Perfect is the enemy of good: fighting perfectionism in UX design
As designers, we’re tasked with crafting experiences for our audiences that are both memorable and seamless. Finding the balance between an experience that makes our users smile and one that reduces friction is a tough line to draw. What matters more: joy or efficiency?
That equity in approach is elusive. What makes it more difficult is that there’s rarely “One Best Way™” to solve a problem or approach an interaction. Points-of-view and business goals change and evolve. Aiming for perfection is a never-ending struggle. So how can you learn to put perfect behind you and settle for a “good enough” solution? Let’s chat about how you can avoid those perfectionist tendencies and put your audience first, all at the same time.
The struggle with perfectionism
The word “perfect” comes from the Latin word for “finished”. Almost by definition, our products can never be perfect because good products are never truly finished. We work on them and make changes and adjustments of all sizes and magnitudes throughout the life of a digital product.
Honestly, the struggle with perfectionism can be majorly debilitating. If you refuse to acknowledge anything other than perfect as acceptable, you could end up spending a great deal of time and resources on details with diminishing returns.
Working in digital product design means moving fast and breaking things (thanks, Facebook). Perfection is the opposite approach. But if you’re looking to craft that ideal experience, and you continue to get more feedback and user research and input from principles, shouldn’t you adjust to accommodate that information?
That’s a slippery slope. Any digital product’s lifecycle is going to be subject to feedback and input. That’s how we learn what our audiences want and need. But there’s a difference between creating version 1.3 and jumping to version 2.0. What’s your interpretation of a minimally viable product? How quickly can you get that in front of your audience? Something is typically a better solution that a perfect nothing. Work on improving that MVP instead of trying and waiting to get the ideal product out the door.
Good designers are also familiar with rapid prototyping. Prototypes are very temporary. They’re supposed to be. Don’t get too attached to one approach or one design. Moving fast means having very few “favorites” along the way. Rapid prototyping means plenty of options, and that’s a good thing. You don’t need to stick to one idea; you can try something off the wall to see if it strikes a chord with your audience.
You’ve also got to remember that your design is not the end of the road. Someone has to develop and engineer and code that product or solution. The sooner your developers see what you’re working on, the faster they can make that wireframe a reality. It’s a team effort.
How to beat perfectionism
The first suggestion I have in your fight again perfectionism is to focus on a positive and enjoyable user experience without sweating the details of how to make that happen. What’s your end goal? How can you get your audience there effectively and efficiently while leaving opportunities for joy and whimsy (where appropriate) along the way? By focusing on your big picture outcomes, you can create a user journey and then whittle away at the bigger pieces until you get to the bare essence of what your users want and need.
In the beginning, don’t sweat the details. Design thinking involves iterating. You can always go back and make minor changes. If your main concerns are feedback and research, iterations mean more opportunities for user testing. Take what you learn and apply it to the next version. Use the design thinking approach to your advantage. A/B test some options and see what develops. The more information you have, the closer you can get to the ideal solution.
One big way to help you see more forest and fewer trees is to use a design system. By removing some of the smaller choices you’d need to make (typefaces and button sizes and whatnot), you can dedicate your laser-like focus to the bigger decisions like user flows and anticipated outcomes. Instead of limiting your creativity, design systems give your brain boundaries and guidelines to help direct your innovation. If you’re not making little changes, you’re free to make big, sweeping changes instead. Try something completely different and new.
Remember: “perfect” means “finished”, and we’re never really done working. Just keep the bigger picture in mind, concentrate on making a cohesive and enjoyable experience for your audience, and enjoy the process.
Moving fast and rapid prototyping are much easier when you have a living, dynamic design environment. The upcoming InVision Studio has microinteractions and animations that help you move as quickly as you think. Its advanced prototyping capabilities allow you to easily interact with your evolving dynamic design in unprecedented ways. Sign up below for more information and early access to InVision Studio!
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