Nobody Comes To Work To Make A Bad Design

Jared Spool

October 3rd, 2011

In the 30+ years I’ve been working in designing online experiences, I’ve met a lot of folks. Good folks, interested in creating really great products, services, and designs.

I’ve seen my share of really great designs. However, I’ve also seen many bad designs.

Yet, interestingly enough, I’ve never met anyone who wanted to make a bad design. Nobody said to me, “I’m trying to build the suckiest design out there. Something people will really hate.”

Behind every bad design was a team that wanted to do the right thing. They wanted to make their designs a success. It just didn’t work out that way.

Almost always, it was because something was missing. The designers didn’t know what it would take to get a great design.

Often, they thought they knew. They thought they had the right mix of savvy and intuition to make it work.

Good design, it turns out, is harder than just being a smart guy. You have to know who your users are. You have to know what your users need. You have to know what your technology can and can’t do. You have to know what will truly delight the people you’re designing for.

It goes beyond just knowing stuff. You also need to do stuff and do it well. You have to draw on the language of interaction. You have to experiment and prototype. You have to interpret the feedback you receive and adjust your thinking.

What the folks creating bad designs are missing is good knowledge and skills. Without these, they produce crappy designs.

The good news is we now know, thanks to a ton of research in recent years, what much of the knowledge and skills are. We know how to take designers who regularly produce bad designs and turn them into designers who produce good designs, and eventually, great designs.

It’s a great era to be a designer. There’s so much to learn. There’s so much to do.

6 Responses to “Nobody Comes To Work To Make A Bad Design”

  1. Erik Burns Says:

    Thanks for the thoughts, Jared. I would love to know how to turn a poor designer into a good, then great designer. If we could do that, we could solve the huge in UX/UI that exists in the industry right now.

    Seems like UIE design is a difficult subject area to transfer, since it requires hybrid left / right brain thinking, subject area expertise, spirit, instinct, and lots of practice. Any tips on how to do it…?

  2. What separates bad design from good? « Andrea Ong Pietkiewicz Says:

    […] Spool’s post today on the UIE blog is titled “Nobody comes to work to make a bad design” suggests that the cause of crappy designs is that  “the folks creating bad designs […]

  3. Nobody Comes To Work To Make A Bad Design » UIE Brain Sparks | Says:

    […] a lot of folks. Good folks, interested in creating really great products, services, and designs. Link – Trackbacks Posted in User experience (UX) | Permalink. ← Adobe Proto app – […]

  4. Jared Spool Says:

    It’s a great question, Erik.

    In my opinion, it starts with good mentorship and coaching, followed by continual, direct exposure to the users working with the designs.

    If you have someone who is a poor designer, they need to know what to see and how to see it. A good mentor and coach can help point them in the right directions, opening up their thinking about what design is and how it works.

    Then, they need a feedback loop. They need to see how their design decisions manifest themselves in the resulting behaviors of the users. When the designs produce the right behaviors, they are now on the right track. Most designers work without any real feedback about how their designs get used. The result is they are designing in the dark — difficult enough for great designers and impossible for poor ones.

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  6. Joe Says:

    This seems targeted at designers (and I agree with it), but also consider this…

    Many designers do good design and “the right thing”… complete with preliminary research, user testing, iteration, more testing, etc… only to have that good design destroyed (or severely crippled) by some other part of the team.

    I’m specifically thinking of the developers at my company, but this could also be another part of the project team such as a Product Manager, Stakeholders, etc. (or a combination thereof). It’s a frustration felt time and time again by many “corporate” or “in house” designers.

    We want (and do) the right thing, only to have it ultimately pooped-on in development due to “technical limitations.” The only limitation I ever see here is a lack of passion for their craft and lack of knowledge. That crowd just wants to lay low for 30 years and secure their pension–not do anything ‘insanely great.”

    Coming from a design agency background, this frustrates me to no end.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

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