Design Science or Opinion

April 2, 2016
4 min read

In a previous article, I talked about ace-ing the process of design with feelings

I described how clients should share their feedback by using feelings instead of dictating the visual implementation. Being emotional translates to being passionate and confident in the design you put out. It’s natural to feel very attached to your design and quick to jump on the defensive when someone does not see eye-to-eye.

Questions to ask:
  • What about other people’s perspective? (UX research results)

  • What if this was beautifully designed but functionally it just falls flat?

  • What if this performs well with barebones code? Is design needed?

  • What if you feel strong against a certain design element but your client feels the opposite? At what point do we give up our own gut instincts and let the other party have it?

  • How many rules do we work within before we realize that there are too many rules? Is being confined inside challenges always a good thing? Is it great to have as many rules as possible?

Making design be a matter of science and less of a visual opinion.

Some companies have a lot of financial resources to run tests throughout their entire network. They can say that this shade of green outperforms another shade of green. Making design be a matter of science and less of a visual aesthetic. Being extremely data driven in the design process means that even a 0.0001% better means it’s better. As designers, we could be told that only use this shade of green. Or even test circles against squares and if the square wins, that’s the ‘right’ design.

Is this design at all?

While I agree that design should be tested for effectiveness and function, it’s hard to design something when every element is judged by effectiveness by data results. Testing elements can improve current optimizations only in the short term. Not many people are measuring the impact it has on brand affinity and recognition. You can always argue that a young brand doesn’t have brand recognition yet, so during this ‘experimental phase’ we should be able to try as many designs as possible until we “get it right.”

To be the darling of the startup world, the website design must stand out from ther startup’s and show the growth hockey stick. Design risks must be taken to show this has the special sauce. Taking risks in creating new design does not necessarily mean that a shade of green that appeals to most people would guarantee its success.

With every short-term experiment, I am always skeptical of it’s accuracy. Most people test for less than a month and call it a day. Should a test that ran for a week to a small selected group of visitors be an accurate indication of effectiveness?

I’ve worked with a client that ran their “A/B” email test for a week and said that an email with over 8 buttons are more effective because it has a higher click-through rate than one with only three. This email also has 4 banner ads and multi-color call to action buttons which makes it look like an explosion of a mailer catalog. They don’t care too much about their brand affinity and sticking to their selected styling because they care more about conversion.

Creating a properly curated design test requires a longer, more thorough, comprehensive look at how the user behavior has changed over time. This approach goes against the lean startup mentality where the focus is on shipping fast and failing hard. Speed in design iterations is viewed as effective ways to improve UX/UI design and puts branding in the back seat, but never considering any mid to long-term impact.

No design is perfect.

Don’t be too attached, don’t be too emotional about your work. Every design can be improved in the next round. We can only target who we want our users to be, but requires good user research to determine who our real users are and how they behave.

What is the right balance between data-driven design vs. design creativity? I don’t have the right answer to that, as each has its own set of challenges. It’s an important compass for the designer to consider before signing up for any projects or company, to feel out the direction of your client.


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