Don't forget to stretch your design

When reviewing a design, I like to ask how it will stretch to cover different scenarios.

When things are empty. When things go wrong. On different devices. But also for variable data or poor quality data.

A designer should ensure they have a solid design for a common path. But it’s easy to design for unrealistically good examples or data. Or not consider all devices and when things go wrong.

A long time ago I redesigned a few websites for a communications team. Part of the work was a clearer, more accessible web design.

As I designed some of the system and reviewed it against the live website, it dawned on me the how different some of the article headings were.

Many of the H1s were full paragraphs.

Working with the team I knew this wasn’t going to change anytime soon. And even if it did, the years of news articles would still be there.

My large clear font worked great for most of the website, but it didn’t stretch to this part of the website.

To remedy this I first set up a web crawler to download every article into a spreadsheet. I could then analyse the size and shape of the data my design had to stretch to.

My design was much better for it. My design was now more flexible and able to cope with real data. It was no longer so brittle.

Be sure to design for real data and real user journeys.

You can either design for data so good it’ll never exist. Or accommodate what a user will experience.

Your design will have to stretch to getting data back from APIs in FULL SCREAMING UPPERCASE. And some users seeing 1 category, and others seeing 32. Or comms teams who like to write full paragraphs as a heading.

Don’t forget to stretch your design.

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