I have been working as a designer in big teams as well as a lone ranger freelancer, but one thing I found common in both roles was the importance of taking constant feedbacks in the entire process of design. I’d share some of my experiences which lately I feel is not something new we preach but definitely be served as helpful techniques for upcoming design talent and maybe a reminder to us as well if we are making the same mistakes still. Many of them are psychic as I believe our skills are always growing in our career span and it’s our personality only which can take us the distance which is decided by us.
Fear of the unknown in early years
In my experience of managing teams in the capacity of head of design or when I worked with clients or design teams in different time zones, I have had the privilege of working with some exceptional young talent with the age-old problem of working in their own created world. Especially in big teams, we have people from all backgrounds, while some of them are coming from reputed design schools, there are many of them who just happen to be in design out of their love or just stumbled upon Photoshop, mastered it and pursue the passion. In my part of the world, while the design is still very young in terms of a career option, there are no avenues in abundance where we can get that great foundation in us to be laid.
In previous teams, we managed to have a good feedback process and it allowed all designers to showcase their work on a daily basis and not to my surprise, I found many of us hesitant in doing so. The fear of a presentation in front of an audience is not an unknown one, in spite of the fact that the audience is very much our own team. Fear that he/she may fail or criticised whatever they are creating and be judged.
This is how most human beings would behave, it’s natural, that being in surroundings unknown or situations uncomfortable for our likings, brings out the fear of how we will be perceived and we usually lose confidence in ourselves.
I learned this long back and had this similar mindset until a few times I realized that while I am perceived as naive in the start but once I am aware of the unknown while being in these situations was only helping unearth new possibilities and that each stupid question I had or an answer to a question which I did not have, once revealed to me made me smarter. We have to learn that we are already being hired basis our skills and it’s via these learnings on the way we would shape our path ahead. This belief is so much strengthened when my 6-year-old daughter repeatedly keeps on asking at least a dozen questions daily of the time I spend with her and she’s never tired. Reminds me that forever if we treat ourselves as students better we are towards new findings.
Choosing our battles
Looking back on my still early years I remember myself as an energetic guy filled with passion and trying to sell my ideas as much as I can and sometimes harder than required. Many times jumping the gun before the trigger was pushed and coming out of meetings feeling victorious only to learn after a couple of follow up meetings that the entire direction wasn’t going the way it was desired.
Human beings are opposed to when confronted on their beliefs, designers are no different.
Every time I was confronted I thought of it as a losing battle and pushed for more. Peers respected me being a designer and left it to me on design choices when I pushed too hard, but it was me in the end who learned it the hard way that while everyone is not a designer but they are surely potential users or are subject matter experts in their own domains and their perspective would only strengthen the entire design choices being made. I started reaching out more people in my full-time jobs and started rigorous interactions with clients when freelancing and above all started listening more and still defend where ever I could, quickly iterate the ones which didn’t make the cut and moved on. This approach meant, peers not from design backgrounds felt connected with whatever was presented as everyone felt we are making progress and as time passed on, more credibility was achieved along with connectedness with them to achieve a common goal: a great product.
Iterate to reach the perfection
I can’t think of a time which I can remember that I cracked the design problem the first time I sketched or created a layout on Photoshop. It has always been an iterative process especially when we are designing for others and not for ourselves.
There isn’t any perfect design or a product yet made! If they say there is, they are probably drunk!
As good UX practitioners, we may create a highly usable user flow or an information architecture but it’s never ever achieved on day 1 or that first night out with a couple of beers and a pack of cigarettes. Some use case or the other is always there hidden be it a design flaw, or a business use case or at many times, a tech constraint. A combination of all of these helps us to reach the ultimate goal, the perfect first design ready to be tested with potential users only to be iterated again to meet the ever-changing needs of highly agile users in this mobile age.
It makes us even more responsible as designers who are entrusted by product teams to create a valid and strong product hypothesis, for a business to be executed by technology geniuses. Gathering early feedbacks with all the stakeholders mentioned above is what is going to lead entire design to succeed. If we lay back and think we are creating that next cool design, well, only divine intervention could possibly be involved in its success as in no way a design story alone can validate an idea’s credibility let alone be its success.
Design culture, an expectation may be too much
An extremely popular term nowadays where we expect a support(actually importance) for design from all corners in an organization. But in this expectation we forget that we designers are the first and most important evangelists for design culture to spread in our surroundings and help design flourish, rather we think of us as sacred guardian keepers of a well-kept secret.
While, a client or an organization has to have this faith in good design versus bad design, it is also on to designers how they spread the goodness of design rather work out of a hard-shelled factory which has some good stuff cooking and above all which is unknown to all. We are in the age of cult examples of Apple and Airbnb, but then, such conditions are not available everywhere in entirety to work and it comes down to initiatives being taken from us. The expectation is right and if we can get lucky at times and when we do, we should make most of it and when not, maybe we still strive towards it.
In the end what I have experienced and learned so far in my career is that design being so subjective, is still treated as art and not science especially in our part of the world and with so much of content accessible to all of us, it is natural for everyone to act as a designer, or care for design while not formally being educated towards it. While we are still struggling to explain UX is not UI, it is up to us as experience designers to raise the art of patience listening, filter the right feedbacks out of the noise and back it with our knowledge to push for right designs solutions for our users.
For surely, it’s us who would get better with each feedback and it’s the users who should never suffer and be benefitted in every possible way design should make it happen.