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Product (vs) Designer - My inner dialog

almost 6 years ago from , Co-founder of HackingUI.com, Creator of the Side Project Accelerator

Sagi Product: yo! There's this new feature to develop in the roadmap!

Sagi Design: you mean backlog, not roadmap.

SP: Yeah whatever, listen you heard what (name of VP product) said. It needs to be done fast since the R&D have it in their planning for next sprint. And (name of CEO) just promised the board that this feature will be ready next month!

SD: wait... WTF?! So we're going down that road once again? In our (countless number) last retrospective meetings we all talked about giving more time to proper design process!

SP: well, you heard what the (name of VP Product) said - do a quick research... How much time do you need? 1 day to get started? Come on.. How much time for you to get started on this? It can be ready by the end of the week, no? You can do it! You've already done way bigger feature designs in less time when you were with your last 2 startups.

SD: yeah, but this is an established startup, a 100 employees startup, a couple-thousand paying customers startup, a well invested startup, a millions of users per month startup! And they brought me here to lead the design and UX, meaning I should be given the proper time and space to do what I came here to do!

SP: Well, you have 1 week. Just ask them for proper time afterwards to sit with the front end devs on testing and tweaks.

SD: I guess you're right... Ok. I'll just really need to fight for my time with the devs this time. Make sure they give me 3-4 full days with (name of Front End Lead), one on one, before this gets pushed to production.

***--- after 3 weeks ---****

SP: listen you might have to give up, its 3 days before the end of the development of this feature and the devs (again) got to a point where they have a long list of bugs before they can get to your so called design tweaks.

SD: Fuck! I knew this would happen!

SP: Yeah, well, that just happend. Sorry.

SD: (a lot of curse words)

SP: Yet you did not stop this from happening huh? At least the feature would be up and the board would be happy. Dont worry they wont notice that things are a bit off design-wise.

SD: Fuck that, I'm not here to do mediocre designs. I want my work to be perfect! Dribbblable! I want people to have a great emotional experience combined with compelling UX and zen-banlanced typography and design. I want any animation concepts to actually work! To be smooth! That takes time to tweak...

SP: if you would make everything you design here Dribbblable you would have never had anything launched.

SD: Then why the fuck am I here?

SP: You think its better anywhere else? You think its better in any SF startup? In FB? In Google? Even in small startups... Its the same everywhere.

SD: I dont know - maybe i'll write a post about it and see what the reaction will be.... In the meanwhile i'll go create another unreal-unlaunched-unusable design shot for Dribbble, at least I'll have some design out there that I'm 100% proud of sharing.

18 comments

  • Bowen LiBowen Li, almost 6 years ago

    Definitely understand what you're going through. Especially if you're playing product and design roles.

    However.

    Designers are not artists. We work with constraints. What you're experiencing is very normal and quite frankly why your company is paying you. Given enough time, anyone can create a great design. A designer's job is to do it under time pressure, while juggling multiple inputs and to do it consistently every time.

    5 points
  • Wil NicholsWil Nichols, almost 6 years ago

    "Dribbblable" work is full of impractical animations and eye-candy that ultimately detracts from full UX. If that's why you need proper iteration time — looking to create something worth showing and lauding by a group of non-users — shame on you.

    Not that unreasonable deadlines are acceptable. Just don't use Dribbble as your metric.

    2 points
    • Sagi ShrieberSagi Shrieber, almost 6 years ago

      I guess that's a different discussion - I think that you're right and dribbble has a lot of non real things (I also wrote that in my dialog). I think though that in terms of dribbble we should all thrive to upload things that are actually thought of and are part of our products. I actually do that in my dribbble.

      0 points
  • Stefan RösslerStefan Rössler, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    At first, I didn't quite get that both voices were you're own, and so I wanted to start by explaining, why it's not smart to focus on designing for Dribbble likes. But realizing that it's an inner dialogue and you're aware of both sides, I'm sure you already know about this :)

    Other than that, I can relate to your situation from my own experience. I was never satisfied with my work and worst of all, I even started to blame my circumstances for this. Clients, customers, users, colleagues, I was blaming everyone (mostly through internal dialogue ;).

    Later I realized that the problem wasn't out there, but that I myself had been the problem. Especially in the beginning, I was so focused on producing portfolio work, that I wasn't able to achieve my high standards in too many projects. This was frustrating, and it only changed after I had heard about usability testing and user experience.

    Especially the latter led me to study more about design. I also started to pickup some basic programming in order to build websites and prototypes on my own. This way I learned that design doesn't exist in isolation. It's connected to programming, as well as it's connected to business. This realization got me curious about businesses in general, and thus I started studying the connection between design and business. At this moment I can say one thing about it for sure:

    Design for it's own sake (design that's first and foremost liked by it's creators and their peers) isn't really design. Design has to work for real people – no more, no less. For a design to work for real people, it has to be tested iteratively. That's why shipping imperfect design is the only thing you will ever be able to ship (if shipping means coding your design so it can be tested by real people). It's because in order to perfect your design (to make it work for your users), you have to watch how people are really using it, and improve your solution in accordance to their feedback and even more important, your own conclusions.

    This way I learned to love imperfection and started to admire minimal viable products and landing pages for new digital services and tools. I guess, all I really did, was taking my focus from myself (the perfectionist) and putting in onto others, by testing my designs with real people to continually improve them, instead of just posting them to some portfolio websites or forums, to get praised by colleagues.

    I really hope this was useful although I had just realized that I was actually explaining why it's not smart to design for Dribbble likes while my first paragraph suggests I would not do so ;)

    2 points
    • Sagi Shrieber, almost 6 years ago

      Hey Stefan, I really dig your thoughts man! Totally agree! As I replied to Tim and Marcello, I think I got to what actually bothers me in the product process (not only in my company, but in any other company I've seen from the inside) - which is that we tend to not want to look back on features by the time they get pushed to production. I think that we all (product designers, managers, and everyone working on iterative products) should be aware to our human nature and our basic drive to always move forward with our lives and not look back. Not that its bad, its actually really good that we have that, but sometimes it gets in our way especially when we need to iterate on our products. Guess some inner company processes can be made to help with that. Just have to think what processes.

      0 points
  • xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    The very concept of trying to achieve 'Dribbblable' work day in and day out is not very healthy for pushing a product forward, especially if you are working within a team (regardless of it's size).

    That kind of quality takes time to concoct and achieve, move fast and learn fast is the better option overall I feel; because your users should be guiding the direction of the product. Imagine spending weeks of over-time perfecting a design only for it to fall apart in the hands of real users.

    Interestingly I just wrote a short piece on the pursuit of perfection and how it should be approached in stepping-stones rather than 'as-the-crow-flies'. http://tsainsbury.com/writing/2014/11/16/completeness-vs-perfection/

    I'm not saying you should be satisfied with mediocre designs, or that you should be happy with a half-baked product. But you should see the value in iterative design. Plan to perfect the basics first, then build on those groundworks with whatever 'beauty' and cool stuff you may want, when and as time may allow. But that cool stuff should be 'for the product', in that it delivers obvious value for the overall user experience.

    2 points
    • Marcello MansoMarcello Manso, almost 6 years ago

      I tend to agree with that. The problem is when the iterative process becomes a myth and all you do is really always ship half-baked features. Never coming back to it and just moving on to the next feature.

      1 point
    • Sagi Shrieber, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

      Guys, I think you hit the point that really bothers me. I totally agree with what you said. Product features should be pushed on 70-80%, and then iterated on.

      I think the REAL problem is something within our nature as human beings: We work hard, and so intensively, on features that by the time they get pushed to production, we tend to not want to look back.

      There comes the excuse of "well we have so many more tasks, we'll come back to iterate on that later". Some would even back this excuse with "Yeah well its better to delay the iteration since the later we come back to it the more data we will have to know what we should do with it". And then the following thing happens: In a mysterious/magical/so-unpredictable way the feature works very well and users are happy with it, so now the priority of coming back to iterate - especially on design issues. - has dropped lower than organizing the next tshirt design of the company.

      0 points
  • Nadav Rikover, almost 6 years ago

    True that. the unstoppable inner battle of being practical and yet amazing.

    2 points
  • Narek KhachNarek Khach, almost 6 years ago

    This is so so awesome and spot on. I currently do product and design and am dealing with much of the same as you.

    A lot of good comments below, I won't try to repeat them, but the fact is that this is why product design is such an important role. We take product and design and mash them together in an environment with many many variables. As Bowen said, you've got to deal with these constraints, that is part of the job.

    With that said, it's a real dilemma sometimes and your inner dialog rings def rings true :) Exercise and meditation are the only cures to delayed decision-making for me.

    1 point
    • Sagi Shrieber, almost 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot for your comment Narek. Yeah, I agree with all that you wrote. And wow I wish I could meditate more, once I had a period where not a morning went by that I haven't meditated, and now I barely allow myself to do so. Should get back to it :) Cheers!

      0 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 6 years ago

    I don't remember who originally said that, but if you're not ashamed of your version 1, then you spent too much time on it.

    1 point
  • Nicole DominguezNicole Dominguez, almost 6 years ago

    Giving design enough time is different than complaining about 'proud work'.

    The yield of product design is not dribbble-able work.

    Product design is not perfection. It's not inherent beauty. It's about creating products that are functional, delightful and purposeful. Be proud that your work helps someone else's day go smoother. Be proud that you just saved a user from massive headaches. Be proud of the great feedback you're getting from customers. Be proud that using your product makes users happy.

    Are you using your time effectively? Is it to get the pixel-perfect design, or is it to make sure the app flow is tested and usable? Which one is your priority?

    "Mediocre" is in the eye of the beholder. There's nothing mediocre about a user who got from point A to B in a delightful, smooth way.

    Are you iterating? Get the nuts and bolts right first, then worry about perfect tweening later.

    Simply surface-deep "beauty" is art. Not product design.

    1 point
    • Sagi ShrieberSagi Shrieber, almost 6 years ago

      I actually agree with what you said. It might be the fine point of the definition of "done" between product and design. Agreed that getting someone from point A to B delightfuly is the important one. And as this dialog is an inner dialog, both voices are my own. The problem comes I guess when desigb is off in a way that damages the experience, hence creating getting from point A to B a lot less delightful. About pride, I want to be proud that I designed something that actually came out at the end like the product I worked hard for it to be. In the since of working and iterating on a product that millions of poeple use - Im super proud of that. My problem comes when I cant be 100% there and even 90%. I think product teams should give the product designers more weigh on the call when a feature is detrmined ready for production. I think that we as product designers should push in that direction. Ofcourse putting the product and UX in top priority. Sometime a feature can wait another week without any disaster happening to the product, but people are stressed with a backlog and the reality is that we all work in the feeling like we're the bottleneck. We all = designers, product managers, devs and so on. I wonder if this is the feeling only i have. Thanks a lit for your comment :)

      1 point
  • Sagi Shrieber, almost 6 years ago

    Is this like that in your company? I think our proffesion as product designers is extremely challenging these days. We have to make calls between product and design. I'd love the design part to win more often or find a better way for them to corelate

    0 points
  • Rotem Elimelech, almost 6 years ago

    I know this world so good, I call it "corporate design"... Very simple and way off course :) Never cave to the enemy!

    0 points