Issue 26 – February and March 2020
On Design Thinking, obsolete wireframes, absurd design sprints, and agile as trauma.

Hi! I hope this issue finds you well and that you find some peace of mind in these turbulent times. COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work at an unprecedented rate and scale. Many of us are now working remotely and so we suddenly need to balance both work and private life in the confined space of our homes. Times of such sudden change bring about a lot of uncertainty: How long is all of this going to last? Will my loved ones and I stay healthy? Will I be able to work and deliver my services effectively? Will my clients still need my work in the weeks and months to come? How will collaboration with my colleagues look like, now that we are all working remotely? How should we move forward? This crisis caught us all off guard, leaving almost no time to prepare. There is also no time for making detailed plans, so we have to adapt to the current situation through rapid trial and error, moving forward one decision at a time. And so we are all now trying to improvise our way out of this uncertainty, looking for answers. One way to reduce uncertainty and the fear that often comes with it is to focus our attention on finding out what actually works and what doesn’t. This can best be done by running small experiments. By running small experiments and building prototypes, we produce real evidence of where opportunities lie and which risks are worth taking. As a result, we are able to make much more informed decisions and move on with confidence, one decision at a time.

If you enjoy reading this newsletter, please consider sharing it with a person who might appreciate it, too. Thank you so much! 🤗

– Stay healthy and positive! Matthias


On Design Thinking

Design Thinking is often treated as a sort of magic bullet to solve all kinds of problems. But what is Design Thinking, really? Maggie Gram explores this question and takes us on a fascinating journey into the history of design theory and how IDEO invented the idea that the design process could be applied outside its usual context. But her article also reminds us that to solve the real “wicked problems”, simply following a prescribed method like Design Thinking is not enough to guarantee success.

Don't use low-fidelity prototypes to test desirability

When you test a prototype with users, it is important to think about the right level of fidelity: Low fidelity paper prototypes and wireframes are great for feedback on usability, but, as Brett van Zuiden argues, working with high-fidelity prototypes can be much more effective when you want to assess the desirability of a product. The more realistic and detailed the prototype is, the more it looks like a real choice to potential users and this will result in more authentic feedback.

Why wireframes are becoming obsolete

Wireframes are still a popular tool in the design process and people justify their use with arguments like: Wireframes let stakeholders focus on interactions instead of visuals. Wireframes are faster to create than more detailed designs. Wireframes are an effective tool to document interactions. But does all of this still hold true? Anton Sten objects and suggests to try a much rougher alternative instead that also leaves room for discussion and subsequent contributions by others: Sketching.

Design Sprints are Absurd

The “Design Sprint“, a process popularized by Google Ventures for quickly validating ideas and solving problems, is used by thousands of companies to innovate and solve new problems. Jeff Davidson challenges the idea of Design Sprints as the magic bullet for problem-solving and shows where the process falls short. For example, in that it forces businesses to make critical decisions very quickly without proper contextual understanding and that sprinting encourages teams to pile on features as opposed to sculpting value.

Executing UX Animations: Duration and Motion Characteristics

Animation can help make an interface easier to use by providing feedback and a visual cue of state changes. But animation is also a detail that can be hard to get right which is also why building little animation prototypes can be invaluable. Page Laubheimer looks at duration and motion characteristics of UI animation and shows how to use it effectively to improve the overall user experience.

Agile as Trauma

Dorian Taylor shares an in-depth analysis of the roots of agile software development and some of its current limitations. Agile as a practice seems to be preoccupied with the ever same topics and patterns, like incremental and iterative development or user involvement. Yet it mostly fails to address other important areas: Like the question of why agile principles remain constrained to project management and rarely influence procurement and contracting practices. Or, for example, the problem of feature factories. Teams that keep adding new features as an end in itself instead of focusing on a much more valuable concept: behavior.

Constrained CSS grids without max-width.

CSS Grid fundamentally changes the way we do layout on the Web. And I’ll keep repeating it over and over again: Building HTML (and CSS) prototypes with your team will help designers get their heads around the new possibilities of CSS Grid and how to think beyond the fixed canvas. One excellent example of this is the technique Ethan Marcotte shares in this post. He explains how he uses CSS Grid – and in particular the empty space around his design – to create a layout that has a maximum width but can also conveniently be extended into a full-bleed layout when needed.



Visly is a tool that lets you build React components visually. It is based on a Flexbox implementation in Rust and you can either import existing components or design them in Visly from scratch, including variants and different component states.

Ideate Visually Anywhere with the Whiteboard Plugin for Adobe XD

The Adobe Design team created the Whiteboard plugin for Adobe XD which you can use to remotely ideate, sketch, and design as a team, ideally with XD’s Coediting feature.

March 2020 Release of Adobe XD: Prototype with Audio, Anchor Links, and More

In the March release, the Adobe XD team added audio playback support to XD. So you can now not only prototype with voice triggers but also play sounds to build even richer voice interfaces or to add a sound layer to your UI design.

ProtoPie 4.3: More Flexibility With Nested Components

Prototyping tool ProtoPie comes with a few useful additions in version 4.3. First and foremost: nested components. Moreover, you can use background blur in your iOS prototypes and utilize the system status bar on both iOS and Android to make your prototypes feel even more realistic.

JetBrains Mono

JetBrains Mono is a typeface for developers. It is free and open-source and has been optimized for a better code reading experience. It also comes with code-specific ligatures and four weights with matching italics.


MarkUp is a visual commenting platform that allows you to turn your website into a dynamic canvas ready for feedback and collaboration.


Jamm is a lightweight voice and video collaboration tool for remote teams. It is free for the next three months.