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029: Be Relentless with Ling Lim

User Defenders podcast
029: Be Relentless with Ling Lim

User Defenders "UX Lifter" Ling Lim

Ling Lim inspires us to be relentless in our pursuit of the person we want to become. She teaches us to create products that connect with our users and their lives by becoming them as much as possible. She challenges us to not sacrifice the sentimental quality of a product when we design for it in the future. She also motivates us to take care of ourselves outside of our work so we can continue to grow in our careers and personal lives.

Ling Lim is a Product Designer currently working at Yahoo based in San Francisco by way of Singapore with an award-winning background in architectural design. She is passionate about using design as a tool to highlight and solve social and urban issues. She mentors students, fellow designers and founders at design events including CascadeSF. When she’s not designing, she’s a competitive powerlifter, solo traveler, snowboarder, writer, and speaker. She also lives relentlessly, values integrity…and tight pants.

  • What Got You Into Lifting (2:41)
  • Secret Identity (3:38)
  • Origin Story (4:58)
  • Ways Architecture Influenced Design (8:59)
  • Do Designers Miss The Importance of Research (12:54)  
  • Biggest Superhero (16:36)
  • Second Career Choice (19:33)
  • Biggest Failure (20:53)
  • Failure Takeaway (25:53)
  • What Do You Say To Uninspired Designers (29:07)
  • Awkward Testing Story (33:49)
  • Design Superpower (34:26)
  • Design Kryptonite (36:10)
  • Design Superhero Name (38:35)
  • Fight For Users (40:28)
  • Future Of UX Design (41:49)
  • Habit Of Success (46:41)
  • How Do You Stay Inspired (47:58)
  • Invincible Resource (30:34)
  • Book Recommendation (49:14)
  • Best Advice (51:23)
  • Most Excited About (53:50)
  • Contact Info (54:37)

Ling’s Twitter
Ling’s Website
[ARTICLE] How Touch Impacts UX
[ARTICLE] Advice For Becoming A UX Designer
[ARTICLE] Approaching UX Design As An Architect

[RESOURCE] Twitter
[BOOK] Thinking Architecture

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Artwork by Eli Jorgensen | Editing by Chris Combs

I have had many experiences of users coming into test the product only to realize that it doesn’t work at all. That’s always awkward.

I always say that my design superpower is my ability to understand that everyone is different. Because I think as a mission I travel a lot. It sounds so simple, but the truth is a lot of people approach problems with their own fixed perceptions. I think it’s inherent to all of us. I’ve traveled to parts of Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, lived in Europe and here in America. It still never fails to amaze me just how different people live their lives and use products. Even if I’m on a ski bus to Tahoe, it’s kinda creepy, but I will creep on how people use their phones. It’s still kinda surprising to me the buttons they click, and like “Oh my God they do that? I don’t do that.”

I think my design kryptonite is that I get too attached to pretty. I’m sure it’s a kryptonite for many designers especially when we come from backgrounds where we’re trained to make things look good. A lot of people when they think about design, they think about pretty things. I was trained to make sure things look balanced. A building must be balanced before it can stand. I make sure everything aligns. Seriously the easiest way to piss me off is to misalign something. Most of the time I think great architectural solutions look good, but I really have to come to accept that great design solutions in UX sometimes don’t look that good. And that visually appealing designs sometimes are not the most user-friendly, and in fact could be really bad designs depending on the goals.

UX Lifter

I become the user. This might sound contradictory to the common UX advice which is “you are not your user”, but I actually mean the same thing. As I mentioned, being an architect, we travel to the site for studies before starting on the design. Eating there, sleeping there, talking to people there. So, I think that I fight for my users by learning that I’m not them, but still try to become them and put myself in their shoes literally. Consider who they are, where they are. Traveling there immersing in their culture. First-hand experience with a problem I think has to be the best way to start designing a great product.

I’m actually rather concerned about it. I love physicality of things and I genuinely hate that we’re moving further and further away from interacting with objects. I actually wrote an article on it. It’s called “How Touch Affects UX”. I wrote an article on it because it really concerns me. I think touch is the most important thing that we can do in life. Skin is the oldest and most sensitive of our organs. Basically it’s our first medium of communication. Yet we’re moving toward a future where a lot of things we touch would be screens, or worse, nothing. When you consider gesture-based designs, or virtual reality, you wouldn’t be touching anything at all.

I’m sure you’ve experienced memories simply by touching something without even thinking about it. When I feel a crack in a porcelain bowl, I’m returned to a memory of myself as a child eating my grandmother’s stew in a similar bowl. I think technology has grown to be so fundamental to our lives that when software needs to integrate successfully for it to become a useful product when in the past it was just hardware and you would be turning knobs on the stove in order to light the fire, but now it’s a glass interface and you adjust temperature based on that.

So I think the tricky thing is, how do we make sure we don’t sacrifice the sentimental quality of a product when we try to design for it in the future. It’s a question I have that I don’t have an answer for yet. The first step we can do is all start by really making sure that a screen-based solution is an actual improvement to our lives and not be blinded by our love for screens.

Power lifting. I lift heavy weights. Because I do that, I sleep a lot, and I eat a lot. Healthy body, healthy mind. If other aspects of my life are not in place, I don’t think I can be productive for work and grow in my career. Always make sure to take care of yourself outside of your career.

I stay inspired by doing new things. I travel. I think that travel is your best teacher for so many things. Even if going on a vacation is not possible for your work, you could just take a different route to work. I doubt that if I were to walk the same route to work every day the rest of my life and never take any vacation that I would be a very inspiring person. Being open to new experiences and new connections is my way to make sure it becomes second nature to me to understand that I’m not my user.

It is to be relentless. It’s my favorite word in the english dictionary. I think that it’s a beautiful word. If you believe in something, you should go after it relentlessly. I believe in the idea that you don’t have to be the person that you were yesterday. You can re-create yourself anytime you want. I think my secret is I think about the person that I want to be and I choose to become that person. I think yo can think about it in a very general sense like “oh tomorrow I want to be happy”, and you choose to become that. But, in terms of growing in your career, I find that n easier way to think about it is to break it down. Start with little questions for yourself whenever an opportunity arises.

Like do I think I’m accomplished enough to speak at a mobile conference? If I want to become that person, I simply become that person. I don’t mean it in the sense that I work towards it in the span of five years, but I immediately get into a space where I feel like I’m good enough to do that and I volunteer myself to do it.

I think that a lot of aspiring UX superheroes are probably people transitioning from a different profession like myself. If your journey is going to be anything like mine–it’s going to be frustrating at times, and you’re going to feel lonely at times, and you’re going to want to give up. I definitely thought about giving up, but I think the one thing that stopped me was understanding why I wanted to change in the first place. I knew that if I gave up I would be going back to the same old life that I had. Maybe your life sucked. Maybe it’s not that bad. But it’s not great, it’s not where you want to be and for whatever reason, it’s not good enough for you right now. So, I think people should just keep in mind as they move forward that even when they get unsure what they’re doing to be sure about why they’re doing it…and just move forward relentlessly.