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Success by a Thousand Cuts

5 reasons you should be sharing your designs as early as possible

Put the knife down and walk away from the baby…

It’s always difficult when someone criticizes our work. We spent a lot of time and effort to bring our creation to life. It’s only natural to feel protective…defensive. But, before we circle the wagons and load the rifles, let’s look at a few reasons why we should proactively seek feedback instead of designing in a vacuum.

Uncovering weaknesses

Let’s face it, even the most well thought out designs have weaknesses. Whether it be confusing hierarchies, overly complex interactions, unclear messaging or any host of other flaws, it’s rare that we ever get things right the first time. By sharing our designs with our peers, or putting them in front of actual users, we can discover those vulnerabilities and make our products more bulletproof.

Battle tested

Throughout the process of designing a product, we make hundreds of decisions. Each of those choices will affect other choices we will make down the road. Sometimes we can paint ourselves into a corner due to a decision we made in an earlier iteration. By exposing our designs often, we give people an opportunity to challenge the decisions we made. Challenges are a good thing. If we can successfully explain the rationale behind our decisions, we can have more confidence that our designs are sound. But, what if we can’t successfully defend our decisions? Don’t worry, we still win. When our designs don’t hold up to scrutiny, we still win, because we get the opportunity to make them better before they go into production. The earlier we discover potential issues, the earlier we have a chance to fix them.

New perspectives

No matter how much time and effort you have put into a design, there is always something you didn’t think about. Sometimes we are so focused and zoomed into our solutions, that we have a hard time pulling back and looking at things from a different angle. Involving others can help us to look at things from a different point of view. By doing so it only makes our designs stronger. We shouldn’t just share our designs with other designers. Developers, product owners and non-industry folks can offer fresh perspectives that we might not have considered. Everyone is capable of providing valuable feedback.

Hearts, sleeves and thick skin

As designers, we have a tendency to define ourselves by our work. It’s not just something we made, it’s a part of us. So when people find deficiencies in our work, we feel like they are saying we are inadequate too. We take it personal. Getting feedback at various stages allows us to get more comfortable with divorcing ourselves from our designs. By doing so, we can become less sensitive and more objective about criticism. We are not our designs. Most of us work in a team. While our team members may have different functional roles, it is important to remember that we are all working towards the same goal. We all want to build the the best product possible. So the next time someone critiques your design, remember they are not critiquing you. They are trying to provide constructive feedback to something you created. They are trying to help make it better.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

We all want to be respected by our colleagues, right? Asking for advice can be an invaluable tool to making sure that happens. By not being afraid to share our creations and open them up to constructive feedback we can demonstrate a higher level of professionalism. From this, others can see that we are focused on the product and the people using it instead of boosting our own ego or being afraid of looking dumb. Sharing our work also gives others a better understanding of how we think about solving problems. Finally, our fearlessness can be a great example that encourages others to share their work as well. In doing so, we can help to create a culture that places quality over individual achievement.

Putting our work out for public scrutiny can be a scary thing. But when we do the math, the cumulative benefits outweigh our fears. The more often we ask for feedback, the more comfortable and objective we become about sharing our work. The more we share our work, the better chance we have to create quality products that people will want to use. And that is a success, any way you slice it.

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