This is post #54 of my #365 day series.
I was watching one of my favorite shows, Eureka which previously ran on the SciFi channel, and a character exalted when someone tried to give them some “tips” on their performance — “Everyone’s a critic.” Oh how true that is.
One of the things you quickly learn when you design things for people is that you shouldn’t try to please everyone. It’s tough, because many designers want as many people to like their designs as possible, so naturally those same people want to get the opinions of others in order to inform their design. It seems like a logical strategy for design systems. It doesn’t work though. Think about chefs in a fancy restaurant trying to please every palette that comes through. It’s impossible. People’s tastebuds are all a little bit different, so by trying to compromise between the hyper sensitive taste buds and the ones seemingly numb to salt, you’ll end up with medium salt. That usually doesn’t work, and you’ve neither pleased the salt lovers nor the salt haters. Same thing goes with design generally, by trying to please everyone, you please no one at the same time. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but one thing to lean back on when you’re getting (solicited or unsolicited) feedback is that the people giving you design tips usually have no experience designing anything, so their ability to gauge designs is woefully under qualified.
That doesn’t mean as a designer you should listen to no one, but you have to be confident in your own style and experience and trust that your designs will be accepted by enough of the bell curve. A part of the experience you gain over the years is trying to get to the core of what the feedback suggests, sometimes when people ask for a change or some feature, it’s not that they want it at all but that’s all they know. They are limited by their own limited UI/UX experiences. I was reminded of this recently when I was speaking with Jace about some design options. He asked me for a few features and I had to inform him that what he was suggesting takes teams with tens of engineers working full-time for over a year to develop. He apologized and told me that he only knew how to make design suggestions based on the software he knew, and that software just so happened to be made by multi billion dollar companies.
I get it, as a designer that’s not really the answer you want to hear. When you design for others, there’s a sense of obligation to make it as accessible and liked by as many people as possible, but you can’t give into that tendency. Sometimes you’re at a party and go to a balloon artist and all he can give you is a dog. You might be disappointed, or you might be part of the 60% of people that enjoy getting the dog, or you might be part of the 20% that’s just happy to get a balloon. Be the balloon artist. Sometimes you just gotta hand out dogs.