Compromising UX is Necessary

As we continue to ship every few weeks, there used to be that creeping feeling, that voice inside me that says things like the product is not not usable enough, the aesthetics aren’t up to standard, we’re not there yet, we need more time…

Critical blockers get fixed, major defects get fixed, but UI defects are always brushed aside as minor defects. Forget the bolded font that is contrasted to draw our user’s attention, don’t worry about that piece of information that was missed out in development. As long as users can achieve their core goals without any roadblocks, we’re looking good to ship.

Love it or hate it, that is the exact formula that makes shipping possible. But the product’s user experience is compromised! We’re doomed!

Not really, hear me out here.

Design is about solving problems

“I’ve been amazed at how often those outside the discipline of design assume that what designers do is decoration—likely because so much bad design simply is decoration. Good design isn’t. Good design is problem solving.”
The Art & Science of Web Design by Jeffrey Veen

Design is not about self-expression. That is art.

Despite being grounded with knowledge from domain experts, personas, and hopefully some user research, I am not the target user. It’s humbling to realise and accept that what I think is important, that extra polish and elegant UI, might be misguided and not that important after all, especially if it doesn’t contribute to solving our user’s problem.

Remember, are you an artist or a designer? Be clear and know where to draw the line.

Know what to compromise

What can fall? What cannot fall? It always a game of prioritising and compromising.

Going that extra mile to apply that extra polish is sometimes necessary, especially if its a differentiator or highly critical. But for stuff that are less important to your users or business? Compromising some aspects of the user experience is okay, at least in my personal opinion.

For Ezypay‘s new secure site product, everyone in the product development team was aligned that billing cannot fail. So not only did we have to make sure the technology behind it works, we also had to make sure the user experience around it is bulletproof.

Validating your hypothesis

Saying something is important is merely a hypothesis. Building and investing in the hypothesis is a cost. So before you start investing your time, money and effort, it is sometimes worthwhile to stop and validate your hypothesis with your users first.

It can be a quick email, or a user testing session, it depends on the problem and the amount of investment you might be planning to put in. The earlier you learn, the earlier you know whether you should go all out or change course.

There is always next time

If the problem is big enough, you can always have it as part of the next release. Naturally only if it’s important enough, it will be included. If it isn’t…well you know your answer.

But if there isn’t a next release, or the next one is ages away…well then there might be tricky. It might be a process problem. I’m a believe that software should be built for change, and not built to last. So our whole product development process across design, development and QA is optimised for change.

In conclusion, remember your purpose

If it’s not, nip the artist within you in the bud. Put ego in its place. As a designer, you should be designing for your users, not yourself. 

So continue to compromise your product’s user experience, it is necessary, as long as you can ship constantly and solve your user’s top problems constantly and progressively.

Now to keep telling myself the same thing.

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