What is a design lens? Why is designing with lenses so important in user experience and product development?

As we know, it’s easy to get tunnel vision, to get stuck on your perspective, to design in a silo. Design lenses help us see our product and vet product ideas through different perspectives.

Recently, I’ve been doing this in one project of my own, a re-imagination of the website for The UX Notebook.

When I start any project, I allow myself time to go into research mode. I ask a ton of questions, talk to people, and explore similar products. But I create a deadline for research. Why?

Because I find that staying in research mode can create a false sense of progress. Eventually, you reach a point where you have enough information to act. You don’t really need any new information. But, you keep researching because, more than likely, you’re afraid to start.

I’m just reaching the end of my research phase for the new website. I’ve been trying to focus on the content. I have so many ideas for what could be on the new The UX Notebook website. But because this is also a business, I have to look at each idea I have through 3 design lenses.

First, the design lens of the customer … you! Will the idea or feature be helpful to your needs and your goals, teach you something, or help you take action?

Second, the design lens of my team, which is really just me and my virtual assistant, Emma. I have to consider how much time and effort it will take us to keep the content fresh, and if it’s truly worth that effort.

Third, the design lens of partners. Yes, I do have partners and sponsors for The UX Notebook because they help offset the costs associated with creating it each week. Although I always put you the customer first, I also need to make sure that the partners are included in a way that ensures their goals are met. So I have to look at my ideas and the content through the lens of the partners and sponsors.

Balancing the needs of all the stakeholders is something that you get better at with experience.

I think when you’re just starting out, you focus on the user, and that’s great.

But as you mature, you realize that to create a great experience is impossible if you don’t have the support of the business stakeholders and advertisers or partners.