The most underrated sentence in UX design

Apparently, UX people love to argue. There are always topics that end up in endless debates. Just try one of the following questions as a conversation starter when meeting a designer:

  • “Is material design good or bad?”
  • “What is the best prototyping tool?”
  • “Should I really never put a carousel on a website?”

What you’ll find is that responses might vary but most designers have very strong opinions which they’re eager to share.

What you will rarely hear, though, is:

I don’t know, it depends.

Maybe that’s because UX designers are usually considered the wise ones with the ultimate answers. But I’m afraid there aren’t many ultimate answers in UX. It’s an ever-changing area where we constantly try to find the right balance between our users, technology, business, and other stakeholders.

UX design is not about knowing the right answers. It’s about finding them.

Most answers should be preceded by a bunch of questions anyway

Finding the best prototyping tool is a hard challenge — there’s plenty of them. They’re usually very different and nearly impossible to objectively compare. But it’s safe to say that the best one for you is probably the one that is easy for you to learn, that is compatible with the tools you are currently using, that has the functionality you need to try your ideas, and so on. It all depends on your needs and skills.

Design decisions are not all black-or-white

Bad patterns can sometimes be right

Carousels have a bad reputation, too. It’s an off-canvas technique where some of the content is hidden so some users might not be able to find it. But again, what if those parts are intentionally hidden, because they’re secondary? Couldn’t the carousel be a great pattern to differentiate between the obvious, the easy, and the possible options? Just like how Amazon displays related products in a paginated carousel or how Airbnb lets you browse through photos of an accommodation without leaving the search results page.

Are carousels always bad?

Even usability principles can be relative

Most designers agree that you shouldn’t give users too many options. Actually, it depends. What if the range of options is a primary value of the product you’re designing? Photoshop, Axure, or Excel are great examples. They all have super complicated functionality and cluttered screens and yet people use it every day! (Although users can customize the toolbars to some degree.) So it’s not always a terrible idea to have tons of choices on the interface. It depends.

In most cases, context is everything

It’s really okay not to know

“The true method of knowledge is experiment.”
–William Blake

Looking for such answers is actually the most exciting part of our job. Asking and answering philosophical questions is not. Or maybe it is. I don’t know. It depends.

I’d love to know your thoughts, feel free to ping me on Twitter or LinkedIn. By the way, we’re looking for UX designers to our Budapest office. And we’re also hosting an amazing UX conference in Budapest.

UX enthusiastic design principal at IBM, co-organizer of Amuse UX Conference and co-author of UX Myths. Views are my own. http://kollin.hu

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