Some time ago I made a design mistake that caused a s***storm in the community. In hindsight I can say that was one of the situations that taught me a lot about designing for a passionate community and about my own humility, so today I want to talk to you about how the story of a button can help you get a job.
When I talk to my students one of the biggest concerns that I hear, is that they don’t have enough real projects and that the study projects are not good enough. They have fears that the portfolio is not long enough, or that it’s not as beautiful as what they see online, or that they didn’t have enough people to participate in their surveys or personas etc. For me, however, all of this is secondary. Sure, you need to be able to showcase the work, but how about in situations where you are not allowed to show your work. How do you then showcase who you are? In the end, it’s pretty much the same for all.
Show what you can, but focus on who you are. Focus on your story.
So, to show you what I mean, let me tell you my story.
Being a UX Designer is exciting. You get to work with multiple departments and you get to influence a product in a way that directly impacts people. And when you see how your work impacts hundred thousand of people, you feel the rush. Nothing big, but enough to skyrocket your ego. That’s especially true if you are still a junior.
That happened to me. I thought that making a change to the UI of a product will make users happy. Unfortunately at that time, I couldn’t see the whole picture and people were far from happy. I let my ego get the best of me. There were different reasons for me making the decision to change the interface, but I know now that I should have taken more time to step back and look at the user journey. I should have gone through the experience of using this one-button because this element was used multiple times per day and it had an effect on how people played the game. And I moved it from left to right. Sounds crazy right?
The design was supposed to address the whole process of sending an attack, but it was developed in stages and this was stage one – that one screen. unfortunately, it made the attack process less smooth and posed a pain point.
Even before the news hit the company through the customer services, I saw the Skype groups that users used on daily basis, light up with hateful messages about the new design. People hated the change.
Sure, change is hard, but this time, users were right -it was a mistake.
You’ll do mistakes too – that’s the fact. The question is, how you react after a f*** up, and what you learn from it. And this question is probably the most important question for your future employer.
How I reacted to the situation:
Every time when something happens that pushes me in stress I try to stop for a bit and create a plan. In the mid of a chaotic situation, I need to create structure for myself. So, I took a minute and made a plan:
- Define the problem
- Understand if the reaction is only resistance to change
- Find possible solutions
- Take action
Taking action at that time meant two possible directions:
- Develop the whole design using a superhuman speed
- Revert the change
Together with the team, we decided to go ahead with the design and add a little change to it instantly so that the user journey would be more fluid.
UX in its essence is problem-solving and situation taught me three things:
- When there is a problem, I react and find a solution(s) fast.
- I need to be more humble and see the product as a whole.
- When redesigning an interface, changing only one element will make things worse.
I’m grateful for the experience. The story is still with me (years after the fact) and is one that most of my students hear. It’s a story, but it’s one that taught me how to be a better designer. If something, I want my future employer to know this about me. Technical knowledge is one thing – you can always learn more – but personal growth and fit to the culture of the prospective company is something else. My portfolio worked because I had stories to tell. I showcased how I think and what my values are.
Can your portfolio be your story?