a parallel comparison to the plugin.)

If that was useful, share it with as many designers as you can. Your clap will motivate me to come up with the next set of plugins. So clap, clap, clap your hands 🎶

Accelerating Design Process With Plugins was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


What Designers Need to Know About WEF’s New “Ethics by Design” Report

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There’s a new framework designers can use to think about ethics. Get the recap.

When we talk to designers, they consistently mention wanting to shape a better world. Many have an underlying desire to help society and uphold the basic human rights of every human being. Maybe you’re one of them. Wanting to shape a better world may be necessary but it isn’t sufficient on the path to produce ethical outcomes. Ethics is a behavioral challenge and we need to create organizational approaches to help people change their behaviors. One emerging solution is outlined in a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

A new framework for designers to think about ethics

The report — “Ethics by Design: An organizational approach to responsible use of technology” — illuminates ways that companies can help employees (especially designers) make ethical choices. Read on for designer-centered takeaways and download the full report.

Report cover on illustrated garden background. Report cover reads: Ethics by Design: An organizational approach to responsible use of technology, White Paper December 2020

[Report Authored by Daniel Lim, Nicholas Bullard, James Guszcza, Emily Ratté, Ann Gregg Skeet, Inna Sverdlova and Lorraine White]

We’ve already seen how moving fast without ethical frameworks has the potential to fortify or erode some of our fundamental human values.

For example, the report outlines how unchecked AI and social media technologies can promote the spread of disinformation (as shown in “The Social Dilemma” documentary and “The Hype Machine” guide). Yet those same technologies have been used by Amnesty International and Element AI to identify and measure online abuse against women, shining a light on toxic dynamics in our culture and offering concrete steps to combat it.

It’s part of corporate responsibility to ensure AI is used ethically and designers play an important role in ensuring those outcomes. WEF’s Head of Machine Learning and AI, Kay Firth-Butterfield, agrees: “I think, intrinsically, it’s important for designers to understand that what they are doing could really benefit human beings and the planet but mistakes are going to be bad.” This belief has given way to ethical training tools for organizations, such as the “Ethics by Design” Trailhead module by Salesforce’s Office of Ethical and Humane Use.

“For designers, there’s just a sense of responsibility we have to create the world we want to live in… We’re creating the systems that are affecting so much of our society”

-Daniel Lim, Senior Director of Experience Design (Salesforce) and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Fellow (World Economic Forum)

(Photo credit: Daniel Lim)

For 50 years, WEF has been on a mission to improve the state of the world. They recently collaborated with Deloitte and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University to present this comprehensive stance. In the report’s foreword; Beena Ammanath, Kay Firth-Butterfield and Don Heider articulate this mission:

Leaders must prepare their people to:

○ be aware of the ethical risks posed by emerging tools

○ make ethical choices even in situations in which information is imperfect or ambiguous

○ motivate them to act upon that judgement in ways that advance prosocial goals

The power of business, technology, and design to shape our world for better, and worse, has become more visible. 2020 shook our society into new awareness of the intersecting economic, social, and political crises afflicting our culture. This has also spurred a greater sense of responsibility from the business world. In 2020, roughly 90% of CEO survey respondents agreed that corporations should be responsible not only to shareholders but also to customers, employees, communities, and suppliers.”

To establish responsible practices and accountable practitioners, the report outlines a framing that any organization can put to work. It all begins with three design principles.

Three design principles for promoting the responsible use of technology

Whether you’re a UX designer, an experience architect, a product designer, or a creative director, you understand that design principles set a project up for success. To promote ethical behavior, the report suggests three key principles: Attention, Construal and Motivation.

  1. Attention
3 Pillars of Attention: Building awareness, using organizational nudges, creating shared language.
Attention: Ethical people can behave unethically because their attention is focused elsewhere. Effective system design prompts people to think about ethics routinely.

Examples: Reminders, checklists, pre-mortems, blogs

Whether making or using technology, it’s easy to lose sight of the ethical ramifications of our choices. Prompts throughout the product development process and within the user experience can offer opportunities for ongoing reflection about technology’s intended or unintended consequences. It’s the power of leveraging attention.

One example of this approach in Salesforce products is the sensitive fields notification within Einstein Content Selection Flag. The feature got off the ground when the Salesforce team recognized that sensitive information (such as race, gender, zip code, or religion) has the potential to introduce bias into audience segmentation in Marketing Cloud and should be flagged for users. This way, when users are running an analysis or prediction, they can be alerted to the potential discrimination they might be perpetuating.

The result? A warning triangle in the UI (featured below) that indicates the field contains sensitive information and therefore potentially adding bias to their decision making.

Screen shot of Salesforce’s Einstein Content Selection prompt, an example of how attention can be brought to ethical concerns within UI.
Salesforce’s Einstein Content Selection Flag

“In that building of the audience, we’re inserting some intentional ‘Are you sure?’ moments, where appropriate, based on data,” explains Rob Katz, Senior Director of Salesforce’s Office of Ethical & Humane Use. It’s also one way to avoid deceptive design practices known as dark patterns. “We built this because we knew that marketing automation using AI is subject to bias and we want to try and avoid that if possible.”

It comes down to intentional friction. There’s a need for users to revisit their assumptions on a semi-regular basis. That frequency can be a hard balance to strike but it’s a necessary step. It should be often enough to avoid bias but not so often that people begin to ignore the reminder.

And it’s equally important for teams to do this in their own process.

The report gives us an example of what this can look like. Insurer Allstate created a way to leverage attention to drive ethical outcomes internally. The organization required their senior vice presidents to sign quarterly affirmations that their teams had upheld company values. This shows how small prompts can shine a light on ingrained processes or default patterns of thinking. And one of the most essential ways to continually surface assumptions and default thought patterns is to diversify the perspectives participating in the process.

This is reinforced by Paula Goldman, Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer at Salesforce. She shares, “In my mind, there is no tech ethics without thinking about the who and bringing in the perspectives of folks that are most impacted by these problems.” The need to consider wider perspectives is further amplified in the design principle of construals.

2. Construal

3 Pillars of Construal: Drawing on diverse perspectives, using frameworks for ethical decision-making, engaging stakeholders.
Construal: Individuals’ behavior is influenced by how they interpret their environment. Effective system design helps people recognize ethical conduct and adjust behavior accordingly.

Examples: Consequence scanning, advisory councils, focus groups

The way we interpret the world and the behaviors of the people in it are called construals. The WEF report reinforces that “changing how people perceive a situation can affect the behavior they deem appropriate.” At work, many people consider what they do in terms of legal or economic terms. However, Lim reminds us that something being legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ethical. There’s an opportunity — possibly, an obligation — to raise the profile of ethics in organizations.

“As individuals, we’re always in an environment that’s put on us — in a company, a country, a team — and there are cultural norms that drive certain outcomes,”

-Daniel Lim

It’s critical to encourage ethics as a collective so that all opinions and interpretations of an ethical decision are considered. That includes listening to the feedback of coworkers, users and community stakeholders who have diverse lived experiences.

Designers have an opportunity to create diverse, cross-sectional forums by rethinking who is asked to collaborate and to give feedback. Organizations can’t pressure test their thinking if they only focus on a narrow set of average users or don’t look outside their department. It should be a red flag if the only sets of eyes are from a homogenous group such as white, cisgendered, able-bodied, college-educated people — even if they work across disciplines. Expanding the invitation is a way for teams to remap the design process in order to both protect people from harm and drive positive change.

In short: It’s how ethical oversights in an organization get exposed.

Firth-Butterfield expands on this, noting: “You’ve got to think of all the various people who are going to be using your tool because otherwise your tool is useless and discriminatory to some of your purchasers.” Contributors to the report build on this idea, noting: “More can be done to empower practitioners with frameworks and guidance and to institutionalize the practice of including diverse perspectives (e.g., technical, cultural or socioeconomic) in decision-making that sufficiently consider ethical consequences.”

One method that is proving successful is Consequence Scanning.

[Photo credit: DotEveryone]

With diverse voices represented, a Consequence Scanning workshop is a concrete way to think through a product’s positive and negative impacts, early on. Look no further if you’re a designer who wants to move the discussion — and the default construals — from could we do it?” to “should we do it?”“It’s another tool in the tool kit of asking ‘Are we sure?’ and being accountable to that answer.” (Rob Katz offers guidance on how to run a Consequence Scanning workshop here.)

To attempt to shift construals in this way, you need to lay the groundwork for an open-minded organization with employees willing to think critically about their work and potential impact. But how can organizations make this culture shift? That revolves around the third design principle: Motivation.

3. Motivation

3 Pillars of Motivation: Fostering empathetic relationships, integrating organizational functions, developing organizational introspection.
Motivation: People are motivated by more than material incentives — they also have intrinsic prosocial motivations. Effective system design establishes ethical norms of behavior.

Examples: Historical reviews, self-assessments

There are different ways to cue someone to act with the ethical use of technology in mind. One of the most powerful is speaking to their intrinsic motivations — the satisfying internal rewards that can drive behavior. “When you’re thinking about how to motivate your staff in the AI space, you really have to go into that thinking with your AI Ethics or Responsible AI hat on,” reinforces Firth-Butterfield.

Many people crave a sense of acceptance, recognition, impact and achievement. Organizations can speak to these drivers by prioritizing empathy and compassion. It’s all connected: When designers have compassion with the people who they work with and the people who use their products, they feel more accountable to them. When they feel more accountable, they are more likely to engage in constructive debate and make things that protect people from harm and create positive impact. This has wide-ranging effects. And it all starts with feeling for the people we collaborate with and serve — and the communities we all live in. We’ve seen that when relationships thrive, business thrives. To learn more about the commitment Salesforce has made to designing for trusted relationships and the practice of Relationship Design, start with the Trailhead module.

“Organizations can encourage ethical action through the cultivation of empathetic relationships between different stakeholder groups, both within and outside of the firm,” -Beena Ammanath, Kay Firth-Butterfield and Don Heider

Bringing social values to the forefront allows corporations to build their capacity for “ethical organizational reflexivity.” This term was coined by The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics to demonstrate the tendency to engage in ethical behavior and deliberations more routinely. Others, like Yoav Schlesinger, Salesforce’s Principal of Ethical AI Practice have called it “moral muscle memory.” It’s also been named “ethical spidey sense” by Kathy Baxter, our Principal Architect of Ethical AI Practice who wrote the primers on ”How to Build Ethics into AI” (part one and part two). Whatever you call it, the report’s three design principles can help make it a reality in any organization.

Two designers looking at mobile UI mockups on both a cell phone and a desktop, seemingly in an office.
[Photo credit: report “Ethics by Design: An organizational approach to responsible use of technology]

Just remember: There’s no easy answer or step-by-step way to breeze through hard ethical choices.

Even when an organization institutes the principles above, that doesn’t mean ethics has simply been achieved. Katz reminds us of this. “Not all of the subjects that we discuss during a Consequence Scanning workshop, for example, are going to be — in fact, most are not easily — bucketed into do this and don’t do this. They’re all on a spectrum, usually, and they’re usually very ambiguous.”

The aim is to help designers navigate ambiguity.

Design leaders play an important role here if they have power inside the company. When they endorse ethical behaviors, their teams are more motivated to promote responsible technology. For example, leaders can model ethical consideration, create space for ethical reflection, and prioritize bringing diverse perspectives to the table–especially in the hiring and research processes. Leaders can incentivize the use of ethical practices and behaviors, and encourage teams to raise red flags when they are concerned about potential design consequences.

Lim transparently adds, “We don’t have all the answers. We wrote this paper as a way to show some methodical approaches to changing organizational behavior around ethical tech. These articles are a way to invite comments or to join the table.”

Has your team tried any of these approaches? Curious about the future of the ethical use of technology? Comment below today.

If you’re feeling compelled to do this work, dive into the full report today: “Ethics by Design: An organizational approach to responsible use of technology.” This is a necessary step for design to take its seat at the table and be a part of shaping a more ethical world.

Thanks to the team who brought this article to life, including Daniel Lim, Kay Firth-Butterfield, Rob Katz, Paula Goldman, Anna Kowalczyk, Christina Zhang, Kathy Baxter, Yoav Schelsinger, Doug White and Madeline Davis.

Learn more about Salesforce Design at
Follow us on Twitter at @SalesforceUX.
Check out the
Salesforce Lightning Design System


*Ethics by Design on Trailhead

*Hear more from the co-authors on the webinar: Thursday, February 18 at 10am est.

*Read “A User Researcher’s Guide to Getting Started With Ethics: How to Incorporate Ethics into your Design Process” article by @EmilyEWitt, Ethics-by-Design Researcher (2020)

*Skill up and start the Responsible Creation of Artificial Intelligence Trailhead module.

*Read ”How Salesforce Incorporates Ethics into its AI” article featuring @KathyKBaxter

*Read the “Lead with Purpose” report by 2020 IIT Institute of Design Report

What Designers Need to Know About WEF’s New “Ethics by Design” Report was originally published in Salesforce Design on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


New: An updated Freehand that’ll help you work faster

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No project takes a perfectly linear path. Today’s work requires revisions, feedback, and flexibility to get to its final destination.

Using rigid tools (word documents, slides, screen design tools, etc) for a fluid process usually means a more difficult and less productive experience for everyone. To get free-flowing collaboration, you need tools built for flexibility and spontaneity; tools tailored to help ideas quickly emerge and evolve; tools designed to complement a team’s expertise. Tools like InVision Freehand.

With Freehand, our online whiteboard, your team has the tools to brainstorm, critique, align, and reflect. And these latest updates help you accelerate your team’s process even more than ever before.

Easier rearranging

Group objects to refine your work faster

No need to painstakingly adjust individual items within Freehand. Get back time in your day with the new ability to group text, shapes, and other objects.

Blue shapes in a freehand being grouped together.

Focused feedback, faster

Link to a specific place in your Freehand

Collaborators, say goodbye to zooming in after joining a freehand. Precise spots can now be shared via deep-linking. Simply select a text box, shape, or image, then open the *** menu to select ‘Copy link’.

Curated collaboration

Manage sharing

Coming later this month: Instead of giving everyone the same access, you can now control who and does what. Share with your whole team or choose who to invite.

Image of sharing settings

Guided practices

Get inspired with new templates from the world’s top teams

We’re introducing a new series of templates designed to help teams do their best work. Brainstorm with a crazy 8s brainstorming template from Salesforce, plan with a marketing strategy template from, and run effective meetings with a meeting agenda template from Microsoft Teams.

Image that says "new templates" with images of Microsoft Teams,, and Salesforce logos.

Salesforce is a trademark of, inc., and is used here with permission.

These updates are now available to everyone. To get started, log in to your InVision account and click the “+” to create a new freehand. If you don’t have an InVision account yet, you can sign up here.

We hope these updates help you transform your work and get faster feedback. Still missing something you need to work better? Let us know! These improvements came straight from requests from fans like you. 

The post New: An updated Freehand that’ll help you work faster appeared first on Inside Design.


Top UI/UX Design Works for Inspiration — #144

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Top UI/UX Design Works for Inspiration — #144

UI & UX Design Inspiration

👨‍🎨 Taras Migulko

👨‍🎨 Siamak
👥 Plainthing Studio

👨‍🎨 Michael

👨‍🎨 Valentin Salmon
👥 Qonto

👨‍🎨 Ana Moreno
👥 Attio

👨‍🎨 Jakub Antalik

👨‍🎨 afroman
👥 RaDesign

👨‍🎨 Adalahreza 🐺
👥 Vektora

👨‍🎨 Sang Nguyen Sang Nguyen
👥 Orizon: UI/UX Design Agency

👨‍🎨 Lukáš Straňák

👨‍🎨 Outcrowd Outcrowd

👨‍🎨 Slava Kornilov
👥 Geex Arts

See also:

Top UI/UX Design Works for Inspiration — #144 was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Why UX Should Still Care About International Design Standards

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Five years ago, I advocated for ISO standards relevant to UXers and if you haven’t read that article then the short version is that as UX designers, researchers, and strategists we can improve the quality and credibility of our work, if we are familiar with and leverage international standards, just like all other fields of work.

Fast forward to today and we find ourselves a window of opportunity with the new update of ISO 9241-110 which is a fairly short document and arguably the simplest standard to understand and start using in the UX field. So if there’s ever been a time in the last five years to actually get started with ISO standards, then now is definitely the time while it’s hot off the press. 

What are International Standards?

So as a quick reminder, international standards are drafted by committees of experts, who each represent relevant organizations and their standards are shared with the public for feedback and improvement. They are then published as objective standards, so they are very much by the people for the people. These standards are then usually adopted by the different national standards bodies around the world. 

We use international standards all the time, when we buy food, plug in a toaster, or fill a car with petrol.  All these experiences are based on systems and products adhering to standards to ensure safety, consistency, accessibility, and ease of use. Imagine if there were no standard for food production quality or electrical safety!

ISO 9241 is a collection of over 40 individual standards applicable to UX designers because they deal with humans interacting with interactive systems. Different parts of ISO 9241 update at different times and there’s a lot to take in if you’re just getting started, so in this article, we will just focus on that single document that has been updated and now being adopted by the standards bodies in each country. 

ISO 9241-110:2020

The formal title of the standard is ISO 9241-110:2020 Ergonomics of Human System Interaction – Interaction Principles and was put together by a committee called PH9 , which comprises representatives from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, UK Usability Professionals Association and many others. 

In a nutshell, the standard is a 65-point checklist of recommendations to evaluate an interactive system against, including websites and apps. Perfect for an expert usability review. Consider it a more detailed and formalized alternative to Jakob Nielsen’s heuristics (the standard actually references Nielsen as well as Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini).

Each of the 65 points is explained with notes and examples which (rightly so) aren’t limited to web interfaces because this standard and the principles apply to any interactive systems. So don’t be surprised when you read about physical systems like ticket machines and elevators! In this new update which replaces the 2006 standard, they have changed the name from “Dialogue principles” to “Interaction principles”.  Lots of the points have changed or been updated but it’s not completely different from the old version, so if you’re familiar with that one you’ll still recognize the new one.

So Let’s Talk About Those 65 Points 

The 65 points aren’t just laid out in one big list, they are split out into sections and start out as 7 broad principles:

Diagram showing 7 broad principles of the ISO standard

These 7 principles are at a similar level to Jakob Nielsen’s heuristics. They are general and broad but a good start nonetheless. Each one is defined, for example, learnability is defined as:

The interactive system supports the discovery of its capabilities and how to use them, allows exploration of the interactive system, minimizes the need for learning, and provides support when learning is needed

Those 7 principles are then split into sets of recommendations. This is where we start to see greater detail, such as in the final principle of “Use error robustness”.  The sections are:

  1. Recommendations related to use error avoidance
  2. Recommendations related to use error tolerance
  3. Recommendations related to use error recovery

So we are into greater detail already but those sections are then split into the 65 points. Those points cover a range of things such as first impressions, aesthetics, accessibility, responsiveness and even include some relating to dark patterns such as which says “Avoid defaults, where they can mislead the user”. 

Some other examples to give you a flavor are:

  • Indicate the progress in the completion of the task
  • Present information in a way that clearly indicates which user interface elements are interactive and which user interface elements are non-interactive
  • Present information in a vocabulary that is familiar to the user

As you can see this is pretty standard stuff (pun definitely intended) but be aware that this does not aim to be all things in all places. For example, accessibility is a recommendation but does not attempt to replace WCAG, it merely states that the system should be available to the widest range of users. This allows room for additional tests on the same website in terms of accessibility etc.

Why Isn’t Everyone Using this Already?

Good question. From my experience, the two main barriers to using it are:

Diagram showing barriers to adoption of ISO standards

That really is it. I’m sure many people would still rather not use it even when they have read it but that’s not my experience so far. If you can get over these two hurdles, I’m pretty sure you will become a fan or at least find ways to use it in your work.

By reading this article you have already overcome barrier one, so you only have one barrier remaining. You’re halfway there! Nothing would please me more than to just list out all 65 recommendations here but this barrier really does need to be overcome outside of this article. 

Some standards bodies will let you rent the document for a small fee but if you want to keep it, it’s usually priced at around $100 at which point you may rightly ask why make the effort? Why use the standard at all?

I tend to think that question is the wrong way round. Why not use the standard? This isn’t simply shifting the burden of proof because surely an international standard by definition should be the default unless there is a reason not to use it, rather than the other way around. 

There is of course an argument to be made for not using it, but if I were looking for an evaluation of my interactive system I would certainly want to know why a prospective supplier wouldn’t use the international standard if they proposed to use anything else.  Isn’t that what anyone else would do in other fields of work? 

OK, I’m Convinced, Where Do I Start?

So if you are ready to jump on board, here are 5 simple steps to get started with using ISO 9241-110 in a typical usability review:

  1. Download a copy. You can get it from the ISO website, or your country’s national standards body such as the British standards site or ANSI in the United States
  2. Read it! It’s only 44 pages long but if you want to cut to the chase then page 21 is where the list of 65 recommendations starts.
  3. Prepare your checklist. The document has an example table at the end to show how you can keep track during an evaluation.
  4. Evaluate which points are relevant to the test. Some things may not be relevant so they can be marked as nonapplicable.
  5. Document each success or failure (and for bonus points offer recommendations on each failed point).

And that’s how simple it is to get started. Once you’ve used it a few times you may find you want to add some criteria or tailor it to the system you are testing or building. The point is that you are using the standard and using the right base to begin with. 


So in summary, we have a new window of opportunity with the update of ISO 9241-110. But not only that, but we also have the opportunity to create a shared benchmark. Think of the power of this. Imagine if UX designers all used the same 65 points from an international standard to evaluate websites. Imagine the possibilities! What we have already in WCAG we can also have with ISO 9241-110. 


How AI/ML are helping products to improve their user experience

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To start with, have you ever wondered when you search a phrase in search engines like bing and google many suggestions pop-up even before we hit the search button?

You must have even seen the same content that you searched for appearing on different channels, following you till the time you click, read or buy it?

When you stream movies/random videos on YouTube, Netflix, prime, or other OTT platforms, you must have noticed phrases like “you might like,” and “because you watched this”, you keep pondering on how this guy knows so much of me?

Do the machines that are designed by humans have emotional intelligence?

Basically, they are algorithms that take data and enhance the user experience. They learn your activity over time by considering behavioral attributes and enhances the information by predicting and suggesting to you the exact information you would like to see and consume, at times it can go wrong but it learns quickly.

Some companies using AI/ML to enhance the user experience.

There are many examples of how ML is enhancing the experience of a normal user without him noticing it.

Airbnb: They use AI for pricing that gives prices that are calculated on the demand and supply model. It does analyze multiple factors to automate price making it transparent and intuitive. It also has an in-built AI system with machine learning to turn sketches of design into product source code, how cool is that. 😀

And also as Google does, Airbnb has a machine learning tool that translates all the user reviews and ratings into the user’s native language.

Airbnb logo running a marathon
Designed by

Netflix: Which has been building incredible ML in enhancing the experience. which can predict the user behavior on shows or movies that will keep the user hooked or engaged to binge-watch. It’s basically targeted to individual subscribers with an ever-growing personalized experience using something called consumer science, which is called near to Real-Time recommendations. The recommendations generated by the system are 80% that users like to watch on. Also, they use machine learning in creating artwork, that scans shows, and picks out images to show to their subscribers.

Netflix logo on a TV
Netflix logo

Amazon Prime Music/Spotify: User is recommended with the music that you may like depending on the pattern or the style of music you have been listening to, although it goes wrong in most of the cases, that’s how the system is learning by your interaction with the product, every time when we interact with it on liking, disliking or skipping a song.

Spotify ad explaining how many users heard a song on Spotify.
Spotify ad

Learning of the user

This is the age where products and brands are trying to learn as much as possible about the user and their needs to deliver the best possible experience. There are many companies that are adapting UX in every stage from website design to in-store customer experience, also there are many reports that suggested that a badly designed website will make users leave the website without exploring it further.

With the help of AI & ML products and brands have more control and power on giving a better experience to the users from the moment they land on the website to guiding them on what they want to see and consume.

UX has a major role in enhancing the experience of the user, with the brands adapting ML to grow with the extreme competition, with the data the brands/products have and especially the level of customer understanding, they are focused on giving a better experience time and again with a high success rate, and when there is a failure the system learns from it as said earlier and makes it even better for the users next time when the same problem occurs.

We as designers have to understand and gather some skills in AI or data-driven design to keep the overall experience of managing huge data seamless for the users and machine. With the considerable increase in the users and data, there is a huge data, I think most of the analysis will be done by machines in near future.

AI/ML makes great progress in every spectrum, we just need to keep an eye on adapting to innovations and learning from them. We should make sure we are designing with purpose and considering different users with accessibility in mind.

I’m working as a product designer working on a mission to create accessible AI for everyone at PI.EXCHANGE. Connect with me here on LinkedIn.

How AI/ML are helping products to improve their user experience was originally published in Muzli – Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Design Tips to Improve the Trust-Factor of Fintech Products

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If we consider the latest fintech products such as digital banking platforms, trading apps, forex apps, e-wallets, etc., they all have enough of a trust-factor within them, which helps users to believe in their services. Obviously, the design, the build, and the security of such services have to be kept top-notch. In this article, we will give you a clear overview of the key design aspects for such fintech products, since the design has to be on par with what the users expect from an experienced and usability standpoint.

India: Third Largest fintech center in the world

The fact that more than 300 million Indians (in 2020) use fintech solutions for banking and transactions proves that India is growing fast around this industry. But still, almost 1.2 billion people resort to cash when it comes to financial situations. This enormous number represents an untapped market. Illustrating the importance of having a trust-factor in the same sense.

Demystifying Confusion

What are the right strategies to establish a fintech solution? Who is your target audience? How to build trust among them? Yes, there are many questions, but in this article, we will answer them all one by one.

People using cash during their financial transactions believe in the trust and security of physical money. What they do not know is that online transactions and banking are reliable and more secure than ever. New technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence are incorporated to make smart algorithms and detect anomalies in real-time.

Answering the question: Why?

In business and finance, trust from both the clients and the consumers has to have synchronization. Trust is the epicenter of relationships. It is and always will be valid for any finance or business, irrespective of it being physical or digital. Thus, our answer will be:

Trust is an essential part when it comes to building a brand identity, strengthening financial relationships, promoting innovative approaches in financial technologies, and endorsing a producer — customer bond. If you can develop these skills, users are more likely inclined to your company, as compared to your competitors.

Trust-factor is Always Not Adequate.

When you try to bring something new to any market, you will face difficulties. Your product(s) may not meet expected user demand, it may not stand up to the competition from its competitors, it may not meet advertised quality, or it may not even be financially feasible to continue its productions. The reasons can be many. Keeping these in mind, we bring you examples of some well-known failures of the fintech sector:

Beenz and Flooz thought that cryptography would be the best future for the online money sector and we're determined to change the traditional payment methods. At that period, bitcoins and cryptocurrency were new to users. Not everyone had a clear idea about this, and it did not last long. People stopped using these currencies. Numerous banks declared bitcoins as invalid crypto miners and told them that Bitcoin transactions were too slow and too expensive to remain practical.

In 2005, eBay paid $2.6 billion to Skype to encourage new communications and commerce opportunities. The idea to integrate PayPal and Skype for allowing users to send funds through the app. But the financial crisis in 2009 led Skype to $1.9 billion in debts. Later Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for acquiring Skype and PayPal, and eBay was left out of the deal.

Building trust-factor through design

Keeping all the above examples in mind, it is vital to focus on every aspect necessary to build a robust business plan successfully. There are numerous methods and models to follow. We will point out the ten most significant design tips to improve the trust-factor of fintech products:

Answering the question: How?

You will never hand out your wallet to any stranger, nor will you let any application snoop on to your banking/transaction details. Thus, the key factor is trust. A fintech company can improve its trust-factor by the following strategies:

Doing latest design analysis and research- Before starting any design-related workflows, the company must do prior research on the latest design trends in the fintech sector. Using outdated design can prove to be disastrous. Learn more about the latest UX Design research trends here.

Weaving security into your app — Security must be the top priority for your fintech app/website. Without customer security, there will be no customer trust. Inculcating hardened encryption, biometric security, a pin is a must. All of these have to be built into the UX-UI.

Keeping the language clutter-free — Financial terms can be cumbersome to understand since not all people are experts in this sector. Describing the complex financial terminologies in a simple and lucid way is necessary to gain user trust. Keeping the UI clean is crucial. Learn more about the key principles of user interface design here.

Keeping the design clean and simple — Overloading the screen with indigestible information can harm the user experience. The majority of the big players in the fintech sector keep their app interface clean and simple. Showing soft transitions, light effects, and a clutter-free layout helps the user to gain confidence while using the app. It also helps build trust among the users. Learn more about building exceptional dashboards here.

Keeping the necessary complex parts — Though keeping the design simple is mandatory, keeping some complex portions to ensure customer satisfaction is also important. The extra roadblocks like confirmations and verification messages help users to avoid financial mistakes.

Matching the UI with the brand — UI designing is an art. The users interact with your fintech solutions through the app UI. So making the users feel about your brand value through UI is not an easy task, but at the same time, very rewarding. You can learn more about the best UI practices here.

Choosing the right color theme — Adhering to industry-standard colour symbolism(using green and red for profit and loss, buy and sell) will help you get into the stream. At the same time, you have to make sure that it is visually appealing to the users. You can learn more about UI colour gradients here.

Testing your fonts — We recommend sticking to a definite font family for your app/website. It should help in making your design readable and understandable.

Using the correct background color — Dark or light, the background of your app/website must match with the design aesthetics of the interface. It is important to keep the target audience in mind.

Keeping the designs scalable — the future of the fintech sector is evolving, and so is the design of the apps. It is crucial to design scalable features into the app to reach more diverse users. The design should be capable of accepting new updates and features.

Key Takeaways

In this article, we have described various design tips and tricks to improve the trust-factor of fintech products. We have discussed why the trust factor is important and what are the basic requirements required to gain the trustworthiness of the user’s. Creativity is the key to achieve all the discussed points for your fintech solution. It will help strengthen the user trust-factor and make your app visually beautiful and functionally efficient. It is also vital to educate people about the world of Financial Technologies.
In conclusion, there is no shortcut for success in the fintech industry. Creating an engaging design that is able to inject trust into your customers is one of the major ways to be ahead of the competition.

Author: Ankur Sarkar, Sr. UX Designer, Onething

Originally published at on February 24, 2021.

Design Tips to Improve the Trust-Factor of Fintech Products was originally published in Muzli – Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.