Today, we're introducing Ryan Morgan, director of All Things Design here at Reaction Commerce. Ryan manages branding and UI/UX design for our core product. We asked him a few questions about his day-to-day:
Tell me about yourself. How did you get started with UX and design, and how did that get to where you are today?
My formal education wasn’t in design, but in photography and English literature, which gave me an understanding of both visual space and critical thinking. I do think that was how I understood design: I was able to teach myself. With photography, you learn composition, balance, weight, and hierarchy. As for English literature, when you’re arguing a thesis statement in a paper, there’s no right answer. You just have to support your argument. With UX/UI, users ultimately validate the right answer—good usability—but I believe there are multiple ways to tackle and approach it.
Professionally, I’ve done everything, from designing a bunch of websites and editorial illustration to identity work and UI/UX design. Interestingly enough, my day-to-day at Reaction includes all of those things.
What are some things you’re working on right now?
The three major projects I’m working on at the beginning of 2018 are: multi-product management, design system/guidelines, and designing a UI for Reaction Platform.
I also support our brand and marketing efforts. This includes designing sales decks, art directing illustrations for content marketing, and doing the same for our website.
What are some unique challenges you’ve faced designing for Reaction?
With open source, communicating with a wide variety of people across varying levels of experience can be challenging. We’re documenting for all developer levels, from the complete beginner to the expert, so that means documenting absolutely everything, even form validation. It’s forced me to be really detailed and specific about documenting my work and my choices. It’s also prompted me to make prototypes, so that the community receives guidance each step of the way.
Designing for open source also means I get the opportunity to communicate with a really diverse set of people with diverse opinions. Diverse and well-thought out feedback is always good because it makes the design better.
Reaction is unique because of how international our community is. For instance, I don’t think your average designer is necessarily designing for right-to-left languages on top of designing for mobile, tablet, responsiveness, accessibility, etc. We have to design for copy that translates well in other languages. We try to keep labels down to one word. We try to use icons whenever we can, which adds another layer of complexity to design. We think about how a table might display data as it gets bigger and smaller. Also, we really have to consider the fact that lots of countries are mobile-first. That makes mobile design even more essential.
I think we could be better at designing based on context. What does the user need, and how do we make sure they’re being shown the right view at the right time for their intended action? If a user is only processing orders, then do they really need to see their store at the same time? I’d like to see us design experiences that give the user exactly what they need to see. I think that’s something we could explore in future iterations.
How do you put yourself in your user’s shoes? How do you account for possible cognitive bias throughout the design process?
Empathy and intuition are hugely important as a designer, and they're both something I consider on a daily basis. It's a part of my job to remind myself and others that we're designing for all levels of technical roles and abilities. Often, I like to design multiple ways of accomplishing tasks in a UI. Everybody’s different. Each individual user will have different preferences as to how they go about accomplishing a task. For example, everybody seems to have a different order in which they input products and product variant sets. One user might input color variants first. Another might prefer to focus on size variants. We need to design an interface that allows for all these different approaches.
So other than that, I run through the normal UX process where you write personas, go through user testing, and iterate. Since we're an early-stage startup, this fairly formal process doesn't always happen, but the most important thing is feedback. I like to talk to the prospective customers who have evaluated Reaction. I like to see what they think our strengths and weaknesses are.
Tell us more about the Reaction style guide. Who does it serve, and how do you envision this helping the community at-large?
The style guide is for the community and for the core team. Here’s who it’s for and how it’ll help them.
Open source community
The style guide should help developers customize Reaction to fit their needs. It will also help make contributing to Reaction easier by giving components to the community to work with, as well as design guidelines for how we expect them to use those components.
By documenting the components we use and therefore making them easy to reuse across Reaction, the style guide will help us achieve consistency in both design and code. As we continue to build and evolve our platform, the style guide will allow our engineers to use components and design guidelines to build new features easily and consistently with the rest of Reaction.
As new designers join Reaction, or as outside designers design for Reaction, they will be able to use the style guide and design system to design quickly and consistently with Reaction’s design philosophy.
What are some key design principles you live by?
Well, I wrote 4 design principles for Reaction Commerce, which align pretty closely with my personal design principles:
- Design for the user.
- Be simple, not boring.
- Easy to start, easy to grow. (Good UI design should be welcoming, while progressively revealing the complexity.)
- Always be forward-thinking.
If you were to launch an online store on Reaction, what would it be called? What would you sell?
As a side hustle, my wife and I run an adventure and travel Instagram. When we travel, we’re active, so we hike, kayak, and the like. There’s a lack of really cool adventure gear, so we’d start a really well-designed adventure gear company. We’d call it Prism. Please, someone design a really nice-looking camera bag that I can hike with!
Favorite hiking spot in LA?
Angeles National Forest. My favorite hike is Mt. Baden Powell, which gets up to 9,400 feet.
It’s only 30 minutes from my house on the Eastside, but you really feel like you're way out in nature. People who aren't from LA don’t realize that we have 10,000-foot peaks just an hour away from the city. Even people from LA don't realize it, haha.