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Posted April 24, 2023

From Dreams to Reality: The Challenges of Designing for Functionality

The Sauce Labs Open Source fellowship is a six month program introducing beginners to the full open source life cycle of a project from user research to deployment. Since December, five fellows have been working on transforming Elemental Selenium to an open source project.


This interview explores the challenges and joys of the design process, with a focus on the importance of user advocacy and effective communication. Django Skorupa shares his experience with the Sauce Labs Open Source Fellowship and the lessons he has learned about the nature of design and the need to balance dreams with functional possibilities. 

Janackeh: Hi Django! Can you give us an overview of your experience with the fellowship from a design standpoint?

Django: Of course! For me, design is a holistic process that involves a lot of thinking and application. In this fellowship, we started by defining a research plan together and writing a survey, then conducting interviews with users. During the interviews, I listened for the issues that users were facing and tried to identify solutions to those problems. The research process helped us invalidate some of our initial assumptions about user personas, and we ended up with a goal of updating the site to a new version and making it open-source to create a self-sustaining community.

Janackeh: What's been the most challenging part of design for you so far?

Django: The most challenging part has been narrowing the initial scope of the project. It's difficult to cull my dreams down to functional possibilities.

Janackeh: And what's been the most fun part of design?

Django: The most fun part is when everything clicks and falls into place. I remember changing the footer I had previously designed and realizing that it made the website feel complete. It was like sitting in a perfect ergonomic chair.

Janackeh: What’s the biggest lesson you’re learning from this experience?

Django: The biggest lesson is the importance of communication. As a designer, I'm first and foremost a communicator. It doesn't matter how great my ideas are if I can't organize, communicate, and listen effectively. Design exists at the intersection of user wants, business needs, and developer ability, so it's essential to be able to communicate effectively with all stakeholders.

Janackeh: Any final thoughts?

Django: Good design is all about user advocacy. It's about listening to users and bringing their wants and needs to a business in order to create a better product as a whole. Design cannot exist in a vacuum and requires a supported team to succeed.

Apr 24, 2023
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