ON DESIGN: IGNORE THIS SHIT, BUT LISTEN CAREFULLY HERE

ON DESIGN: IGNORE THIS SHIT, BUT LISTEN CAREFULLY HERE

Shane BarnhillThursday,16 May 2013

The Snap:

I’m not a designer, but I do a lot of design-related work. I wrote the design specifications for this blog, for example — including the font sizes and types, color schemes, page layouts, logo dimensions, responsive design requirements, etc. I have also played a role in building out requirements and then approving the final designs for websites and mobile apps in current and past jobs. Consequently, I’ve witnessed a lot of reactions to new designs in my career, and in my experience, most of them fall neatly into two groups (Pro tip: If you lead initiatives that introduce new designs, then you’ll inevitably end up encountering these two groups too, so look for them). The first group is comprised of people who simply “hate it” — whatever it is. They have their reasons. Perhaps they’re uncomfortable with change. Or, they might simply have a different sense of style. Meanwhile, people in the other group will tell you that they “love it” — again, whatever it is — and they’ll shower you with praise.

But I’m here to tell you: Ignore that shit. All of it — the praise, and the disdain. None of it helps you.

The Download:

Instead, pay attention to the (much smaller) third group that will inevitably emerge. This group will be comprised of people who are largely dispassionate about your design choices and the emotions that they evoke. They might recognize the emotional impact of your design; however, they won’t get sucked into it. Either subconsciously or by choice, they’ll zero in how the design either enables or hinders its underlying business objectives.

They key is to recognize how the members of this third group deliver feedback, compared with the first two. The “hate it” and “love it” types often focus on how design impacts them. And if they do mask their sentiment in a dissertation about “the customer,” they often do so on purely subjective grounds. By contrast, members of the third group either make data-driven assessments, or they present their reactions as hypotheses, or questions, for further testing. Combined, it all looks a little like this comic:

Ignore This Shit.

So, when you hear design objections such as, “I don’t like the large images because they distract from our Calls to Action and sometimes push them below the fold,” or, “I don’t understand why you’re demoting this section of the site from the navigation, when our analytics data shows that it’s the third most popular category,” then you should recognize them as valid concerns that are worth evaluating via A/B or multivariate tests. They’re certainly more useful than mere complaints, such as, “I don’t like the large images because they make me scroll to read the content,” or, “You can’t demote that section, because it’s an important one for our customers.”

See the differences? The former two are testable concerns, while the latter two are self-centered and polluted with subjectivity and bias — and you need to be able to filter out the voices of the “love it” and “hate it” types, so that you can focus on what really matters.

One final note: Don’t be a “love it” or a “hate it” person. If you do have an emotional reaction to a design, recognize it, step back from it, and then reconsider it in light of the business objectives that it’s intended to enable. And FFS, don’t present your opinion as representative of “the customer” unless you have some damn good data to back up your assertions.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

Wikipedia, Online Slang Dictionary, Comic: Chris Anderson, Image Credit: Flickr



Trackbacks

  1. […] On Design: Ignore This Shit, But Listen Carefully Here. I’m not a designer, but I do a lot of design-related work. Consequently, I’ve witnessed a lot of reactions to new designs in my career, and in my experience, most of them fall neatly into two groups (Pro tip: If you lead initiatives that introduce new designs, then you’ll inevitably end up encountering these two groups too, so look for them). […]

  2. […] warning: I don’t usually write posts about nothing (see here and here and here), but when I do, they’re really about nothing — just personal […]

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