"What do you think of when I say the word "design"? You probably think of things like this, finely crafted objects that you can hold in your hand, or maybe logos and posters and maps that visually explain things, classic icons of timeless design. But I'm not here to talk about that kind of design. I want to talk about the kind that you probably use every day and may not give much thought to, designs that change all the time and that live inside your pocket. I'm talking about the design of digital experiences and specifically the design of systems that are so big that their scale can be hard to comprehend. Consider the fact that Google processes over one billion search queries every day, that every minute, over 100 hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube. That's more in a single day than all three major U.S. networks broadcast in the last five years combined. And Facebook transmitting the photos, messages and stories of over 1.23 billion people. That's almost half of the Internet population, and a sixth of humanity.
These are some of the products that I've helped design over the course of my career, and their scale is so massive that they've produced unprecedented design challenges. But what is really hard about designing at scale is this: It's hard in part because it requires a combination of two things, audacity and humility — audacity to believe that the thing that you're making is something that the entire world wants and needs, and humility to understand that as a designer, it's not about you or your portfolio, it's about the people that you're designing for, and how your work just might help them live better lives. Now, unfortunately, there's no school that offers the course Designing for Humanity 101. I and the other designers who work on these kinds of products have had to invent it as we go along, and we are teaching ourselves the emerging best practices of designing at scale, and today I'd like share some of the things that we've learned over the years.
Now, the first thing that you need to know about designing at scale is that the little things really matter. Here's a really good example of how a very tiny design element can make a big impact. The team at Facebook that manages the Facebook "Like" button decided that it needed to be redesigned. The button had kind of gotten out of sync with the evolution of our brand and it needed to be modernized. Now you might think, well, it's a tiny little button, it probably is a pretty straightforward, easy design assignment, but it wasn't. Turns out, there were all kinds of constraints for the design of this button. You had to work within specific height and width parameters. You had to be careful to make it work in a bunch of different languages, and be careful about using fancy gradients or borders because it has to degrade gracefully in old web browsers. The truth is, designing this tiny little button was a huge pain in the butt. "
How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too) by Margaret Gould Stewart explains how Facebook's "like" and "share" buttons are seen 22 billion times a day, making them some of the most-viewed design elements ever created.
Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook's director of product design, outlines three rules for design at such a massive scale—one so big that the tiniest of tweaks can cause global outrage, but also so large that the subtlest of improvements can positively impact the lives of many.
About the speaker
Margaret Gould Stewart · User experience master
At Facebook (and previously at YouTube), Margaret Gould Stewart designs experiences that touch the lives of a large percentage of the world's population.