A very important lesson I’ve learned throughout my career is this: it will never be perfect.
Yes, it’s hard for me to admit that! But, over time I’ve learned this is best for the business and user.
Earlier in my career, I remember the temptation to hold a design or feature launch until it was perfect. I remember sitting with a founder and reviewing designs in Photoshop with him pointing out every little pixel to perfect. The truth is, many of the changes were so subtle that they wouldn’t even matter once the design got to the browser. Many of the designs were purely form and had nothing to do with function.
I can’t believe I just typed that because I believe in beautiful design. But it’s not enough to look nice. Design must perform. Design must inform. Design must transform someone from being an acquaintance to an actual user and ideally an ambassador.
Purposeful design trumps beautiful design.
As repetitive and obvious as I’ll sound in saying this, the way something looks is only one component of the user experience. I think it’s worth repeating though because I still see and hear about companies spending too much time trying to perfect form before function.
Think about it — I’m sure the vast majority of us have purchased something from Amazon.com.
Now is Amazon the most beautifully designed website? No. When you visit Amazon are you simply wowed by the fonts, colors, layouts, and such? Probably not.
Amazon isn’t beautiful. It’s cluttered, sometimes hard to navigate, and overwhelms me with decisions.
But, I still use Amazon because it’s faster and more convenient for me to order something and have it delivered than it is for me to visit multiple stores to find a product and bring that product home.
And while I’m on Amazon I’m likely not critiquing the visual design, information architecture, or way the sentences are written. Nope. When I’m on Amazon I’m just a regular person trying to purchase conditioner, paper towels, almond milk, and compare espresso makers for the 50th time.
I know I’ve written about the idea of moving from perfection to purpose before. But I think it’s topic that will be an ongoing conversation.
Shifting a mindset from form to function is difficult. I’ll be the first to admit that. I’ve been on both sides of the debate. Earlier in my career I was the person who sought perfection. Later in my career, I’ve been the person who tries to educate people about not striving for perfection.
As so many products and brands adopt digital presences, or become digital entirely, we’re faced with the challenge of educating those people about what creates a great experience. The greater challenge though is educating those people about what makes a great digital experience.
A common problem I see is people becoming fixated on one silo of the product without regard for the entire user experience. They’re not doing this on purpose or to be a jerk, they do this because they don’t know any better. To consider an experience as a whole takes a mind-shift and that is hard.
A marketer or copywriter will want to be involved in deciding copy for a button or key call to action. But, their suggestions are double the length of the physical space available on the button or call to action area. Or, they suggest using a hashtag in the default text of a Twitter share, but the hastag is 50 characters — taking away from the valuable 140 characters available in a tweet.
Someone with a design background will want to redesign a page or component of the user interface. But, if for example they’re from a print or pure graphic design background, their suggestions will likely not take into account the role the design plays in a userflow, interface, and path towards a key action.
Trying to get people to change the lens through which they see the world is hard. I see it all the time and it’s not pretty. But making this shift is critical to the success of our products and teams.
Instead of striving for perfection in the silo that we know, we need to help everyone on our team focus on the product as a whole and it’s purpose in the life of the customer.
As user experience designers, we need to help the teams we worth with zoom out from each punctuation mark and pixel and see the entire experience.
One way to do this is to constantly integrate purpose into every single suggestion you offer. It will feel repetitive. It will feel obvious. It will feel like extra effort on your part. But, my gut reaction is that some of the best value that user experience designers can add to teams is to help them focus on purpose and intention.
By tying every decision back to purpose, slowly we can help coach teams to see their product through a lens of purpose and not perfection.