A few weeks ago we had a really interesting case, and we really had a lot of problems getting the job done. For this reason, this blog post was created. To talk and wonder if, as product designers, we have come to a dead-end.
What do you even mean by saying “dead end”?
First of all, let’s focus on what I have in mind by saying a dead end. I’m not sure that this phrase is 100% accurate, but it was the first thing that came into my mind while thinking about this problem. About a year ago, I noticed that the Product Design team, especially the UI section, began to duplicate the same schemes and solutions over and over again. You know, it’s not the matter of reinventing the wheel, but I have a feeling that this wheel is already built even from the same raw materials and in the same style.
Jakob Nielsen said in his book:
“Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. Design for patterns for which users are accustomed.”
So, in this case you should create something that your audience is accustomed to. And how to do it? Of course, by a reproduction of already well-known patterns. Don’t get me wrong. Using existing solutions is a great thing. Why do you want to change something while it’s working perfectly? Let’s take Apple for example. In iOS 14 they changed the way you fill up your alarm. Before there was a barrel, now we have an input. For me, it was awesome. I hated these barrels and now, with only 4 clicks, I have a full exact time when I want to wake up. Believe me, I was in the 1% of people who loved that solution. The other 99% hated it so much that iOS 15 will have barrels again. What a pity. Users were so accustomed to it, that it was not possible to leave the new solution for longer. AND I GET IT. UX Patterns are really hard to change. I would even be inclined to say that I don’t see much point in changing it. But with the visual layer, I think the opposite is true. I believe that, as designers of digital products, we started to duplicate our solutions too much with what we saw on Dribbble or Behance. For some time now, almost all the projects that I have had the opportunity to look at while browsing the above-mentioned websites are really beautiful, but… they do not build any emotions. They are simply correct, neutral. It is also hard to expect emotions from the visual presentation of the tiles, user avatar, or the purchasing process. However, I believe that it is possible to do so and it is such products that are more or less successful. What, in my opinion, stands out nicely is using the same solutions in 3D. We have an amazing number of options and styles which, combined with well-known UI solutions, can create a really strong and solid product.
Can we do something about it?
We all have bad days or projects, and we feel helpless or clueless. I dare say, it’s our natural habitat. But no worries. Just take a deep breath and close that Dribbble and Behance. Maybe open some painting books or take a look at some paintings online? You may get inspired and also learn something about new artists or even discover one. Recently, I have started to appreciate and collect such books, which may seem strange looking at what I do on a daily basis, but in fact, it is only now that I have fully grown up to understand and feel art.
Learn new skills that have always interested you. Hang out with people who share the same mindset. Share and learn. Allow yourself to explore new topics. Rather than reprimanding stereotypes, figure out the flaw and improvise. Another thing that you can do is start asking yourself questions. What will happen if I do this or that? Will it look good if I remove/add this. What if I propose something different to a client, which doesn’t exactly fit his taste but might have a large impact on the product itself?
Get out of your comfort zone
I hate that saying, but it’s the truth. If you’re a UX/UI Designer on a daily basis, try out something different. Maybe some packaging or a CD album?
Anything that is not limited by the habits of users or well-known design patterns – where you can express your creativity, your mind, your ideas. It’s a great exercise to try something new and then somehow implement it into your work.
You may not have creative ideas every day of every week, but that is okay. Don’t force it. Try some other time. This is part of the process. Never expect it to just happen. Look for new angles and perspectives. Before you give up, make sure you have exhausted all your sources.
Your own style
One thing that will definitely set you apart from the rest is your own style. Something unique that people will think of as “you” after a while. It is an unimaginably long and hard process, but it is also incredibly effective, productive, and influencing what your digital products will look like. One thing is for sure – they will be incredibly original.
I know that this article might sound like it’s about everything and nothing. But it drives me crazy when we talk about ourselves as “product designers” when we’re just doing the same things over and over because it’s working and why should we change it. I think it’s time to stop mimeographing and start creating. Let’s create new styles, new ideas, new solutions. Let us not close ourselves to one thing and act on many levels.