The intensive and creative way to practice with color palettes.

A map of the US at night from space. The east side is filled with lights while the west side is less lit up with the exception of the West coast.
A map of the US at night from space. The east side is filled with lights while the west side is less lit up with the exception of the West coast.
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

We often don’t get the chance to practice working with custom color palettes as UX Designers. There’s often company branding or a style guide that guides many of our color choices, which means we don’t have much chance to work with color palettes and gradients.

However, a popular data visualization can help you practice working with these color concepts more effectively: Choropleth maps. You’ve probably seen some (or even made some) without knowing the actual name of it.


Understanding the difference between expert and user interviews

Two people are sitting at a conference table, a man and a woman. Both are dressed formally, with the man wearing a suit and tie and the woman in formal dress. The woman has a laptop in front of her while the man has a notepad.
Two people are sitting at a conference table, a man and a woman. Both are dressed formally, with the man wearing a suit and tie and the woman in formal dress. The woman has a laptop in front of her while the man has a notepad.
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

You may be losing a lot of useful information if you treat an expert interview like a user interview.

That’s one of the lessons I learned early on in my career.

On one of the first interviews I ever took notes for, my mentor seemed to veer off script, asking questions that weren’t part of the testing process and seemingly spending most of the time chatting about something else. I voiced my concerns during the debrief, only to be told that this person was one of the foremost experts in the field we were studying.

It was only further along…


How learning 100 lines of code can save you hours of fixing user data spreadsheets

A guy staring at a computer screen. The left part of the screen is a coding window, while the right part of the screen is a graphical representation of the code (i.e. a website).
A guy staring at a computer screen. The left part of the screen is a coding window, while the right part of the screen is a graphical representation of the code (i.e. a website).

Learning just 100 lines of code can save you hours of fixing your user research data. And it’s less frightening than you might think.

I’ve recently been spending a lot more time with the quantitative side of user research. Between surveys with 100+ participants, tracking metrics across multiple design iterations, and working with Google Analytics, I’ve gotten to experience the ‘joys’ of working with real-world datasets.

These joys include reading Excel spreadsheets until my eyes crossed, trying to track down missing values, and a whole lot of inconsistencies across multiple design iterations.

But after messing around with the typical tools…


How to avoid bad design decisions due to time pressure

A hourglass is shown with most of the sand on the bottom. Only a little bit of sand is at the top with it flowing into the bottom.
A hourglass is shown with most of the sand on the bottom. Only a little bit of sand is at the top with it flowing into the bottom.
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

I never thought I’d address one of my most dreaded phrases by trying to organize my user research findings. But that’s what happened when I took a proactive approach in organizing my user research notes.

Creating a high-level summary in my spreadsheet allowed me to not only quickly revisit user research and understand the context: it also allowed me to compare design alternatives across different design iterations. And that was a crucial factor in reconsidering design alternatives in a time crunch.

Avoiding poor design decisions due to time pressure

I was forced to examine other possible design alternatives for a feature when it turned out that our design…


Having them just watch can be more effective than notetaking

People sitting in seats in front of a large projector outdoors. The lights are on and some people are preparing stuff (moving around, buying food), while others have settled into their chairs and are awaiting the movie.
People sitting in seats in front of a large projector outdoors. The lights are on and some people are preparing stuff (moving around, buying food), while others have settled into their chairs and are awaiting the movie.
Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash

One of the worst user research interviews I ever participated in was when we attempted to get our stakeholders involved with user research.

The stakeholder accidentally joined the wrong link to take notes, and they just so happened to be the boss of this otherwise anonymous participant.

Because his name was visible on the call, our poor participant started to advertise how good the current product was.

The stakeholder, the team, and the user probably knew that the product was badly designed, but the sudden appearance of his boss meant that the participant didn’t dare cut any corners.

In fact…


Understanding the power of user story mapping

Two men standing in front of a wall covered in post-its. One person is standing motioning towards a specific section of post-its.
Two men standing in front of a wall covered in post-its. One person is standing motioning towards a specific section of post-its.
Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash

I inadvertently stumbled upon a solution to one of my backlog woes just recently.

When I first ran into problems with my Agile backlog, I found that visualizing the individual backlog items definitely improved communication regarding how the user stories were worded.

However, I hadn’t realized that I’d unintentionally stumbled upon a larger concept called User Story Mapping.

But it was only recently when I was forced to split time between different stages of a project that I learned of its’ importance.

A collision with hand-off

The project that I’ve been working on recently was much larger than I’m used to, which meant that…


Even the most mundane information is absorbed better within a story

A vision test. A pair of glasses is in the middle of the picture frame, which allows some letters and numbers to be in focus, while the rest of the picture is blurry.
A vision test. A pair of glasses is in the middle of the picture frame, which allows some letters and numbers to be in focus, while the rest of the picture is blurry.
Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

The last step of the user research process can sometimes be the hardest. You may have done all of the user research, collected great data, and have created some slides that capture vital insights for the project.

But your audience sometimes may not get what you’re trying to tell them.

However, there’s a simple step that you can take to try and make it easier for your stakeholders to understand: adapt the structure of your presentation.

And to understand why to let’s think about why some user research presentations work better than others.

Facts alone fall short.

If you’ve done enough user research presentations…


Modern data visualizations are often a great way to review design fundamentals.

A computer generated image of several layers floating on top of one another going from blue to red in a gradient.
A computer generated image of several layers floating on top of one another going from blue to red in a gradient.
Photo by Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash

One of the most interesting things that I’ve found is that working with advanced visualizations often requires a sharper design eye.

While bar and line charts have been around for decades, there may sometimes be situations where a different (and newer) visualization is more suitable.

In these situations, I’ve found that my design fundamentals have been tested, as this often involves taking multiple types of data and encoding it into a single visual. And to illustrate this, let’s talk about a chart that’s emerged in the modern day: bullet charts.

Bullet charts: combining quantitative and qualitative data

If you were asked to combine qualitative and quantitative data…


The surprising influence flowcharts have in changing business processes

A Desire path (i.e. a path that’s worn into the ground that users take that differs from the paths that urban planners lay out) that goes up a hill. There is a sidewalk at the bottom of the hill heading to the right and university buildings behind, but the desire path goes through the grass and up the hill.
A Desire path (i.e. a path that’s worn into the ground that users take that differs from the paths that urban planners lay out) that goes up a hill. There is a sidewalk at the bottom of the hill heading to the right and university buildings behind, but the desire path goes through the grass and up the hill.
Source: Chrisinplymouth on Flickr

More than any other chart in my work life, Flowcharts have probably had a greater impact on changing my projects' direction, focus, and design.

But I never gave them a second thought until I had to generate two flowcharts at the same time: it was only then that I saw the impact they had on both the user and business process.

The process to create one is often quite tricky. But it’s not because flowchart design is overtly hard: it’s the opposite.

Because you’re often developing flowcharts with other team members, there may be multiple overlapping flowcharts that you could…


Creating scatter plots teaches you advanced lessons about color

A night sky broken up by a colorful pattern in the middle. A line of bright orange and red clusters of stars is in the middle, while the rest of the stars are normal and blue.
A night sky broken up by a colorful pattern in the middle. A line of bright orange and red clusters of stars is in the middle, while the rest of the stars are normal and blue.
Photo by Denis Degioanni on Unsplash

Scatter plots are usually charts that people are vaguely familiar with.

It’s a chart that’s often thought of as complicated and niche. But they can offer important lessons about color that you might not realize until you’re trying to create them.

And it starts with the type of message it’s trying to convey.

Scatterplots, distribution, and relationships

Scatterplots are mainly used for two major reasons: to show distribution patterns and relationships. They allow you to encode data on both the x and y-axis to see if relationships or patterns exist between two variables.

But they have a reputation for being hard to understand. This…

Kai Wong

Top writer in UX Design. UX, Data Visualization and Data Science. Author of Data Persuasion: https://tinyurl.com/rndb9bw. Substack: dataanddesign.substack.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store