How to hire Designers

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Portfolios: HR sourced UI/UX candidates for me. We took on only resumes which had pointers to their portfolio (in Behance or elsewhere). If they did not have a portfolio, I did not consider them serious enough to be applying to us.

UI/UX designers vs Creative Designers: There is a fair amount of ambiguity that candidates typically play on, between UI/UX and creative designers.

My definition of a UI/UX designer is a combination of visual design and interaction design. In other words, the candidate should have designed web or app flows (or atleast part of them). These guys have the knack of leading a user through a flow. They know the importance of consistency, primary colors, templates etc.

Creative designers (per my definition) are those who focus exclusively on visual design. These are folks who are exceptional at creating marketing collateral content (such as ads, brochures, posters etc). These are guys who are awesome at designing stuff that will catch your attention. They know the contours and contrasts that will stand out. They know the colour palettes that will work better on banner ads vs print vs mobile.

While hiring for your designers, you should be able to distinguish (to a large extent) at the very beginning what kind of work that they have done, and what their strengths are. Most folks tend to sell to you that, they can do both. I am not a full believer in that yet.

Talk to the candidates: My lead designer and I used to have an intro call with every one of these candidates. You can figure out the ambiguity that I talk about (above) very easily in this call. Talk to them to get a feeling of whether they would fit in, into the culture. See if they can express themselves to you. They need not be eloquent (most aren’t) but they need to get their point across.

Sample project: Those, who pass the phone call, I had our lead designer send out a sample project to them. Depending on your timeline to hire, this can be as small as redesigning/reimagining a page on an existing app/website; to as big as redesigning a process (the payment flow for instance). We used to give adequate times for these. The smaller projects are 1-2 days, and the larger ones 3-4 days. There is a reason for this. Designers typically take time. One cannot push designers hard, like you can do to engineers. More number of hours does not equals more work, in the case of designers.

We also took a look at how these sample projects were submitted. It shows the seriousness of the candidate. There will be candidates who will submit PDFs. They will be some who will submit sketch files. And there will be some really good ones, who will give you an invision file, with sample click behavior and everything.

In-house interview: For the in-house interview, the candidate should talk to one Product Manager (PM), one front end engineer, lead designer, and the hiring manager. If all goes well, one round with the HR.

You probably guessed why the above people were chosen to interact with the candidate. Yes. These are the guys who will be working with the designer. They are the stake holders. You need to know how the designer interacts with a PM and a front end developer. These are one of the touchiest relationships.

The PM dreams of impossible stuff to design, and the front-end engineer would refuse to code it up. And the designer is stuck in the middle, typically. How assertive is the designer? How much data is being requested from the PM? Is the designer trying to understand why the front end engineer is saying, something is not possible?

The interview with the designer is typically to touch upon the technicalities. What are the tools he is familiar with? Is he an expert user? Or very novice. How well does he know his interaction design? A lot of this would have come through the sample project. Typically the lead designer (or me) would probe as to why the designer designed the sample project in a certain way. If there is any plagiarism or this was a fluke, this will come out now.

History and lessons learnt: Contrary to what everyone thinks, the designers job is a very hard one – playing to the tunes of multiple people and scenarios. They have to walk a very thin line between being creative, and delivering within time pressures ; between making a noticeable change, and preserving your style guide ; between taking up a largish revamp of a page, and making a dozen tweaks for the short term ; taking a call between what the PM thinks, the designer thinks, and the customer perceives. I typically ask the designer, what are the lessons he has learnt on the job, while being a designer, and listen. I would expect some of these above thoughts to come out. If they did not, he has been too passive a member, and has not contributed enough. I probe into some of these thoughts, and see what are the learnings that the designer has been exposed to.

Endnote: I had hired a lot of engineers in my career, but hiring designers is a totally different ball game. It is not a 0-1 decision problem. You cannot hire a designer because he knows his tools really well. Designers are creative types, and for a large fraction of them, it is hard to gauge attitude and personality. It needs time and effort to hire the best designers. But once you get them, you are set.

DisclaimersWe were a product based company. I was hiring UI/UX designers.


IoT in the Kitchen?

This idea just struck me today evening. This is in close heels to the IoT usage with the gas cylinder post that I had done a few weeks ago.

Problem to be solved: Get an accurate state of groceries that is stocked in the kitchen and potentially order them (online?). This is a very common task that is done on a fairly regular basis in most households (typically on the day when ‘monthly shopping’ is done,

Initial setup/infrastructure:

  • All grocery items to be stocked in identical pre-calibrated clear jars.
  • Item stored in the jar is bar-coded.
  • Threshold for ordering is to be set initially – by a sticker or using marker pens.



  • User invokes a smart phone app.
  • Snaps a picture of the shelf with the stacked clear containers.
  • App automatically figures out the jars with groceries lesser than the threshold set by the user.
  • The details of what is stored in the jar is obtained from the bar code.
  • User either adds the list of items to buy to his to-do list (Google keep? Wunderlist?) – or – directly adds it to his grocery list on the Bigbasket app.

Bigbasket? Zopnow? Anybody listening?

UX review of Instamojo website – part 2

Creating a payment link (continued)

After you have dragged and dropped the digital goods, it would be nice if you could say that, upload would happen later. Since I did not see any upload status scroll, I assumed, but in perfect design, nothing should be left for assumption.

When uploading a preview image, can you probably preview the image immediately – like you did for the PAN card upload? That would be nicer. Else, the same ambiguity/assumption as previous point happens here also.


I tried making it pay what you want and wanted to put a base price of Rs.5. I got the below. Firstly, I do not understand why the Rs.9 restriction. Secondly base_price seems to be the variable name. You should make it Base price.


I wanted to do the “Pay What you Want” model. And below is how it looks. It is not immediately apparent to my customer (who want to buy the book) as to what “minimum Rs.10 is”. Is there any way you can indicate what the publisher means by “Pay what you want”? Perhaps by putting a note below the “pay button” saying – “The seller has indicated this to be a ‘Pay what you want’. The seller can pay how much ever he/she wishes to pay over the base price indicated above”.


I tried finishing up my profile, and I added my photo to my profile. Again, I wish you could immediately preview the pic.


And oh, after a while, after I finished typing up my bio etc, I got the below. Looks like you were uploading the photo in the background – which is good – but it would be nice if I get some indication as a user.


Love love love the analytics page. Super awesome. One small pet peeve – please please give me a refresh button. I do not want to refresh my page each time I want to see. I usually have all my analytics page open. And want to be able to refresh on demand.

Hmm. Analytics and Advanced Analytics are the same?? They atleast seem to lead to the same page.


UX flow issue leading into the app store

Before I click on the app store


I now click on App store


Ideally by now, the Advanced Analytics should be ‘de-highlighted’ and App Store should be highlighted and some form of a landing page for app store should have come in the main body frame. However, you see above that two selections are highlighted and the previous (stale?) selection is still active on the right main body panel.

I went into the app store, and I see a bunch of apps there already. One big UI nitpick I have. The cards should all be same size and aligned. insta22

And in general, I feel that the apps concept seems to be a little more of an advanced concept. And perhaps you should have a separate tutorial/documentation for this. Could not find it on the site.

* All of these are on Firefox latest version on Windows.



UX review of Instamojo website – part 1

I recently tried signing up with Instamojo and gave it a spin. Instamojo is a pretty cool payment related startup. Their moto is to democratize payments. It should be dead easy for anyone to be able to sell (start a business) and be able to set up a payment mechanism for customers. Instamojo would do the heavy lifting of the payment gateway etc.

Following are my thoughts on the UX/UI of the website.


In the screen which asks for how I got to know about instamojo, why is social media conspicuously absent?


In the next screen, your KYC is collected (incidentally, there is no place which gives the full form of KYC – Know your customer – if someone from outside of India in the future tries signing on, they would be clueless). Also, what if I want to sell an ebook for Rs.49 (a fairly common denomination to sell an ebook in India), there is no option for this.


Then, in the next screen, I tried uploading a PDF (scanned pan card) and this is what I got. Also, there should be somewhere it says, only image files (GIF/JPG/TIFF etc).


The following also is confusing. Is the status bar saying .. half way through uploading my pan card picture or is it saying I am half way through uploading my documents? If it is the latter, should it not be 50% (1 out of 2 documents?)


While I understand that by the time he has finished uploading kyc, the user is expected to know about payment links etc, I would still recommend a (?) link here next to the payment link leading him to the support page.


When I click on share your referral link on twitter/facebook, the below appears when I click on twitter. I would prefer not just the link, but some template text such as : “I am using Instamojo. Are you? To sign up click here -> url”


Facebook is slightly better, but it could be better.



Create a Payment Link

I got to the file-picker page (which is awesome by the way! – the options are truly exhaustive).

I dragged and dropped by file. But after dropping the file, I realized that the file was named wrongly (similar scenario to I dropped the wrong file). Now how do I delete this file and put the correct file? No intuitive UX for the user for this action. I would have liked the file (Samkshepa Ramayana.pdf in the case below) to be in a table, with a trash can in a last column, giving me the option to delete the file.


The only way I could do it was to navigate away from this page (to Dashboard) and then click on Create Payment Link. I see two problems here.

  1. You should warn the user if he is going to navigate away from a page which he has filled in mid-way.
  2. I get this thought that – what happened to the file I dragged-and-dropped, was it uploaded, aborted, cached – where did that go? When I went back to creating a new payment link, it is not even reminding me that I was doing one half-way some time back.

Minor CSS nitpick – spacing between the i,? and the text


By this time, my account had already been verified – awesome speed. Love it. Is this manual ?

I got the following email:


While a lot of services do this, I have always liked to be addressed by name instead of my userid. And then I went to the Settings -> Accounts to see if you had been able to capture my name. And I saw that the names were blank.


I am wondering if you could have auto populated the name somehow – from my name on my PAN card that you collected during KYC.

Phone verification:

The below UI is very confusing. The 1234 is very confusing. That is not the norm. Either put * * * * or – – – – or just blank or put 4 squares.


Also, I was updating my settings (one by one), at the end of verification, why do I get the option to only go back to dashboard? I want to go back to the settings page.

Profile Settings:


Minor English suggestion. I would prefer Connect to your Social Networks and “Connect to Twitter”.

Also, why not Facebook and g+. I saw those two in other places along with twitter.

Also, the “We will not post …..” should probably be darker. It is a very reassuring message and should be prominent.

Well, that’s about it. Hope the Instamojo teams gets to these minor nitpics from an amateur UX reviewer. In my opinion, getting these small things right is one of the key drivers to showing your classiness in an already crowded market place (in the case of instajojo – the payments marketplace).



Facebook New stories : Mobile to Web

As I have said earlier, I notice UI/UX changes. Some earlier picks herehere and here. I just noticed something new today in Facebook. I have seen this in their mobile app, but one of the first times, I am seeing a company move a good UI feature from an app to the web.



I have not seen the “New Stories” button in the webpage before. New posts would either auto-load, or I would need to go click on the f button to load new pages. This brings in a new cognitive feature to show that there are new stories.

Good stuff, Facebook. I love the way you are moving features seamlessly between web pages to app and vice versa.

Web Icons and Cognitive Dissonance

According to wikipedia,

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

In simpler terms, it means, a visualization that is used to mean something is used to trick your mind into agreeing to something which is exactly the opposite. I found a perfect example today morning, and hence this post.

2015-04-24 06_39_27-airtel

See the battery icon on the far left. What does that signify? Does that not trick your mind into believing that your battery is running low? Whatever you are being measured and told, it means you are running out of that quantity. In this case, it is the amount of high speed bandwidth that I have remaining in this month (before I slip into FUP hell).

But look at the numbers. I actually have enough. Well, more than enough. I have 64 GB out of my 80 GB quota. This is the airtel smartbytes page where airtel wants you to buy bandwidth packs to replenish your diminishing high speed bandwidth.

This, my friends, is cognitive dissonance.

Twitter Trends – UI Change?

A little while ago, I wrote a post on the awesome new feature in twitter web UI, the quote-and-RT. I am loving it But before the euphoria died down, I just noticed that, twitter has made yet another UI (or maybe trying out on a subset population). When I log in to twitter today morning, I see a dense trends column on the left side of my screen.

2015-04-23 10_17_24-(8) Twitter

To be honest, I do not remember where the trends column used to be before – I rarely look at what is trending. But today seemed to be different. I noticed it because it is crowded and ugly. It is crowded because of the extra text below the actual hashtag. It distracts me from my timeline.

The fact that I never used to look at the trends (and hence did not let it affect/influence) my conversations on the timeline, makes it even harder for me now.

There is definitely a cognitive distraction that is happening here and I am not liking it. Are any of my readers seeing this as well? Are you OK with this?

And deep inside me, there is one more fear in me. Was this a means to drive people towards trending phrases – which could potentially be sponsored. If so, this is nothing short of discrete native advertising. Not that I am saying it is wrong to do advertising (twitter is a publicly listed company after all, and it has to make money), but hopefully not at the cost of distracted users. The last time something like that happened to me was when there used to be these blinking bling pop-up ads on webpages.

Now, has someone written an extension to hide the trends column?

Update: Ok, I found a way to get it back to normal. Click on the ‘Change’  next to the trends. It will ask you for which city you want trends for. Type in your location. There is a button called “Tailored Trends”. Do not click on that button, and just click Done. It will go back to a shorter trends column with just hashtags. Phew.

Twitter: Quote and RT

Am I late to the party, or is this really new? One major headache that I used to have is to quote and RT on twitter-on-the-web. It has been there on the android native twitter client, but not on the web. I know quite a few folks who use other twitter desktop clients, just for this functionality.

2015-04-20 10_32_35-Twitter

It was a pleasant surprise to see this over the weekend. Thank you Twitter.

And what more, there is a bonus too. Your quote gets 140 characters. Yes, over and above what the original tweet was. Is this awesome or what? In earlier times, there were twitter guidelines to use lesser number of characters in a tweet (<140), so that people can RT you and write something. Now that is gone. It is a win-win for the original tweeter and the one who RTs.

Now that is what I call a UX win.