“Design is creativity in service of others” – the words of the lady in charge of how you see and interact with Facebook, Margaret Gould Stewart. Isn’t it interesting how the idea of service comes up, where when we design or create anything, someone somewhere is going to get something out of it. Or at the least, interact with it. This could be on a profound level, or some tiny unconscious level. The point is that when we create, we bring something into existence (be it digitally or physically) and by doing so, offer up something with intrinsic and diverse value.
In this compelling TED Talk, Stewart (now Facebook’s Director of Product Design) has you on her every word as she delves into how her job at one of the most expansive websites in the world sees her working for months and months on changes most would find miniscule. One of these is the redesign of the Facebook Like button, which most would ask – well how can such a tiny button be that hard to redesign? Stewart answers that “when you’re designing at scale, there’s no such thing as a small detail… this innocent little button is seen on average over 220 billion times a day”. And of course it depends on your audience, but when your audience is one sixth of the world’s population, people’s reactions are bound to vary. Some might not notice, or care, but some, explains Stewart, have a hard time adjusting. “I have a joke that I spend almost as much time designing the introduction of change than implementing the change itself,” she says on when she changed YouTube’s rating system from a 5-star rating to a thumbs up/thumbs down.
Now before anyone points out that it’s not actually the whole world that uses Facebook, Stewart does knowingly address this at the end. Where part of their designing involves acute awareness of what their website looks like on older devices and browsers, they constantly check this on these kind of devices while designing.“Designing for low end cell phones is not glamorous design work,” says Stewart. “But if you want to design for the whole world, you have to design where people are — and not where you are.”
Engaging stuff, and even better when you’ve watched it a few times! So enough from me, go and enjoy.