Getting older has taught me that the more you know, the more you realize how little you actually know. Over my 20 year design career, I’ve been a web designer, digital art director, UX-designer and while the titles may have changed my passion is still the same. As I’ve gotten more and more confident, I’m finding myself saying the three words that the 21-year old me was afraid to. (Hint: It’s not ‘I love you’).
I may get some flack for this, but designers seem to love to argue just for the sake of arguing. Some of my recent posts – especially Why Designers Need to Write – have stirred up some interesting emotions and comments (hurrah Internet!). Designers have strong feelings about a lot of things it seems. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the comments on any new redesign!
One thing you will rarely hear designers say, especially to clients, are the three words I’m becoming more confident saying:
I don’t know.
I think it’s probably because we’re the ones that are SUPPOSED to have the right answers. Here’s the thing though, in UX-design there’s very rarely a definite “right” answer. It all depends on so many things. A UX-designer’s primary focus should always be the end-user, but we end up having to think about so much more to actually pull off a successful outcome. The project’s stake holders, the current technology possibilities and limitations, budgets, and business objectives all play a role. So while there may be one answer for the end-user, it might not align with the rest.
“Even generic design principles can be challenged at times. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. When making design decisions, you have to consider a lot of things. It always depends.”
Finding the right answer
Our work as designers is about finding solutions to problems, but that should not be mistaken with already knowing the answer to each and every problem. Our work is to discover what we believe is the best answer considering the problem’s context.
We have great tools to help us:
- user research
- prototyping tools
- A/B testing
- user testing
- user interviews
“What works well for another product might not work for you. What works well on a screen might not work on another one. That is because context is key in UX: you should give the users what they need, exactly when they need it. It’s even more important than being consistent or following guidelines.”
Saying ‘I don’t know’ does not mean you’re not experienced. It doesn’t mean you’re not skilled. It actually means the opposite. We get caught in the trap of thinking that our experience equals knowledge and knowledge equals having all the answers. Having the insight and guts to say “I don’t know, it depends” is what makes you a professional. It is what will make you a great designer.
PRE-S: I’m well booked over the summer, but if you’re planning a project for this fall, now is a great time to get in touch.