Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Design for Real Life” as Want to Read:
Design for Real Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Design for Real Life

(A Book Apart #18)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  279 ratings  ·  36 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
Paperback, 132 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by A Book Apart
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Design for Real Life, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Design for Real Life

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  279 ratings  ·  36 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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
Webb Henderson
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-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
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.
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
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.
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!
Stacy Taylor
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, work, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 👍
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.
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good walkthrough on how we all could add more compassion to our design and development processes.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Inspiring. Practical. Especially appreciated the chapter on winning over the business.
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.
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.
Tina Liu
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
more compassion in design
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.
Carole Martell
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good on a new perspective. Bad on tactical recommendations.
Rodney Gordon
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Some good insights, but a few weak examples/conclusions.
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.

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.
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.
Zac Colley
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
really important topic and some great examples. felt a bit short tho.
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
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it
The title evokes Papanek's classic "Design for the Real World," but the area of overlap is limited. Papanek looks at how design should extend its practice to the massive portion of our population that's underserved, and the consequences of design choices & outcomes on a global and societal scale. Here, Meyer & Wachter-Boettcher look at how to treat those we currently service with compassion, and the consequences of design choices & outcomes on an individual and human scale.

Design for
Mafalda Fernandes
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
The books by publisher a book apart are always interesting. Most of them are more for web-designers, but a few can be applied to other design matters. I thought that this book was very interesting. It's very focused on questions on online surveys or questions a website does to it's users. Which questions are usually made, and how you reformulate questions for them to be more inclusive, etc. What makes this even more interesting is the use of case studies with real cases. If you're a designer che ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
The case studies provided on how user interface decisions can alienate users are insightful and helpful. This volume also includes some advice on how to make the business case for compassionate design processes.
Sharon Bautista
Apr 01, 2016 rated it liked it
It's hard to argue against compassionate design, but this book doesn't sit entirely well with me. It seems to ignore **why** we need more compassion in design. It's not only because technology touches so many lives, all of those heartbeats, but because so much technology has led us to believe that giving away our most intimate information is OK and without consequence. It also seems that the case for compassionate design is easier to make, that stress cases are easier to identify, when talking a ...more
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Just Enough Research
  • On Web Typography
  • Designing Together: The Collaboration and Conflict Management Handbook for Creative Professionals
  • Practical Empathy
  • Accessibility for Everyone
  • Content Strategy for Mobile
  • How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody
  • A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences
  • Build Better Products
  • You're My Favorite Client
  • Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience
  • Understanding Context: Environment, Language, and Information Architecture
  • The User's Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love
  • A Practical Guide to Information Architecture
  • Why We Fail: Learning From Experience Design Failures
  • Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content
  • Meeting Design: For Managers, Makers, and Everyone
  • Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works
See similar books…

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »

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

Other books in the series

A Book Apart (1 - 10 of 28 books)
  • HTML5 for Web Designers
  • CSS3 For Web Designers
  • The Elements of Content Strategy
  • Responsive Web Design
  • Designing for Emotion
  • Mobile First
  • Design Is a Job
  • Content Strategy for Mobile
  • Just Enough Research
  • Sass for Web Designers