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My favorite design tool.

When it comes to getting my work done, I’m generally not too dogmatic about applications, frameworks, or workflows. But I suppose there’s one design tool I can’t do without. And hey, here it is:

“What if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?”

I’ve written about this question before, and mentioned it again in a recent interview, but it’s something that applies to every part of my design practice. In fact, it’s a question I ask myself almost daily. It’s a great way to remind myself that the way I browse the web isn’t representative of the way everyone else browses the web.

Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m the visual lead on a project, and I’m working on a layout in Sketch, Illustrator, or what-have-you. Asking myself that question—“What if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?”—is a great way to remind myself that if I’m working on, say, a widescreen layout, my decisions will impact the experience on smaller screen. (And vice versa.)

It’s just as valuable when I’m working on a project’s front-end, deciding on how components should be built, or how a page should be structured. In those moments, that question—“what if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?”—can provide a crucial reminder that not everyone will see the web as I do, or that some will have images disabled to help preserve their data, or that others may use their keyboard to tab through my design—and on, and on, and on.

In other words, this question forces me to step outside my default assumptions and biases about how I think the web works. It’s a way for me stop, pause, and reflect on what other folks’ needs might be, and to think about how best to design for those needs. So, yeah: this little question’s proven to be a really useful design tool. I can’t do my job without it.

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