What are the mountains to die on?

When should a designer throw up a fuss?

I read this piece a few weeks ago and have been mulling over how it influences me. This is the main point:

Good UX designers must be fighters, because compromised designs are not good designs.

My first impulse on reading was, “YEAH! No more compromise! Let’s do this!”

But let’s be real.

If you’re the person everybody is fighting all the time, you reach a point where nobody wants to work with you. Not everything matters enough to have a battle over, and battle wears everyone out.

So how do I evaluate what’s worth pushing through and what I will (sometimes still grudgingly) let slide? This depends on where the objection is coming from.

Stakeholder objection

Ask a non-designer about it

Do a simple A/B test with a non-designer in your target audience. Present the options in a non-biased way. Do they have a strong reaction one way or the other? Document it and bring it to battle. Is it a weak reaction — even if they pick yours? Then maybe this isn’t something worth spending hours over.

Developer/Engineer/Database/Technical Objection

Really listen to the other voices in the room

You know what — your design is really kick ass. It truly is the best, objectively and subjectively, and if you’re building from scratch, you’re usually in a great place to get it moved forward.

But if you’re working within an existing system, which for most designers is the majority of their time, listening to the history and current infrastructure is incredibly important.

For instance, if it takes the developer 40 hours to change a database table to accommodate a piece of your design — find out how important that piece is to the user. If it’s important — do what you can to extend the timeline and give the developer room to build. In timelines it’s almost always the developers that get the short end of the stick, so the more you can alleviate that, the better you’ll work together.

If it’s relatively unimportant, maybe there can be a compromise to achieve the design with an easier implementation.

Semi Conclusion

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of thinking that everything matters — stories of A/B testing will tell you “Light blue is better than that Lighter blue!” but I’m trying to remind myself that things have weight, not just right or wrong.

I’m not the end all, be all. My opinion, even when backed by data and research, is not gold. It should hold weight, but I am human.

Maybe something on the page is wrong according to my expertise, but if it gets out the product out the door sooner and you’ve got a happy developer and stakeholder and it impacts the user in a truly trivial way, then well — if it’s not healthcare then it’s probably fine.

NOTE: I don’t consider this a concluded piece. I’d love to hear some thoughts about where you’ve placed your boundaries and how you choose your battles.

On another note, I highly recommend reading “Articulating Design Decision”

Ashley Crutcher is a Digital Designer at InterVarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her cat, crafting, working out, and thinking too much about everything.

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