Thursday, 15 October 2015

My UX fall – Beginners mistakes

Beginning in new field of study is always somewhat difficult. It was no other for me. I made lots of mistakes and all of them came back to haunt me. So what are those and what can you do to prevent falling into the same hole?

I decided to learn by trying. So I started reading some basic materials on UX and putting them to use immediately. I did not understand the connection between various things and I did not see the bigger picture. I just wanted to use what I learnt. And that proved to be a big problem later on.

One Design, One chance for success

Design process takes time. It is long and iterative effort to create the most optimal solution available. For that reason, you need many ideas and almost all of them get discarded at some point. It is not that they are bad per say, it is just that they are not fitting your current project.

Every tool is used by someone else, every tool has certain end customer. And if you want to make sure that end customer can use that tool, you need to tailor it to her expertise, knowledge and experience. For that reason there is no ultimate way to do UX. There is no specific formula that will solve every problem. Each project is different and solution to it differs as well. Creating just one design and thinking it is the ultimate way out of any kind of problem is not only very ignorant, but also not worthy of success.

Since I started to work immediately as I started to learn, I had only few ideas. I did not know how to come up with new things and see if they are good. I had to believe that what books taught me, was enough. And the books tried to teach me some basics. Things that should work in most cases, but will never be optimal for everyone. And as young and naive person, I used them without second thought.

Using one simple design for everything, I started designing interfaces without knowing how to design interfaces. And that proved to be horrible decision. On the one hand I tried at least little bit of UX and that might have improved the final product, but on the other, now I am looking at those projects being developed I know that they could have been better. And there is not much else I can do to fix it.

This might be an interesting experience in learning how to damage control bad designs, but it definitely isn't something I would be proud of or put into my resume. If I had the opportunity to change all of this, I would want to have more knowledge and understanding before going into things. But as someone who learns by doing, I have no idea if I could hold all that knowledge in my head without actually putting it to use.

No mentor

With noone to look up to for advice, I was left alone to try and see what I could do. I couldn't watch others perform and learn by example, I had to study everything and try it for myself. And even though this can be pretty usual approach for some people, for me it is not. Learning new things is always difficult and if I have noone to provide counseling and guidance, it is even harder.

I made mistakes and by the time I realized it, it was rather late. I could not help myself in questioning whether there is something I can still do. So I decided I need mentor. Someone with the knowledge and ability to help me and guide me on my path of learning UX.

Luckily I got one now and I am hoping things will improve, but it should have been done sooner. Only positive I see in this is that I learnt how to work alone without any knowledge. It might provide me with some experience for other times but even apprentices need masters to teach them.

Conclusion

If I could go back in time, I would do couple of things differently.

  • Get mentor as soon as possible - that way even with the lacking knowledge, she could guide me through the process.
  • Start working on smaller projects - even smaller than those I am working on. Because if you make mistakes there, it is not such a big deal as if you mess up a big and long project.
  • Try to get understanding - without understanding of connections between individual design steps, I could not understand their importance even if I knew they existed. One very good example of this is research. Something I would like to talk about later.
  • Become more engaged in community - if I payed more attention to UX community: blogs, conferences, presentations, I would notice some of the mistakes I am making and I might have been able to prevent them at the beginning.

We all learn from mistakes. I made fair share of mine and I am hoping to pick up all the pieces so I can continue doing what I am doing and improve upon it.

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