Tangible 💍 Digital Product Design:

Oh, to boldly go where no UX-er has gone before.

When I first started getting into UX, I had an interesting conversation with a senior digital Product Designer.

I told him I was transitioning from tangible to digital product design. He immediately became VERY defensive of *his craft* and said something along the lines of, “Oh, you are, are you? Well, let me tell you just HOW different digital product design is from tangible. Totally different ballpark.”

Image of senior designer degrading a junior designer and reminding him of his “Noob” status
Illustration by Pablo Stanley, show on a presentation at Awwwards— https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEg5ySTUGxE&pbjreload=10)

His tone reminded me a lot of an awesome talk Pablo Stanley gave at Awwwards on “How to Be a Better Designer”. [You MUST watch it. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEg5ySTUGxE&pbjreload=10).]

The above gif Pablo shared at this talk really describes the feelings I got from the senior digital designer's tone.

I do get where the guy was coming from. He loves and believes in his craft. He loves it so much that he wants to preserve and defend it. Evangelize.

Movie Poster of Steve Martin playing an evangelist and wearing a glittery suit
Movie Poster, “Leap of Faith”, src https://www.empireonline.com/movies/reviews/leap-faith-review/

Luckily, I’m a pretty pragmatic person. So I listened. Then I told him that while there are of course obvious differences and specializations, there are also a lot of similarities. And so many opportunities for parallelity and collaboration.

The gap between the tangible and the digital world is becoming increasingly narrow.

Disney’s Alice, on her way through the rabbit hole. Image source: YouTube video screenshot

All people, designers, and *users* alike, are doing themselves a great disservice by not recognizing that. It isn’t just about “screentime” anymore.

Grocery stores are monitoring our shopping habits.

Tangible experiences are becoming more automated by various tech/digital products.

AR is enhancing and changing the way we experience tangible products and experiences. On and off-screen.

Wearables and Voice Products are changing the need to use our phones and computers for everything.

We’re innovating on how to technology to enhance the way we interact with the tangible world. We’re actually creating more inclusive, human products when we marry the digital and the tangible worlds together.

Ted Talk given by Galit Ariel, one of my favorite people to learn about AR from.

The best digital experience designs (UX) are always the ones that mimic their digital counterparts.

E-commerce has completely changed the way we shop. But good UX for E-commerce is all about mimicking the advantages of the tangible shopping experience.

Way before E-Commerce was a thing, CX designers and retail experts studied buyer psychology. They implemented this knowledge into tangible stores and services.

Shopper observation session, Optinmonster.com

UXers have and are still learning to translate this psychology into online buying experiences. People love the convenience of buying online. But those that study experience design know that research shows that humans still want to go to physical stores. We crave the stimulation it still offers our senses. We can’t yet smell herbs at an online supermarket or do a tap test on a watermelon to see if it’s hollow. And we’re only starting to understand the consequences of losing the diverse social interactions we grew up with as kids.

Another good example would be the possibilities we’ll have when we achieve consumer-ready 5G. This will help us with a lot more than phone speed. It’ll enable us to do things like scan the food on our plates for the nutrient content, and save lives by allowing remote surgery. And we remote workers will truly be able to work from anywhere.

Screenshot of a LinkedIn Post I wrote, https://www.linkedin.com/posts/rebeccabardesign_5g-laptop-sunshine-activity-6635076981656555520-CSMG

The patriot in me is always after “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of good design.”

Good UX = Freedom.

The real measure of good UX is how your user feels when they finish using your product. Do they feel like they got something done? Free? Addicted? Depressed?

Recognizing the similarities and opportunities between tangible and digital products will serve us a lot more than focusing on their differences.

Isn’t it funny how it always comes back to collaboration?

Signing off, (but not for long),


Business-Minded UX Strategist | Product Manager & Interface Designer. | Products & People. Wait. 🙅‍♀️that, 🔄it. Thank U.