3 Ideas for Your Day-to-day UX Activities

February 21, 2022

As UX designers, each of us has our own practices and techniques that can help us to successfully do the work we do every day. Although some techniques are in wide use and everyone from the oldest veteran to the newest rookie knows them, others may be the secrets of a particular organization and gain broader adoption over time.

At some point, all of us will most likely need to come up with our own additions to our UX design toolkit—whether that means devising our own techniques or adapting the techniques of others. In this article, I’ll share three new ideas that you might add to your toolkit. My hope is that they could make your everyday life as a UX designer a little bit easier.

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1. Extreme Cards

What I call extreme cards are perfect for ideation sessions. They are cards on which you’ve written questions that your ideation process should answer. Strive for some extreme questions that would help you to break the ice and understand your product and business context better.

At some point, you’ll realize that you cannot design everything yourself. In fact, most of the time you should not try to design everything yourself. You are a designer, not an artist. You are not creating your own personal masterpiece. So it is vital that you incorporate other colleagues into the design process. Product managers need to understand and convey where the product is heading. Developers can give you insights into other simpler, more feasible ways in which you can design the product. People in Sales are frequently more familiar with user feedback than you are. Each of these roles has its own mindset and ideas. During ideation sessions, it is best to include people who have mindsets that are different from your own—that is, people who work in other disciplines.

Extreme cards are a great tool for getting a quick understanding of the ideation process and its possibilities and keeping everyone on the team on the same page. Write down each of your questions on a different card, then mix them up so there is no clear structure. When you are ideating, adding this bit of randomness contributes to your creative mood.

When you go for extreme questions, this will help you to uncover issues that you would not otherwise have discovered. For example: “What if we built the most expensive product and completely redesigned and changed every single feature of our existing product?” Short answer: “We’d go broke and lose our jobs.” Delve a little more deeply. “Okay, so how far can we go without that happening?” “What is the extent to which we can change the product’s features and structure?”

Here’s another example: “What is the worst product we could build?” You could then follow up this question by asking questions about what features your users use least. Could you remove them?

Another example: “What is the shortest time in which we could complete our work?” “What would we do if that time got cut in half?”

Try asking such questions to deepen your understanding of the problems you’re trying to solve. It’s always better to expect the worst today rather than getting caught off guard tomorrow, right?

2. Tao Te Screens

My team came up with this idea when we were working in China. Perhaps you know Tao Te Qing, a classic book on Eastern philosophy by Lao Tse. For lack of a better name, we came up with the term Tao Te screens. What are Tao Te screens? They’re reference screens on which every visual-design detail is correct.

Anyone who has used a prototyping tool such as Figma has found himself revising a particular design only to discover that certain elements have changed in some way or have been moved. This commonly occurs when you’re designing a prototype, creating instances, grouping elements, and deleting elements. Unfortunately, it is also common for designers to overlook such alterations when under time pressure. ┬áSo, if time pressures are a factor for you, as is frequently the case, Tao Te screens can save you a lot of trouble.

When you’re creating a quick prototype to enable your developers to understand user workflows, behaviors, and interactions, create a separate group or page showing the different screens. On your Tao Te screens, ensure that all sizes, spacing, positions, and colors are correct. While the prototype shows the flow, the Tao Te screens are the visual reference for your front-end developers, showing them how to build the screens. Just make sure your front-end developers know that they should refer only to the Tao Te screens when they’re implementing your designs—not the prototype.

3. Team Dummy

While conducting usability studies is a central part of the UX design process, finding actual or target users to participate in these studies can sometimes be a frustrating process. Actual users of your product might not have time to participate. Using services that pay people to participate in testing sometimes leads to less-than-optimal results—typically, because participants don’t have the same profile as your target users. (Let’s not even think about those who won’t even pay proper attention to testing your product and just want to get the job done quickly and get paid as soon as possible.)

If you lack appropriate participants to test your product, one solution is to use a team dummy—someone on your team who can best reflect the profile for your target users—or, if possible, a group of them. These team dummies are not like your colleagues who you might ask to participate in quick guerrilla testing by the coffee machine. Rather, you must select them from among your colleagues who know your target users well and can most effectively represent them.

Some good places to look for team dummies are Sales and Customer Support, whose people have the most contact with actual users, so know them well, and have sufficient knowledge about your product. Once you’ve selected your team dummies, try to avoid letting them know anything about your new design concepts or seeing your actual designs. When you’re ready to do some usability testing, you’ll ask them to participate as if they were actual users. Therefore, it is vital that they know as close to nothing as possible about your designs, so they’ll have no expectations about them. If possible, work with a variety of team dummies so you won’t be conducting testing with the same ones over and over. Doing so prevents their recalling their experiences from prior test sessions or making assumptions about the responses you might expect from them.


Of course, these ideas might or might not work for you in a given situation. Every project and organization is unique, so what might be useful for one might not be for another. Be sure to keep looking for new ideas that you can incorporate into your everyday workflows. Your process for designing software should evolve over time, as you learn more about what works best in your context. 

Independent UX Designer

Madrid, Spain

Gonzalo MontañésGonzalo is an internationally experienced designer with a focus on UX design, user interface design, and digital art. He has experience in diverse domains, including ecommerce, Software as a Service (SaaS), and application development. His cultural and commercial experience has enabled him to acquire skills that pertain to all phases of project management, marketing, and production.  Read More

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