Things I wish I knew when I started designing. – UX Planet
Sharing some personal experiences.
Hello there! Hope everything’s great with y’all.
It’s been a while since I posted my first article and, if you didn’t read this, I highly encourage you to do it, seriously.
So, to begin with, let me tell you something. I guess, this topic wouldn’t be useful to the Senior part of the community, I mean to those, who has at least 2 or 3 years of real work experience, because those individuals already faced that obstacles during their career start. But I do strongly recommend this to beginners or recent graduates, since I made some crucial mistakes I am going to share with you.
Yep, mostly it will be connected to the Design, however, there will be couple of general cases, thus, even those who are out of the Design might also discover something interesting. I’ll try to make it as easy as possible, that’s how concept of my articles works.
So, get yourself comfortable, prepare a cup of tea and here we go.
Be flexible, stay focused
Have you ever heard about “T-shaped skills”? No? I’ll explain it to you.
T-shaped skills actually describe specific attributes of an employee. The top bar of “T” letter demonstrates the capability in a lot of areas, whilst the vertical bar demonstrates the deep-down knowledge and expertise in one particular area.
In my case, I’ve got a knowledge in some Design areas, namely: Graphic Design, Illustrations, Web/Mobile Design, sort of Motion Design and Branding. Since then, I found myself really interested in Web/Mobile Design and started to dig deeper and that’s how I got my vertical bar of “T” letter.
Currently, I’m in Product Design and this is where my other skills are really in need. Because the Product Design is not only about UI and UX, it is also about full product lifecycle, starting from problem identification, idea generation and finishing with some high-fidelity mockups and prototypes. At this role I am also responsible for some visual components of a product (it may vary from some web banners to brand guidelines and animations).
Thus, if you are new to design and technologies, try to find out what really interests you and who you will become in couple of years. Once you identified your specific area, be more expert in this by digging deeper and deeper.
Pencils before Pixels
The name of a title speaks for itself. You got an idea? Sketch it. You got a potential solution? Sketch it. You stuck during your design process? Start sketching from scratch.
But what is sketching? It is a rapidly executed drawing usually intended to represent an idea, concept or a solution. In other words, it is a pictorial representation of thoughts or some picture in your mind. Sketching helps you identify early stage issues that might be faced in future, when building prototypes.
Let’s say you need to design the checkout process for your app or product. Firstly, analyze the problem, find out possible solutions and outcomes and which of them are the most suitable for your TA (Target Audience). Then, based on your research sketch some screens and the flow of that process.
“Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see.“— Edgar Degas
Well, as a Product Designer, my process was everything like I mentioned above. We got a problem, I started some basic analysis and research, then, based on my findings I proposed some hypothesis on how to overcome the issue. My proposals were supported with those sketches and, eventually, they became prototypes which could be used for some usability and information architecture testing.
You will spend 20% of your time and skills to do that drawing, however, those drawings will bring you 80% of your main result.
And that’s where the “Pareto Principle” takes place.
The “Pareto” thing
I bet everyone heard the term “Pareto Principle” and I guess majority of you know what exactly this means. However, I’ll make some things clear.
The Pareto Principle, or some call it 80/20 rule, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The term is originated from Italian economist — Vilfredo Pareto, who noticed that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. In other words, 20% of the effort will generate 80% of the result.
Though, you may heard some variations, namely:
- 80% of errors are caused by 20% of code
- 80% of sales come from 20% of sales staff
- 80% of attention is spent on 20% of the web page
However, some figures may vary depending on a situation. But how is it connected to UX/UI Design?
Well, if you’ll do your UX research in terms of your product’s usability issues, you’ll might notice that fixing only several major problems will satisfy 70% to 80% of all users.
The image above demonstrates the problems users faced while trying to rent a car on the enterprise website. Basically, of the 33 usability issues identified among 50 users, fixing nine of them will resolve 72% of all interaction problems. Thanks to Jeff Sauro’s article and research. For further reading, it can be accessed here.
As a Product Designer, I had faced a Pareto rule as well. In fact, while I was redesigning the UX of a specific webpage, I did some sketches (as I mentioned earlier). Those sketches took roughly 20% of my time and skills, however, the result and idea it brought to me was nearly 80% of what I really wanted. Drawings significantly reduced my time wastage and improved my analytical thinking skills as well.
Analysis and Research are your best friends
Did I mention analysis? Oh yes, and I will do it again. I mean, analyze everything you working with. Got a problem? Make some analysis. Too much of work to do? Make an analysis and prioritize things.
As a UX/Product Designer, you will face huge amount of user problems, for example: the flow of a website is bad and you lose your potential clients; navigation is awful and users just close the page/application; bad conversion rates at a specific webpages; and so on and so for.
While you got those problems, start with simple analysis. Identifying the problem right and accepting the right task will resolve the issue on approximately 80% of your main result. Oh, “80%” again. Funny, isn’t it? Now you know how everything is interconnected.
“Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliche, it’s the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression.” — Robert McKee
When I was receiving tasks, I kept questioning “why?” on every single fact, hypothesis and idea. Simple questions made my concentration pretty accurate. Starting from simple problem identification helped me navigate towards the right solution. Moreover, doing the UX Research supported my findings and ideas. Since then, I do really spend lil’ bit more time on doing research and analysis than expected, cuz’ those factors will influence the whole product in the future.
There’s not so much left to cover. Seriously.
Programming? Sure, why not
And the Award of the “most discussed question of all time” goes to “Should designers code?”. Well, it depends. (Most suitable answer of all time, I’m not kidding).
I mean, it depends because of you. You and nothing else matters. If you are planning to be a great Product Designer or, hopefully, Chief Design Officer (CDO), you should know at least how the system works and how Developers interact with each other. On the other hand, if you want to be an Illustrator or Graphic Designer, probably you don’t need programming at all. Cuz’ that’s not your area of specialization, right?
But I can say one thing. Learn basics of technology and how it works, at least it won’t be shameful of you not knowing how ordinary PC or system performs. This knowledge will help you understand the technology world and bring so many ideas to your creative mind; and, perhaps, you might be the second Jony Ive, isn’t it?
Well, I got my Bachelor’s in Software Development, so I do know some advanced things of how system operates. Moreover, working closely with Devs improved my analytical thinking skills and broadened my mind in terms of Programming. And now I can easily get along with Developers and make some friends there. And yes, I am planning to be a Developer later on. I love that.
Ideas and discussions, discussions and ideas
Never, never and again never refuse your ideas. Doesn’t matter how unbelievable they are, doesn’t matter how futuristic they are. Do not be afraid of any idea that comes to your mind. Be only afraid of not generating them. Note them down, even while taking a bus or a subway. Sort out them later on or discuss with your colleagues/friends.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” — Scott Adams
As a Designer, brainstorming process is really helpful and your job is to solve problems. Idea generation is the essential part of that process. It helps you to resolve issues in a very extraordinary way, however, you have to be aware of “over-unusualness” cuz’ you might break down the whole system or strategy.
Think a lot. Give your thoughts some space. Allow yourself some mistakes, but be aware of which ones to keep. Have a conversation with Devs or Product Manager, evolve yourself and one day you’ll be thankful for not stepping back.