Stop Saying This to Designers

“Something’s missing in this design. I can’t put my finger on it. What do you think?”

If I knew what was missing, I would have fixed it by now, so that question makes no sense. I can agree or disagree on whether something is missing, but what I really want from you is information. Imagine if a film director asked this ridiculous question to his actors. Imagine if a teacher said this to her students!

That question is a long-winded way of saying “Can you make it pop?” while pretending to be a two-way conversation opener. How can this lead to a meaningful discussion? Offer guidance, suggestions, and proper feedback. Designers spend a long time thinking about how to make great products. Examine our creations carefully and think about what you would like. We won’t always agree, but I would much rather debate with you about what design features are necessary instead of playing a guessing game with you.

Perhaps you thought that framing the question this way would make it seem like you’re giving me more freedom to work. There could be a thousand things wrong with the design. How can we begin solving the problem if there’s no starting point?

Here’s a few questions that would lead to a meaningful discussion and solution:

  • I think x needs work. How about we do y instead?
  • I believe we should look at x for inspiration.
  • X isn’t consistent with y. Why don’t we try z?

Or, if you really don’t know what you want, I’m happy to give you time to think about it. If you want me to think about what’s missing without any input whatsoever, that’s not helpful to me at all. Let’s help each other. Designing is a collaborative process, and it means sharing ideas that are worthwhile.

Originally published at on April 19, 2016.

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