Leaving the Designer Vacuum

This morning, I woke up and saw a message from my cofounder — “Yo. This is what we had originally planned on doing! Ugh im having to redo old designs.”

I understand his frustration. In fact, I have had the same frustrations with him. Features that are completed are suddenly not working, with no explanation, and it pushes back the update schedule. What helped me to alleviate my anxiety when these things happen is what I believe will help him regarding design.

I had to view developing through the lens of design.

Looking at design through the lens of a developer is very different than looking at development through the lens of a designer.
Design isn’t subjective. It’s just as tedious as programming in some respects. You must figure out how to shape the computer’s behavior, while I must figure out how to shape the user’s behavior.

“ UX design is based on data. It’s like bugs. It requires testing. Design isn’t subjective. It’s just as tedious as programming in some respects. You must figure out how to shape the computer’s behavior, while I must figure out how to shape the user’s behavior. While you can beta test, though, this is not something I have the luxury of doing. My pressure is in getting things right the first time, which is why I spend so much time in the sketching phase and I have to delay sometimes.”

As designers, we often feel as though it’s imperative we learn everything we can about design — and we should; but in order to truly understand our own craft, we must understand it through the lens of others. I explained to Matt the design process in terms of bugs (pretty much the extent to which I understand programming); however, had I known more, I might have been able to make it even clearer.

Consider evolutionary biology

Design is a lot like evolutionary biology. Testing on humans is the last resort, because we reproduce at a relatively slow rate; fruit flies, however, reproduce very rapidly and we are able to quickly see the changes from generation to the generation. With design, I am testing on humans and there are no fruit fly equivalents that can help to speed up the process. I must project human behavior and try to anticipate the actions of the largest percentage to guide them to completing some activity, while still offering them the freedom to initiate another. Much like you cannot foresee the generational changes, I must wait for the results to duplicate the experiment with a newly changed variable.

How’d I do? Not perfect, but neither is my understanding of evolutionary biology — and that’s my point! It is imperative that teams understand the science behind the magic in their roles, lest they become indistinguishable. From our product manager to our content writer to our finance officer, things develop as part of a process; part of that process is failure and repeat with modification.

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.
- Bill Gates

It took me quite some time to realize that having a few bugs at launch is an amazing feat! There shouldn’t be a perfect product launch. If there is, that just means we weren’t ambitious enough or spent far too much time developing. Once I did realize it, I quickly relayed this information to the rest of the team in a context that each of them could understand.

Learning design helped me learn to talk to designers, but learning outside of design helps me talk to my team.

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