Become a confident designer

UX/UI designers are not artists who merely make things pretty. They are problem solvers of various domains. User experience designers need to have keen knowledge of visual arts, psychology, business agenda, cognitive science as well as various web technologies. User experience professionals are also mind readers. They need to anticipate what users will do next. They persuade, nudge, and guide users for a successful journey and a positive experience. And yes, they also need to make things look pretty.

Designing a piece of interaction requires a thought process that spans across all of the areas described above. One should consider every probable scenarios and possibilities. Sometimes a good idea comes naturally and almost instinctively as one gains experience. But never present a solution without any explanation or logic that backs it up. An experienced designer should and must have a clear and sound answer to everything. Always be prepared to explain your decisions.

As a designer it’s your job not only to provide solutions but to educate and enlighten those who are oblivious to the knowledge that you possess. As a UX professional you know a lot more about why some things are done in certain ways. You are armed with more knowledge and have more access to explanations and logic behind software and application designs then many others in the organization.

When presenting your ideas, designs, or solutions, it is important that you explain the whys. Once you have the answers to all the whys, you will feel confident. You’ll be seen as a confident designer. No one trusts a designer without answers. Within an organization where you aren’t designing for yourself, everyone expects an explanation. A designer is a provider of solutions, therefore, should be able to provide explanations.

Explain everything. For example, if something you have done is a standard practice, don’t just say “Oh, it’s the standard, everyone’s doing it.” That will only insult whoever you are trying to convince. Because you are implying that they didn’t know about the standard. It doesn’t matter even if they are people who are not expected to know such information. It’s just not a good way to end their inquiries. It will not make your design or solution any more appealing than not having had any explanation for it. If something is a standard there must be a reason why it became a standard. Explain why it is a standard. Explain the whys. Always.

Confidence is important. But a designer’s confidence should be backed by honesty, expert knowledge, and genuine effort. You should never make up bullshit as you go just to appear confident. That may win you some immediate results but it will not get you far. If you really did the research, if you’ve really put in a genuine effort, you shouldn’t have to make up anything. The answers and confidence will come naturally.

However, one thing to always keep in mind is that no amount of brainstorming, research, and effort is going to make us perfect. Even after all the genuine effort the result could end up off the mark. So it is very important to have an open mind while being confident at the same time. A designer needs to be flexible and should be prepared to acknowledge any reasonable feedback or ideas. It’s very easy for designers to get emotionally attached to their designs. As a result, many designers become defensive when their solutions are questioned or their ideas are countered. Try not to become overly defensive with your solutions. Acknowledge the fact that nothing is perfect. There is never a silver bullet in design.

On many occasions I’ve had very successful results when I incorporated feedbacks and suggestions received during reviews and presentations. Even the ones which I didn’t believe would work at the time turned out surprisingly well. Sometimes you just don’t know until you try it. Any reasonable suggestion is worth trying. Do not do anything to prove that something doesn’t work. Our job is to create things that work not proving something doesn’t work. If you’ve genuinely attempted to make something work but have failed, then you can be confident in explaining why something doesn’t work. It will only make you a more confident designer with more answers to everything.

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