The ONE thing you need to do to be a better designer.
Ever feel like you’re not the best designer in your field?
Worry not. I got you.
You might wonder, oh, is she going to say I should code? Or do copywriting? Or be great at analytics and marketing too? Do I need to be a unicorn? The answer is no.
The only thing you need to be a better designer is the ability to listen and ask thoughtful questions to peel the problem and understand the business goals.
When I was a junior designer, whenever my product manager came to my desk and asked me to design and implement his solution, for example, a login and register button on the home page, my only questions were…oh did you say blue? Which blue do you like? When do you need this done by?
And I quickly executed their solution in Photoshop (not if Figma, because it was a long time ago), showing 2–3 options with different blue buttons. I asked for feedback; then I coded it. And it was done.
I didn’t even question anything. Because I thought they must know better than me. Obviously, this is not my proudest career moment, but as a junior UX designer, I was happy as a monkey about his tail to have a job in tech. Maybe you can relate, especially if you only start in the field.
It took about 12–18 months to have my first lightbulb moment. And things changed.
Instead of executing immediately, I started asking questions to uncover the real issue. I ask for space to think about possible solutions. For example, I don’t just do it when someone comes to me to design a new onboarding flow.
I ask for research, both qualitative and quantitative analysis. I’m not the type of designer who wants to do everything on my own. So if there was research done prior that is still usable and reflects on the current market, I’m not going to reinvent the research wheel. But, I’m going to leverage the research. I’m going to spend a few hours studying the research and drawing insights from it to base our solution on. If there is no research, I will propose quick research to understand the customers better. I will push back to the business and challenge their solution and thinking.
You might be surprised how often technical constraints could change the design flow, so it’s essential to be aware of limitations.
I’d encourage you to ask thoughtful questions to get a clear picture of where product and business stakeholders are coming from. Ask as many questions as you like to completely understand the problem and the business goals before taking any action on the project or making decisions based on limited information.
Then, to the best of your ability, summarize what was said, what you heard (preferably in writing), add research insights to it if possible, and propose the next steps, which might be different than what the product managers imagined first. But that’s ok.
We are hired to think, not only to execute.
This tip helped me tremendously in my career. Please, don’t hate me for the clickbait title. This approach might make you a 20x better or 2x better designer, you get the idea.
Twice is still better than staying stagnant. Let me know if you try.
This article is a written interpretation of my Y.