Remove Your Ego from Your Design

On May 30, 2014

Everything that you design, whether a web page or a software, comes from the experience and knowledge that took you years to gain.

Sometimes, this experience and knowledge makes us believe that what we are doing is the right thing to do and we can't be wrong. This type of thinking creates an ego inside us and makes us believe that our way is the only right way.

If you want to be a good designer, you should try to detach yourself from this ego as it makes your design suffer. It makes you add design elements and features that may not be something what your users actually want.

But you may ask how can we distinguish our design from others if we don't put something of ourself in our design?

Sure you need to differentiate yourself from others in order to be remembered, but you don't use your ego for that. What you use is a slight amount of your personality, or branding, to separate your work from others.

Personal branding is a good thing as long as it doesn't gets involved with the functionalities and use of your product.

When you design, it's easy to try to make a showoff so that others can see how unique your design is and praise your work.

But when you put a feature or an element just because you think others will appreciate your skills and consider you an expert, your design suffers.

Your only goal should be to make a useful product that meets the goals of your users - not your's.

The key to creating a good product is to meet your most important goal first. And only then should you think of adding extra features to your product that you think other people need.

So essentially, the most important goal for a productivity app should be to make the user productive, for a game it should be to make it fun to play, and for a news app it should be to provide relevant news first.

Every product should have one, and only one, important goal to meet. And only if it meets that goal perfectly should it try to do something else.

When you design, your goal shouldn't be to show your intelligence, your smartness, your knowledge, or your expertise. Your goal should be to make something that meets the needs of your user, delights him, and makes him feel intelligent and smart.

If you work in a team, then it doesn't mean you should force your team to include a feature just because you created it. See what's best for your product. If your design is better without including the features you've created, then keep it as it is and don't let your ego interfere with the design.

There is nothing wrong with discarding a feature if it adds clutter to the existing design. Then whether the discarded feature is your's or someone else's shouldn't be an issue.

I know it may be difficult to let something go when you have spend days working on it. But to become a good designer you have to learn to see what's best for your user. And that regularly requires you to remove unwanted elements from your design.

When you work in teams it's easier to recognise if you need a feature or not, and whether it comes between the user and his goals. You can solve such problems by brainstorming and discussing your opinions with each other.

But how do you recognise those unwanted design elements when you work alone? How do you know if you've let your ego interfere with the user's goal?

When you design alone, it's common to think that every element in your design is useful and there is no way you can remove anything. By using a certain feature again and again you get attached with it, and it makes you think that other users too want this feature as much as you do.

So to solve such issues and to find out if you really need a feature or not, you can try these two ways:

1) Take a break from your work.

When you take a break, do some activity that's completely different from your work. Then when you return back, you can see things that you easily missed out before. You may also find that the features which looked so awesome before don't look that awesome now.

When you spend too much time with your design you become blind to many features and your mind starts ignoring them. But when you return back from a break, your mind gets refreshed and makes a fresh start again. And this helps you recognise unwanted elements in your design.

2) Get feedback from others.

When you see others using your app, try to see the flow in which they use your app. This usually tells you where they sail through and where they stumble while using your app. This way you can understand the most common problems they are facing and then make the changes that helps them use your product more easily.

When they get stuck somewhere, it's a sign that you missed out something that should have been there to show them what to do next.

Recognising such stumbling blocks and unwanted elements in your design tells you where you made mistakes and where you let your ego interfere with usability.

A good designer puts the product first. Not his ego.

So the next time you design anything, ask yourself what would you rather have - a product that your users find useful? or a product that inflates your ego, wasting your user's time?

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