Quora Design

Good preso from Quora about design. I like their definition, “Design is a set of decisions about a product. It’s not an interface or an aesthetic, it’s not a brand or a color. Design is the actual decisions.” See the entire preso with slides here.

Design @ Quora (Web2.0 Expo Presentation)

448 votes by Joel Lewenstein, Andrew Brown, (more)

Good Morning. My name is Rebekah Cox. I was the first employee at Quora and I’m currently one of four product designers there. Quora’s a place for sharing your knowledge and expertise across a range of topics that interest you.

It’s an awesome time to be a designer, particularly in the Valley. There’s really a groundswell of support for and interest in design, because again and again it has earned its place as a clear competitive advantage.

At Quora we share in that enthusiasm. We care very deeply about design and have from the very beginning. It is very important to us that our culture encourages great design and enable great designers.

However, it’s not lost on me that Quora appears to be one of the least designed sites on the Internet. It’s dark and red and text-heavy. So, how can we claim to care about design but we create a minimal product?

Well it’s important to understand that design is a word where people often hold a purely intuitive definition. Some people think design is only the aesthetic, some think it’s the interactions, others think it’s the logo.

Understanding how design can mean many things to many people meant that the most important task I had when I began at Quora didn’t have anything to do with Python or CSS or JavaScript; it was to create a simple definition of what design meant at Quora.

And this is how we’ve defined design: Design is a set of decisions about a product. It’s not an interface or an aesthetic, it’s not a brand or a color. Design is the actual decisions.

There’s a lot packed in to this definition and it shapes our approach in a number of ways. And here are the big benefits of thinking about it this way:

First, it imposes a clear relationship between a product and its interface. The ultimate expression of your product isn’t any one big thing; it’s the sum of all the little decisions you’ve made along the way.

So thinking critically about those little decisions means that… it’s not just about the location of a dropdown but also about all the reasons that component has to exist in the first place. How someone uses your product to accomplish a task should be driven by why that person must take an action.

Second, this definition concentrates attention where it matters most: the goals and purpose for a particular product. There will always be a lot of things you can do. But design should be the process of figuring out what you should do.

You can have the coolest looking product in the world, but if there’s no incentive or utility for people, it doesn’t matter. Pay attention to your goals, spend the most time there, and always provide value.

Finally, this definition is the vehicle that empowers designers to have a role within the organization where responsibility and authority are balanced. It inherently requires proactive, early design involvement.

Designers should have the opportunity to do more than apply a coat of paint at the end on a finished product. We should focus as much energy as possible analyzing where a problem originates and have the authority to ensure the best solution in whatever form it may take.

The reason for this is simple: Great design is all the work you don’t ask the people who use your products to do. All the decisions you don’t ask someone to make because you have already spent countless hours determining the best one.

And this is our challenge. As designers our job is to make the world better through not only building awesome tools but also through understanding problems. The problems we decide to solve are as important as how we solve them.

Design itself can be a lot of things. It can take a lot of forms. Design can be as overwrought as our products can sometimes become. But how you think about design influences every tiny detail that will ultimately comprise your product.

That is how we’ve defined design at Quora: Design is a set of decisions about a product. It’s the very decisions that comprise a product because those are what matter most — and those decisions drive everything forward.

So at Quora designers are driving the product forward. They are working directly with insanely brilliant and talented engineers. They are solving extremely hard problems. And are bringing together people from all backgrounds to share their knowledge openly with the world.


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