Approaching an Old Challenge in a New Way
How a fresh perspective can make a world of difference
Started From the Bottom
When I started off at 4C, I knew nothing. Well maybe a little more than nothing but it’s understandable that I wouldn’t be as familiar with the product as I would be even just a few months in. Depending on the product it can take a few days, weeks, or even months to fully understand a product that you are designing for. Many people might see this as a bad thing. They want to get up to full speed as quickly as possible, because the quicker they understand the product, the quicker they can help on it. In my opinion though, a fresh perspective is one of the most valuable things a company can have.
When you have been working at a company for a while, you get into routines. It’s just human nature to become used to the way things are. Routines are shortcuts for the mind, so that less energy is spent on thinking. Do you truly remember brushing your teeth this morning? Probably not, because it is part of your routine and something you really don’t have to think about.
The same thing happens when working at a company. You go to the same meetings, talk with the same people, and work on the same product. You become used to the way that the product works. The ins and outs of the system make sense to you.
Shake Things Up
When you come along with a fresh perspective, the illusion is shattered for everyone else. Something that once seemed flawless to them, is now riddled with flaws. Improvements can be made in dozens of different places throughout the platform. When you are brand new, you don’t understand the way that things are “supposed to work” on the platform, you see things the way they are. The reason that this is crucial, is that it is a similar perspective to how a new user sees a platform. Everything is brand new to them, they are starting off at square one.
An example of where this helped me greatly was early on in my time here at 4C. I was tasked with reworking the way that one of our services worked. The current design used a panel that could be opened up for further details and information. The design I would propose would utilize a right rail to organize the details.
- Layout was inconsistent
- Content was hard to read
- Lacked flexibility
- The layout stays consistent no matter how much content
- Simple vertical lists are easier to read
- The grid system allows for more flexibility
The concept of the right rail grew from looking at other platforms similar and dissimilar to our own. Learning from others and then expanding upon their work, tailoring it to your platform, for your users is crucial.
The fresh perspective that I had when I came in definitely helped with this project. I wasn’t used to the way that the panel table worked, so it was easier to question if it was truly serving the purpose it was intended to do.
While us designers are not our users, it is important for us to continuously try and see things from a user’s perspective. The more that a designer can do that, the more user friendly their products will be. Unfortunately though, a fresh perspective can fade over time. The more that you work on a product, the more used to the product you become. So how do you keep a fresh perspective and a user mindset when you become more experienced at a company?
You can keep a fresh perspective in a lot of ways. One way is to continue to get feedback from others with that fresh perspective. This might include others at the company that don’t work on the pieces of the product that you do, but it is especially effective to get feedback from users themselves. Products should be built to make the best experience for their users. This may sound obvious but it is something that many companies still struggle to do. Understanding what a user likes or why a user might be struggling is invaluable information. If one user struggles with something, there is a high likelihood that they are not alone. The more potential pain points that they can point out on the platform, the better.
Another way to get a fresh perspective is to look outside of the platform. Looking towards other platforms for solutions can be very effective. Understanding how they solve a similar problem can be the solution. You shouldn’t be afraid to take from their knowledge and build on it. Pablo Picasso once said “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” The same can be said for designers.
A product designer with a fresh perspective is an invaluable resource to a company. Although that new employee perspective can fade over time, it is possible to always to approach an old challenge in a new way.
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