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Design for Real Life

(A Book Apart #18)

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4.33  ·  Rating details ·  347 ratings  ·  40 reviews
You can’t always predict who will use your products, or what emotional state they’ll be in when they do. But by identifying stress cases and designing with compassion, you’ll create experiences that support more of your users, more of the time.

Join Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Eric Meyer as they turn examples from more than a dozen sites and services into a set of principles
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Paperback, 132 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by A Book Apart
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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Kerry-Anne Gilowey
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If your work involves any form of design, please read it. We need to do better. Sara and Eric present the case for compassionate design in a way that is impossible to ignore, and they give several practical frameworks for thinking about hard problems and selling the answers on to your stakeholders.

The concept of "stress cases" is the most useful design principle I've encountered in a long time, and is changing the way I think about my work.

Buy this boo
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Webb Henderson
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: product-design
Lots of crazy stories and lessons learned (e.g. Facebook's Year in Review) plus resources to avoid similar traps.

Favorite concepts:

1. Conduct a 'premortem' exercise as part of research and discovery. Inform the team that the project has somehow failed spectacularly. Everyone then independently writes down every reason they can think of for the failure.

2. There are basically three business cases for anything – it will make money (distinguish from competition), it will save money (cut operating c
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Lance Willett
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for everyone making products for people. This book is powerful and I'll be re-reading it often to inspire compassion, think about pain points and broken flows, and people in crisis reading and interacting with websites and apps and really any software. ...more
Stacy Taylor
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: work, nonfiction, 2018
Good, but a lot of the same content as Technically Wrong. Pick one or the other, there's no reason to read but. Design for Real Life is targeted more at designers whereas Technically Wrong has a more general audience. ...more
Trey Piepmeier
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There were times when this seemed very close to common sense, but it's obviously needed. Compassion isn't something that's always first nature for people, especially when they're on a deadline. I love the framing of "edge cases" as "stress cases."

One odd thing I found about this book (and writings about web standards back in the day) is that it tries to train people to be apologists for this kind of process. Why not just talk about its benefits and let people decide to do it either because it's
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Caitlin
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ux
A very nuanced look at how design can effect a wide variety of people - particularly those who are considering edge cases in most senses of the phrase. The anecdotes were personal and moving. The advice was practical. The resources in the back... it's going to take me some time to get through them all, but I want to jump right in. A very good book! ...more
Elizabeth
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This gave me flashbacks to the time I had to explain miscarriages to a bunch of dudes building a baby registry app. I found it hilarious that they suggest the "designated dissenter" who looks for edge cases should rotate among the team members, so nobody hates one particular person, since raising risks in software is my full-time job. ...more
Matthew Noe
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
An easy read that helps remind us that we need to be mindful of who are users REALLY are. While meant to be about web design, the lessons here are really valuable to any service profession (which is ultimately ALL of them).

I may have to buy a copy for myself - I read this through ILL.
Patty
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic, whether you are a web designer, a content creator, or even just a consumer of information on the web. Just as accessibility makes things easier even for those without a disability, compassionate design makes life better for everyone.
Molly
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Key takeaways: The mundane, seemingly easy experiences we ask our users to go through are not always as easy or mundane as WE think they are. Edge cases are important. Stop doing what's convenient and helpful, for you; start doing what's convenient and helpful for them. ...more
Candi
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-2019
We're so quick to build the latest app or software that we forget to be compassionate to our users. This book goes into how teams can incorporate good practices to provide a useful experience when times can be stressful. Just like we should design for emotion, when should design for compassion. ...more
Lucas Morales
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book is nice — the first half in particular.
It does go on for a bit too long and repeats itself a lot in the second half.
Nonetheless, a very important topic for designers, worth the easy and short read 👍
Eva
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-2021
"No one is using our services in a truly ideal state: distraction-free, on the latest equipment, whole emotionally content, and with as much time as it takes." This book covers how to design for this reality. ...more
Tina Liu
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
more compassion in design
Richard
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Inspiring. Practical. Especially appreciated the chapter on winning over the business.
Carole Martell
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good on a new perspective. Bad on tactical recommendations.
Amy
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good walkthrough on how we all could add more compassion to our design and development processes.
Rasa Jonkute
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Our users are not us. "Designing for real life" encourages to look beyond that ideal persona and ask question “How will someone in different context perceive it?” It explains how thinking through all stress-case scenarios, we can get better at prioritizing information, removing fluff, and stay focused on our users.

"WHEN YOU ASSUME, YOU MAKE AN ASS OF U AND ME."
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Darice
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read! A must for everyone involved in designing and creating websites and apps.
skullface
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The very best read on designing with compassion. Valuable for not just digital product design, but anything a human being will touch.
Ayelet
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business, ux-design
Highly recommend this book for all people who make digital products or services for others.
Amy
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Incredibly important content but repetitive. I truly appreciate the author's taking their painful experiences and transforming them into powerful lessons for the web community. ...more
Rodney Gordon
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Some good insights, but a few weak examples/conclusions.
Mahdi Ebnali
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others!"
This book is full of many fabulous examples of this statement from Jon Postel.
...more
Fabrício Silva
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech
A good about, that open the mind to think outside the box, leaving in consideration that humans isn't perfect like personas. ...more
Mark
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is solid. Honestly, the first chapter might be the newest part of information for those who are well read in design but the entire book is a good read.
Suji
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
On-point and informative. I personally enjoyed reading this book. This very much aligns with my research so this was extra fun.
Truong Dac Binh
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ux-books
very interesting book and suitable with a service design area that I am focusing on
Zac Colley
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
really important topic and some great examples. felt a bit short tho.
Anne
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher have written a book that does three things:

1. Explain what "stress cases" are and how they impact us as users of products.
2. Provide ample examples of places where designers have failed to take stress cases into account, whether it's by not accounting for people in emergencies, or by not accounting for the built-in diversity of "people" in the first place.
3. Provide multiple techniques that a designer can use to uncover these issues in advance, design with
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Eric A. Meyer has been working with the Web since late 1993 and is an internationally recognized expert on the subjects of HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). He is the principal consultant for Complex Spiral Consulting and lives in Cleveland, Ohio, which is a much nicer city than you've been led to believe. A graduate of and former Webmaster for Case Western Reserve University and an alumnus o
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