Mistakes new and junior UX designers make

Mistakes new and junior UX designers make

By Claudia Castro

I received my degree in Human-Computer Interaction Design in May of last year and I’ve been working as a professional UX designer since then, and these are a few things I have learned along the way — mostly by making mistakes.

I am not saying that by following all this religiously you will avoid uncomfortable situations at work, but there is always something coming up and that is the beauty of learning. However, this might save you a bunch of hassles, and you might have some backup plans when the time comes. Trust me, they will arrive sooner than you expect.

These are some of the mistakes that I’ve made or that I’ve seen other young designers make.

Being afraid of contradicting a senior UX designer.

There is not the more nerve-wracking situation at work than having a strong opinion that does not match what other designers think (especially if they are at the senior level). Defending your opinion in the middle of a meeting can be especially anxiety-inducing, where everything feels official and intimidating. Once, a senior designer said right to my face that they, “don’t like it.”

I froze and said, “then, let’s review the next concept”, and guess what, I got the same reaction. Indeed, I got the same result 3 times total during that meeting. During my time at school, one of our professors warned us that this might happen, but after all, you are in school, therefore you do not pay much attention to it, and you think your professor who is well-known for terrifying students is playing a psychological game with you.

I know what you might be thinking, technically you knew, and you could avoid it. Well, the part he forgot to mention is to have a backup plan, or what could be done in those cases.

Weeks later I got another “I don’t like it” during a design review (of another different concept of mine). But guess what, this time nearly speechless I managed to ask: “can you please elaborate on what part of the design you do not like?” (before the meeting I was feeling pretty strongly about of what I had). Since then, I have found this question very useful, because it helps me to filter out what is a personal opinion from what is a truly UX concern. You will be able to have those wow moments and say “Oh that’s an easy fix” or “what if I do this” or “yes, but there is this other benefit of doing this in this way because of…” or “Thank you, that’s a good point.”

Many times you will also deal with contradictory feedback, but one thing you should never forget is that at the end of the day is a game where you listen to what others are saying carefully, but where you have to have your own voice. Fanny fact: one of those “I don’t like it” concepts was a success with a potential customer.

Losing connection with your school network.

It’s very normal to feel swamped with work, and not take some time to keep connected with your cohort (especially if you are married or have a family) or even worst be embarrassed to ask for help and expose yourself in front of successful alumni. It is time to stop the excuses and keep in touch with fellow designers and researchers. What I have seen (at least in my program) is that people are supportive and willing to provide very helpful advice (judgment free!).

Besides, belonging to a professional UX community makes it easier to stay up to date with trends, conferences, etc… Personally, I have gotten great suggestions to do remote user testing. Once I read about the experience of one designer that was forgetting his rationale because of the pressure of being in a meeting. The community recommended having a sort of journal while designing and bringing it to the meeting.

Also, the community suggested he meet separately with one or two fellow designers in a less stressful environment and walk them through his thought process so that he will feel prepared for the big meeting. I have tried this myself, and I couldn’t agree even more. So, what are you waiting for?

Overlooking specs.

“Writing a spec is an essential skill in UX — I do not understand why schools do not emphasize that” was my lead design words once. Let’s face it, without specs sometimes it gets hard to change a deviation in the implementation of an agreed design. Basically, they are the proof that the design was delivered in a certain way and that the implementation does not meet the requirements established, or even worst if they are not clear enough you will be overwhelmed with emails and meetings to address uncovered cases. A good practice we have is to share specs and gather feedback, before turning the final version to development teams. One particular mistake I had was the structure of it.

I was describing the features according to their relationship to one another, or starting with the most important interactions, however, the structure of the document was very jumpy. I was advised to describe the features from top to bottom, and use more annotations instead of a bunch of mock-ups with subtle changes. Moreover, don’t forget that specs types depend a lot on the dynamics of each company. Nonetheless, my point is to gather feedback from other designers that are well-known for having clean specs and try out their suggestions, they have been in that company longer than you, and potentially nailed a systematic way of doing them.

Designing only the “Happy Path” and underestimating error handling.

In design school, we are empowered to invent the future and to be very creative, and many times (most of the time) we do not have constraints. In other words, students tend to design just the “happy path”. However, the industry brings you back to reality and teaches you that when it comes to error handling never is enough, if you turn in a Swiss cheese design (yes! full of holes) it will always come back to you.

Luckily, I haven’t had many of those thanks to the amazing Senior advice, but if you are a young designer pursuing a freelancer career path, I will put a bit of extra attention to that. One way to do that is to “try to break your own design” or play the “what if game”: what if users leave this flow without saving changes, what if, what if, what if… Try to have as much data gathered as you design, if one of your what-if questions leads you to an “I don’t know” possible try to find out the answer.

I hope this has been helpful. Don’t forget to embrace your mistakes, and most importantly learn from them. Also, be patient, growth does not happen overnight. This discipline takes lots of practice. Keep it up, you will get there!

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

How I landed a job in UX Design at Google

Leveraging Mental Models in UX Design

Card sorting in UX: What is it?

Balancing business needs and user needs in a product

The art of salary negotiation for designers, women and more

9 Job Boards to Find Your Next UX Gig

UX Designer Salaries in the UK in 2022

A complete UI glossary: 100 terms all designers should know