As designers, we're often looking for design validation - some response from the world that our design is 'right'.
We show our design work - even designs in progress - and hope that whoever sees our work will show a glimmer of delight and tell us how creative we are.
Instead, the people who see our work often respond with, "Hmm, well how about this? Why didn't you try that?"
And our blood boils. And we think to ourselves, "How dare they question my design? MY design?!"
Let me stop you right there.
The people giving us feedback are doing us a huge favor. They're exploring options that we hadn't considered (or options we considered and dismissed). This expands the range of solutions, which may or may not be better than what we have created. But it's our job as designers to either filter out these solutions or explore them.
Only in doing so can we find the optimal design solution.
Sometimes, a complicated story.
Enterprise software is a beast. A unsexy unruly beast.
Sometimes, you go back into the platform to clarify some copy due to changes in the system. At the same time, you find some opportunities to clean up the UX and make things a little clearer for the user.
Of course, the director of product management then gives a one hour presentation on the feature and how it works. And then you realize it's not so simple. (Of course, it never is. Even when you want to change some copy.)
Today, everyone is telling everyone to listen to their users and customers.
Following this rule at face value is a disaster waiting to happen. Especially among beginner UX designers (or any innovator/creative for that matter), this can prove quite problematic.
Getting out of the building and talking to people is really only the first step. This step is data collection. Beginning researchers and designers conflate data collection with data analysis.
For example, in an interview or usability test, a participant might explain why they hate something. Or they might even tell you with logical explanations what font color needs to be used or that they don't seem to understand something.
Beginning designers might construe these comments as an indication that some element X of their design is confusing, and thus needs to be 'improved' based on the user's feedback. However, most of the time, this is the wrong thing to do.
First, your user doesn't understand that interfaces can be learned.
Secondly, your user doesn't have access to the same data that you have or will have.
Third, your user also has a bias of their own.
New designers try to overcome their own bias by hoping that other people's opinions will balance out the bias.
However, expert designers approach this differently. By talking to others, their aim is to discover flaws in their own reasoning, the reasoning of others, followed by analytical processes to decide whether their design really needs to be changed or tinkered with.
What does simplicity actually mean?
I haven't yet read any formal definitions, but here are some early thoughts on what I think it might mean.
One might think that simplicity might be synonymous with minimalism.
However, I'm not sure that's the case. I also don't define minimalism to mean anything other than good use of white space, reducing noise, and using more elements than is needed. I've seen sites that are minimalist.
But I think simplicity has an added touch.
Simplicity has an element of elegance to it. It evokes a real effect on the user or audience.
I was designing a screen. It didn't have a whole lot of text. Probably could fit the definition of minimalist. I actually added an icon to the interface (rather than taking something away) and it made the interface feel lighter. My brain actually felt like weights had been taken off of it.
Then I replaced one line of text with two icons. (Sounds kind of odd without giving you the context.) Again, also adding more things (while taking away one line of text).
Amazingly, I could comprehend the interface faster. I put the two screens side by side, and the difference was astounding. When I looked at the revised interface, it was hard to describe what I was experiencing.
But it felt simple. And that was enough for me.
Could simplicity in fact be a feeling?
On a recent design project, I spent quite a bit of time sketching. They weren't fancy.
I just used plain printing paper and a ball point pen (wasn't even a nice one).
The primary purpose of the sketches was not to show off my sketching abilities. It was the fastest skill in my tool box for rapidly generating ideas and exploring them in detail.
Given that this is my purpose, any other 'improvements' to my sketching process should not slow me down or make me more 'attached' to my ideas. This is often the case when we start to make things look more real than they actually are.
Thus, I am simultaneously amazed yet wary of sketches that look like they should be framed. The kinds of sketches that look like they were produced by architects. This is not the road I want to take.
Any skill can be improved, and should be improved as long as you have a reason for it. I'm thinking of giving my sketching process an upgrade. At some point, I may want to show users or product managers my sketches. The better they can communicate my point, the better off I'll be. However, these upgrades are probably more like supplements.
I'll still retain my original sketching process, and create more refined sketches when I need to show them off to people.
Here are some links that I've found interesting or useful:
How to draw quick useful UI Sketches - Lane Halley
5 Big Tips for Sketching on Paper
Sketching User Experiences - Bill Buxton
Have a favorite resource for learning how to sketch? Let me know below!