As designers, more over as individuals, we tend to look to fact in order to solve our problems, prove our points, etc. This is not a bad thing at all. I’m an advocate for discussions that are rooted in fact. However, there is a problem in our world of UX and design… that is a good amount of the time, facts or proof do not exist. A good deal of our profession and what we do in UX is based on observing user behaviors and inferring needs and goals based on this observation. There is usually a huge grey space inbetween, and, at times, we can be found doubting ourselves and our ideas, especially when there is a big ugly stakeholder in our way trying to “prove” us wrong.
I started to think about this more the other day as I was reading Todd Wilkens’ post on the Adaptive Path blog entitled Avoiding Half-baked Personas. There is one part of the piece that really stood out to me: Proto-personas the power of intuition based on data. It got me thinking not only about this step in the persona creation process, but how this metaphor can be applied to our field overall. That being that a great deal of what we do is all about using our intuition based on the data we observe or read.
Let’s face it you, as a UXer, probably do a ton of reading. In fact, you are reading this post right now in order to gain some different perspective on a topic in UX. We are a well informed profession for the most part. However, if we believe as individuals that at our core we, and thus our intuition, cannot be trusted, then we tend to falter when providing rational to stakeholders, developers, business people, etc.
So, how do we solve this problem? We need to begin to trust ourselves and really listen to our gut. Take a look around you at all you’ve learned and all you continue to learn. Everyday I learn something new about a job that I’ve been doing for 5+ years. This is important to realize because many professionals don’t take that chance to learn and iterate. We need to interalize our knowledge in order to become more confident in ourselves. Thereby really listening to our “guts” when it comes to experience decisions.
Thus, what I am telling you is to calm down when these fact based people begin to try and prove your design solution wrong. Because, quite frankly, there are not enough facts to prove one’s point by that route. We need to look at the most educated and knowledgable person in the room when it comes to users, and that is you! By trusting ourselves, and thus our “guts” we’ll get to see more of our solutions come to life, as well as feel better about ourselves as individuals, and have more confidence in ourselves. With each “trusting your intuition” success you have, you will become more and more confident in yourself as well as be able to bring more solutions to the people you serve… the users.
Please note: I also think that this post relates to more experienced designers (say… have worked on a number of projects & continued to evolve inside the profession experienced) as opposed to the “novice” designer mentioned in this study: The User-Centered Design Process: Novice Designers’ Use of Evidence in Designing from Data. Also, does anyone know what constitutes as novice in the study?
After reading this post, I’m left wondering if I am somehow missing the point. I’m betting that I probably am.nnI trust my gut to a point – but I depend on my teammates (developers and others) to attack my intuition and challenge it. Through their challenging of my ideas, my ideas get stronger. I encourage all members of an organization to attack the hell out of my intuition. Sometimes I’m wrong and that leads me to getting even better ideas.nnOn top of that, when I have a gut reaction, I almost always try to figure out how my brain got there. Intuition is valuable, I don’t deny that, but for me to know how best to act on it, I need to try to understand it. For me to communicate effectively with my team about it, I need to try to understand it. If I can’t explain why something would be better one way than another way, that’s a good indicator to me that I need to investigate further.nnSo yeah, I’m really thinking that I am missing the point. I, like you, learn something new every day, even though I’ve been doing this 5 years. I believe a large part of that learning is directly because I constantly challenge my gut and encourage those around me to challenge my ideas as well.nnI think I trust in my ability to get to the right ideas, more than I trust that I have the right idea at any given moment. Does that make sense?
This makes total sense indeed…. great points. I specifically like when you are talking about trying to think “why” your gut is telling you something. I would echo that point. I’m not saying that we should just trust our guts and not think, but I’m thinking more along the lines of your gut is telling you something, stop and listen. That point did not come across in the post, so thank you so very much raising them here in the comments!
Gut instinct plays a crucial role in design and UX. It’s a tough one to sell to stakeholders though I believe this is solved through credibility. Early on in an engagement with a client/employer we need to use as many methods as we have at our disposal to “prove” the merit of our work. After you’ve achieved some small wins, the value of your gut instinct gains credibility and you can use it more to explain your designs.nnNice post.nnnI wrote a similarly-themed post here: http://www.jeffgothelf.com/blog/gut-instincts/nn%5BJeff%5D
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