#21: Observer effect, Designing for colour-blind people, Q&A with Sarah McVean

💡 “Get Hired in UX” Manual

About a couple of weeks ago, I posted an idea that would help entry-level and junior UX designers navigate the job hunting journey and get hired faster. I am looking for 20 people to pre-order it. I am halfway there.

Would be fantastic if you could share this with your connections and help me spread the word. If I get 20 pre-orders, I will create it. If not, will refund the money and re-think the approach and next steps. Thanks in advance 🙏

Get Hired in UX Manual

🧠 Cognitive biases

Observer effect

Researchers tend to subconsciously (or sometimes consciously) influence participants of their study to lead them in a favourable direction.

This is a dangerous one especially for designers who do their own user research. That is why it is generally not recommended to conduct usability research on your own designs. This can be in the form of leading questions during the study, subtle communication of the study expectations, or even altering or selective recording of the results.

One very curious example showing this effect was conducted in the early 1900s when it was claimed that a horse could perform some mental tasks (e.g. arithmetics) when a formal investigation revealed that the horse was looking at the trainer’s reactions. Fascinating 😮

A good technique used to prevent this bias in research is called double-blinding (meaning that both participants and the researcher are not aware of some information).

♿️ Accessibility


Inability to distinguish between certain kinds of colours. The correct term is Color Vision Deficiency (CVD).


  • Red-green (most common, up to 10% of men)

  • Blue-yellow

  • Grayscale

  • Red-black

  • … and more.


  • Specialized glasses (patented by EnChroma)

  • Cool test if you have any colour vision deficiency: Start test

Design tips:

  • All information must be understandable without needing to distinguish between colours. Reds and greens are especially problematic when used as the only way to convey information.

Think about this:

If you couldn’t differentiate red-green colours, how would you:

  • Understand if your steak is raw or well-done?

  • Choose ripe tomatoes?

  • Not confuse ketchup and chocolate syrup?

  • Differentiate street light colours? (yes, they use consistent order to address this, but just imagine how less obvious it would have been if you could not see the colour-coding)

  • etc.

It’s hard to imagine not seeing the full spectrum of colours (if you are lucky and can see all colours). Consider this when choosing your palettes.

❓The bigger (and probably stupid) question I have though, is how can one person know what colours can the other person see? What if two people see colours completely differently, but use the same labels to describe these different colours (you see grass as green and call it “green”, and I see grass as orange, but also call it “green” as I have been taught since birth that the colour of grass is labelled as “green”? How can we know how another person’s brain decodes the colours of the world? How can we know for sure? It’s a mystery to me… 🤔

🤔 From around the web

I helped pioneer UX design. What I see today disturbs me.

UX processes in many organizations these days amount to little more than “UX Theatre”: creating the appearance of due diligence and a patina of legitimacy that’s just enough to look like a robust design process to uninformed business leaders and hopeful UX recruits alike.

Very curious article from a veteran of UX design Jesse James Garrett (remember Adaptive Path?). Highly recommend. Read article.

🎙 Podcast

Episode #6: Q&A with Sarah McVean

In this episode, I am speaking with Sarah McVean. Sarah is a senior UX professional with a lot of experience in designing products, managing teams, and now teaching a UX course. We talk about building relationships on social media, volunteering and partnering with other people to work on projects for your portfolio, what you should show in the case studies, the importance of cover letters, insights about working with recruiters to hire designers, and many more topics on UX career.

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Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. They don’t represent any of my current or previous employers’ views.