My name is Doug, and I have a reddit problem.
Spoiler alert for those unfamiliar with the site: to put it frankly, reddit is addicting. I long ago fell prey to its allure. My /u/DenverUXer account is setup to provide me with a stream of tailored, interesting content of UX design subreddits catered specifically to my tastes.
Buried in my subscription lists are my true favorite daily treats: the unwittingly-UX-related gems that don’t realize they’re about the user experience design.
I’m sure to read through these every day, and you should, too.
Why Read Non-UX Design Subreddits?
Unsurprisingly, UXers are usually detail-oriented folk. That means we wear blinders. Usually these are metaphorical, unless your cube neighbor is particularly annoying – in which case, you do you.
However, our detail-induced-blinders come at a price. With focus on the small pieces, we lose site of the bigger picture of what makes UX important. We are the wheels moving the way humanity interacts with the world better.
This is important. This matters. This is what we do.
That’s why I love these non-UX design subreddits, and their ability to keep me focused on the “why” behind my work.
They are a reminder of what’s important to both the physical and virtual worlds. Of the powerful needs and attractions of human psychology on how we interact with the world at large. Of why what we do matters on a daily basis.
Whether you reddit today or need a guide to “The Front Page of the Internet” (in which case, you’re welcome, and I’m sorry), here are four non-UX design subreddits that you need to subscribe to – and why they matter for UX professionals.
/r/WeWantPlates – How Bad UX Affects Everyday Life
Most of us eat at least three times a day. Some of us, like that jerk I was from 2009 to 2011 eat more often than this.
And while current me wants to punch old me in the mouth for eating that third Chipotle burrito in an afternoon, it turns out my restaurant consumption may not have been too far off normal. The Average American eats out around 216 times every year.
My bagged lunch and midday puffing around a track is keeping me from buying more double quarter pounders to add to my gut. My decreasing restaurant habbit now puts me in the minority of Americans.
Yes, the number of annual restaurant visits for most Americans is increasing.
With so many people and meals being served, restaurants are looking for ways to stand out in today’s crowded market.
Some do this by making better food. Others do it by taking away our God **** plates.
From bacon cooked and served on a clothesline (a far inferior method to a campfire) to deserts served on iPads, /r/WeWantPlates all about the user experience of the modern restaurant, and the absurd turn that it’s taken.
As one user commented about a cheeseburger and tater tots served in a mug (because reasons), “Whhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy would you do this???”
And you know what? I consider myself a good UX professional, but I guarantee you that an experience I’ve designed has had at least one user say that about my work. If you design enough interfaces, or cook enough cheeseburgers, it’s inevitable.
This is what happens when you fall in love with the form of your design, and forget the function. /r/WeWantPlates is a reminder to never forget the needs and end goal of the users.
/r/DamnThatsInteresting – Why We’re Infatuated with Impactful Solutions
I like to think of myself as a creative person. I’m proud of my burgeoning effort to make #DailyToDoodle a thing for my fellow UXers, and I once even drew a horrible cartoon series to submit to editors.
And then I visit /r/DamnThatsInteresting. Nearly every post over there is, at its core, about a fascinating solution to someone’s problem, and the story behind it.
Oh yeah. Remembering that, even though we decided to be edgy and use an X for experience instead of an e, UX is equally about the experience as it is the user. Literally, it’s right there in the name – or it would be, if the person who coined the term wasn’t too in-touch with their late-90’s Mountain Dew commercials.
The experiences highlighted here stand in stark contrast to /r/WeWantPlates in one key way. While both are visually interesting, what we see over at /r/DamnThatsInteresting is whimsical and functional.
It’s the experience here that stands out, and we as UX professionals can’t forget that piece of our puzzle.
/r/OfCourseThatsAThing – The Lengths We Go to Problem Solve
Imagine you’re traveling alone on business, in a city you’ve never visited and where your friends and family don’t live.
How do you stave off the inevitable loneliness that will creep in the moment your Netflix suggestions fall flat?
Maybe you’ll visit a bar to find someone up for a chat. Maybe you’ll FaceTime your family or friends to see a familiar face.
Or, possibly, you might rent a goldfish to help keep you company in your room during your stay.
It’s no surprise that concept was featured over on /r/OfCourseThatsAThing – a place all about the lengths which people will go to solve very specific problems or meet specific needs. Half /r/WeWantPlates wacky, half /r/DamnThatsInteresting whimsy, /r/OfCourseThatsAThing serves to illustrate that where there’s a problem, there’s an (often unreasonable but ingenuitive) solution.
Some problems and their importance may not seem big to us as UXers, but they were important enough to someone out there create things like $80, app-based, temperature-controlled mugs and and typewriters that type musical notes rather than words.
Would I design – or even contemplate – 90% of what shows up on /r/OfCourseThatsAThing? Hell, no. But you know what? I am not the user. What’s important to me is not necessarily what’s important to the people using these products.
If /r/OfCourseThatsAThing underlines anything, it’s staying curious about our users and their needs. It highlights the need to never overlook the utility of UX testing, uncovering the needs and wants of our users, and finding solutions to their problems – not ours.
/X Needs to Be Lived
Looking for UX in the world around us is a big part of becoming a great UX professional. In the same way that you may not notice how many of particular car is on the road until you buy that model, it’s easy to miss the UX lessons we encounter every day unless we’re paying attention.
While reddit should (hopefully) remain a small part of your life, like everything else we do, it should seek to provide us with guidance and inspiration.
With the help of non-UX design subreddits filled with clueless chefs, fascinating problem solvers, and inventive minds, reddit can do just that.