Design for Real Life

Design for Real Life is now on sale! It’s been an honor to write this book with Eric Meyer, and I’m so excited to share it with you. Order your copy from A Book Apart.

Design for Real Life book and ebook
Design for Real Life, available in print and digital editions.

What it’s about

When we design for the web, we often imagine an ideal user—someone who’s perfectly suited to our product, who’s sitting calmly at their device, who’s not pressed for time or money. We make smiling personas who are always ready to laugh at our jokes, and who breeze through our onboarding processes.

But people are nuanced, and life isn’t so simple. Designing for real life means designing for a whole host of identities and contexts that we’ve historically ignored or deprioritized. From the form that rejects multi-race respondents or non-binary genders to the webpage that confuses a user in crisis to the feature that juxtaposes your personal grief with its own party images, our digital world is full of products that fall apart in ways large and small when met with the complexities of real people.

Design for Real Life book cover
The cover simply had to be #663399becca

This book begins to change that. Using examples and expert perspectives, we show you how to begin challenging your assumptions and examining your biases. As a result, you’ll better understand the full range of people who might use your products, and the full range of emotions they may experience when they do.

Organized into a set of principles anyone can follow when making decisions about content, design, and functionality, this book will prepare you to:

  • Incorporate a wider, more realistic range of people in your work.
  • Lead a design process that vets new features, content, or interaction against less-than-ideal user scenarios.
  • Look at your decisions through a lens of kindness, and strengthen them as a result.
  • Convince others to invest in and support compassionate design processes.

How it came to be

Your post was like a bolt of lightning for me.

That’s how the email from Eric started, 14 months ago.

I didn’t know him well at the time—just through a few emails here and there. But I knew Eric’s story. Who didn’t? After his post on Facebook’s Year In Review spread to Slate and NPR and Le Monde and a million other outlets, it felt like everyone was talking about the cruelty digital products can bring when they don’t take real life into account. Eric had just started discussing writing a book about the topic. And that’s where things took me by surprise:

I’d very much like to talk with you about us doing that book together.

That was that. I couldn’t say no to writing with Eric, nor could I pass up the chance to write about a new—and rather challenging—topic.

Over the past year, we’ve interviewed dozens of people, looked at a ton of digital products, and thought long and hard about what it means to design compassionately in an increasingly complicated digital world. I hope Design for Real Life helps you in your work—and I can’t wait to see what new principles and ideas it leads you to.

Leave a reply