09 November 2022

4 Mins Read

John Etokhana

John Etokhana

When Overthinking turns against UX Designers

Problem statements are constantly evolving during the product life cycle. It could be from ever changing business demands or the disapproval of initial design/product assumptions

Right from the moment we developed the ability to think deeply, we’ve been told that we need to think things through and plan every step as meticulously as we can. We’re taught to be prepared for the unexpected, which may or may not happen, and are constantly reminded that “prevention is better than the cure!

Later in life, as some of us begin to pursue our passion for UX Design, we are once again educated about the importance of planning and fine tuning our designs before handover. The recommendations are to ask the right questions, think about each and every touchpoint, and reflect on the possible pros and cons of the many different opinions that we get from users and stakeholders. And then repeat this entire process to ensure that we haven’t missed out on anything. 

And truthfully, these best practices do help us create fantastic initial designs. However, as it turns out, reality does not have the patience to wait for us to go through all these steps. Most of the time, the business asks us to deliver earlier than expected or skip steps, since we simply cannot wait for months and months to provide perfect designs. 

The bad news is that our job is built for overthinking. It can generate many ideas, but it can also generate a lot of possibilities, which get entangled in an endless cycle of thought and simulation instead of being implemented. We consider every step of the user experience in a product or service: situations that can go well, and in particular, situations that can go bad, which are considerably more numerous than the former. It’s a blessing for users that can become a curse for UX Designers as you can start to doubt your abilities.

The good news is that this is not the end of the story and we can find solutions. But how can we deal with something we want to escape from that seems to be an inherent part of us? 

Here are a few practices that you should consider inculcating in every design project to ensure timely and quality delivery. 

  • Communicate to others

Decision-making is one of the biggest struggles that overthinking causes, whether it be as minor as deciding your choice of font, or picking between two flows that solve the same problem. To make progress sometimes, a quick decision needs to be taken.  Sometimes we can’t get ourselves to make these quick decisions because we’re in our own heads.

Getting an informed perspective on the options available from others can help in making a decision and at the very least reduce your options. A decision you’re trying to make could be solved by finding out about the nuances of a technical difficulty from a developer. Talking to people, especially those with some experience, helps you  to make better products. A good start would be designers that you know, team members, stakeholders and even users. 

  • Stay focused on solving the problem.

Problem statements are constantly evolving during the product life cycle. It could be from the ever changing business demands or the disapproval of initial design/product assumptions. When you come across an unclear problem that you’re trying to solve, you can become so overwhelmed that you don’t really know where to start or how to proceed, Charles F. Kettering, an American inventor once said,

 “A problem well stated is half solved”.  

Constantly carry out inquisitions toward finding out if the context of the problem you’re solving has changed. Also get clarity about the nature of the problem and let this clarity guide how you structure your solutions. Don’t stray out of focus and always stay within scope.

  • Just do it.

I think this has been over-flogged by a host of people but I’ll repeat it again. “There is no such thing as a perfect design”. If there is one piece of advice you should stick with, it is to get it done, send out those screens, wait for the feedback, and then work from there. 

Stop being fixated on things that quite frankly don’t matter. Don’t overthink it to the point that you believe your design will be terrible because you’re not good enough. Anything that works well should be shipped. Additionally, you might take the time you would have otherwise spent working on correcting an icon to test, do more research, or essentially anything else that can have a more significant effect on the product itself.

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