By Stewart McCoy


About Stewart McCoy
I’m interested in working on difficult problems where thoughtfully designed solutions can significantly improve people’s lives. I believe the way business and teams are designed intimately effects the resulting solutions, and for this reason design should be involved at the outset when aligning mission, vision, and strategy. I’m currently looking for a full-time product design [...]
Keeping PMs and designers on the same page
I’ve found that more than anything, “design” is the decisions made in conversations between teammates. To be effective I’ve needed to learn how to stay on the same page as my PM, and for this, the use of a design brief for each project has become instrumental for me. In effect, it’s the common vocabulary for talking about and evaluating a project.
Being intentional about stakeholder feedback
Being more intentional about who to ask, when, and about what, can go a long way in reducing miscommunication in the product dev process.
Why startups should care about App.net
When App.net became a thing last summer, everyone thought it was a Twitter clone. That’s a huge marketing problem because most people in the startup community still don’t understand that App.net is offering a development platform for social products, one that comes with a clear business model that foregoes advertising, an active community of users, and exciting implications for improved UX across the app ecosystem.
Thoughts on succeeding at your first UX job
Design ahead of the product development curve; seek out people to brainstorm with; get critical feedback on even the smallest changes from the rest of your design team; when you give feedback, honor the golden rule; find a mentor that will help you refine your process, and other thoughts on how you can be a better employee and designer.
Making a career change into UX
I recently received an email from Chris, who read How to get a UX job and what it's like and had questions about how to make a career change into UX. My advice: you don't need a special degree; you do need a thoughtfully-designed portfolio; make up your own projects if you have to; you should only teach yourself code if it interests you.
A better way to organize pickup sports
There's currently an opportunity for creating a better way to help people play pickup games—one that brings together people who typically play pickup anyway, and who would play more often if knowing about the pickup games in their area was made easier. In this post I outline the opportunity, apps currently tackling this problem, the problems with those apps, and what an improved pickup app UX could be like.
Will a master’s help you get a better UX job or salary?
I received another email this week from Meghann, a junior UX designer, who wrote me asking whether pursuing a master's in HCI would help her get better job opportunities or a higher salary. I told her, in short, yes. But also that a grad program is a time for reflection and self-motivated projects, that a good internship during the program is critical, that many leading designers have their master's, and above all, your portfolio is most important.
How to get a UX job and what it’s like
Last week I received an email from a graduating high school student who is going to college in the fall and thinking about a career in UX and product design. My response explains what my experience has been like working as a UX designer, what different kinds of opportunities there are in the field, what to study in college, and how to prepare for finding a job.
UX, agile, and front-end development
Two recent articles on UX Matters, one on Agile UX, the other on UX and front-end development, have reinforced my thoughts on how product teams can improve requirements definition, and how adding a front-end developer to the UX team can help ease the transition between product vision and implementation.
Design with trust, ask questions
The most important lesson I learned this past year is that when I don't understand something, I need to ask questions. I've found that overcoming any embarrassment, shame, pride, or ego, and pushing myself to ask seemingly ignorant or naive questions is actually my responsibility as a professional.
Design Education: Interview with Ethan Resnick, Student at NYU Gallatin School
Design Education is a series of interviews that explore the expectations and experiences of today’s designers. Ethan Resnick studies design with a focus on systems at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and has worked with design legend Khoi Vinh and big names like 20th Century Fox.
Design Education: Interview with Ben Blumenfeld, Designer at Facebook
Ben Blumenfeld contributes his thoughts to our exploration of expectations and experiences about design education. Ben managed part of the design team at Facebook for 2 years and recently moved back into a lead lead role.
Design Education: Interview with Dina Ravvin, Design Student at Cooper Union
In the first interview of this series, I interviewed Nathan Shedroff, an educator and design professional about the expectations and experiences surrounding design education. Now, I welcome the thoughts of Dina Ravvin, a fourth-year design student at The Cooper Union and an aspiring art director who has learned the importance of perfecting process before the outcome.
Design Education: Interview with Nathan Shedroff, Designer & Educator
Coming to the Bay Area not long after graduation, I met many young and highly successful designers both with and without college degrees. I’ve heard some people say that it’s hard to find a ‘good’ designer. That me to wonder what they mean by ‘good’ designer and how much of a role, if any, formal education plays into that. My first interview on design education is with Nathan Shedroff, both a design professional and a design educator.
Structure vs Layout
Structure is how elements and components of an interface are grouped, defines relationships between those elements and components, and is the domain of information architecture. Layout is concerned with emphasis, proportions, and placement and is the domain of the visual designer.
Design Thinking and Degrees of Wireframing
As a designer who produces wireframes on a regular basis, I’ve experienced confusion about how design decisions are to be documented. I would like to share some clarity I now have on this issue by discussing how progressive stages of design thinking can be captured by different degrees of wireframing. From low-fidelity, in which it’s about sketching some boxes and writing down the goals of those boxes, to high-fidelity, in which interface and functionality are diagrammed and annotated for designers and developers to create comps and prototypes. High-fidelity wireframes are optimally created through collaboration with visual designers and developers.
On design, soccer, and mentorship
Becoming a better designer is a lot like becoming a better soccer player. You have to play a lot. If you don’t play you don’t gain experience, you don’t train your muscle memory, and you don’t get better. But you can only go so far on your own. Young players who become excellent get better from playing and being coached. Becoming a better designer requires you to work with clients and be mentored along the way.
A Project Guide to UX Design: For User Experience Designers in the Field or in the Making (Book Review)
Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler clearly explain the details of UX project processes and deliverables. This book review was published in the February 2011 edition of Technical Communication.
Universal Design for Web Applications (Book Review)
Framed in the context of the web, UD is concerned with people’s capacity to access content when, where, and in what format they need it. I drafted this review of Wendy Chrisholm and Matt May's book in July 2009 for submission to Technical Communication.
CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions (Book Review)
This book by industry experts stresses the importance of semantic, well-structured HTML to provide good hooks for your CSS and clearly lays out the fundamentals of CSS syntax. This book review was published in the February 2011 edition of Technical Communication.
Don’t forget the flowers: contextual messaging and interaction design
Part of a series on how the principles of rhetoric might apply to web design, I use Facebook interactions as examples of how thoughtfully crafted messages offered up at the right time can improve the user experience.
Wireframes as clear records of clear thinking
Originally posted on the Mule Blog: At Mule, we want to do thinking and design work together, so that afterward our IAs can document the decisions that come from discussion, whether through site maps, concept models, user flows, or wireframes.
Timing is everything
This is a tangent from my series about using rhetorical principles to develop effective communication in your web project. For the moment, let’s consider the timely rhetorical concept of kairos.
Discovering what to say
This is the second post in a series about using rhetorical principles to develop effective communication in your web project. In this post I explain the rhetorical principle of invention.
Rhetoric is the new grid
Constraints give us focus. In graphic design, we use grids as an instrument for ordering text and images on the page and screen. Similarly, rhetoric, the art of using language to communicate effectively and persuasively, offers constraints to help us focus on designing information that effectively communicates to our users.
Prudence and the mobile bandwagon
The mobile market is more competitive than ever and smartphones and tablets are becoming pervasive. It's past time we start thinking strategically about mobile web design; we need to be aware of how a site behaves on mobile devices, and determine whether users need a mobile-optimized site, a web app, or a native app.
My UX design internship at Viget Labs
I had the opportunity to be the first user experience design intern to participate in Viget Lab’s new 6-week rolling internship program. It’s a great model for other design studios to follow.
A newbie’s guide to An Event Apart
An Event Apart boasts a stellar panel of speakers that, literally, set standards in web design. But it’s expensive. So is it worth the expense and what should you expect?