A message to my fellow designers…

As you sit in your office on Monday, I want you to take a moment to look around at the people next to you. Take a good look. Those people are going to need your support this week. You see, this week they’re going to go out into the world and spend hours listening to people. They’ll listen to people who were turned down for a loan; people who had an insurance claim rejected; people who didn’t receive a visa due to an administrative issue. There’ll be people frustrated by a supermarket self-checkout; people who bought something online and can’t figure out how to return it; people who won’t submit an expense claim at work because it’s just not worth the effort.

It won’t be all gloom, of course. There’ll be people who are thrilled with the purchase of a new car and how well the whole process went. People who’ve just submitted an application to university, full of hope and excitement. People buying their new home, moving smoothly through the mortgage process.

Your neighbour will listen attentively and with sensitivity. They’ll listen to try and understand. They’ll listen because they want to make things better. And that’s going to be exhausting for them. Whether the stories are good ones or not, it takes energy to listen. And because they’re who they are, they can’t help but open their hearts a little in the process. And some of that frustration, and some of that anger, and some of that excitement will seep in. It’s part of what we’re after, though, after all – some empathy to go with our new-found understanding…

Even if they’re not out in the field learning something new, they’re probably in the office trying to solve one of the problems they’ve identified previously. They’ll be sweating the details and polishing a design presentation. Poring over a new flow or a screen or a journey, and trying to make it as simple and elegant as they can. And then they’ll stand in front of a group of stakeholders and have it torn to shreds. They’ll be a little crushed by that experience, but hopefully they’ve learned some resilience over the years and they’ll bounce back.

Perhaps this week will be the week that new design gets taken out and tested with users for the first time. That’s always a difficult time. They’ll think the’ve nailed it – after the internal reviews and the revisions. The soul-searching and the grind. They’ll think they’ve arrived at something pretty special. And then they’ll find people who are confused; who can’t find the things they thought were going to be oh-so-obvious. The neat feature that is just a cute distraction. More soul-destroying feedback… and more revisions… and more sweating of the details.

That’s what this week holds for the people around you. And they’re GOOD at this! This doesn’t happen because they’re hopeless – although they may need reminding of that. It’s exhausting because it takes effort to do good work. It takes effort to solve the hard problems. It takes effort to listen. It takes effort to take another crack at a problem, when you thought you had already solved it. Not just mental effort; emotional and physical effort.

So this Monday, take a moment to be kind to your fellow designers. Let them know you appreciate the work they did last week. Let them know you’re there for them this week. Be the smiling face they need to see when they come back from their research. Be an attentive ear. They’ll need it, and the world will be that little bit better for us all if we can help them through it…

  • dan szuc

    October 10, 2015 at 12:52 pm Reply

    thank you

  • Lynne

    October 10, 2015 at 1:13 pm Reply

    Beautiful and very timely–thank you for this.

  • Kim Lenox

    October 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm Reply

    Thanks Steve. I will be sharing this with my team. Good stuff!

  • Daniela

    October 11, 2015 at 3:54 pm Reply

    Thank you Steve – I’ll be sharing this with my team tomorrow morning!

  • […] Steve Baty asks us to consider the experience of the design researcher and the associated demands/challenges/jo… […]

  • Joe

    October 13, 2015 at 6:46 am Reply

    Thank you Steve.
    For me, in a UX team of one, very helpful as I haven’t a colleague next to me to share it with, yet, nor to receive it from.

  • Mario Quintana

    October 15, 2015 at 6:42 pm Reply

    Im just writing a report to present to stakeholders and this was the exact kind of read I needed to disconnect a bit. Will share it with non-designers colleagues too!

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