Most of us don’t take lightly to negative criticism. It challenges our competence and can break our confidence, bringing about feelings of inadequacy and shame and sending us right down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Speaking as a designer where continuous feedback is an integral and iterated part of a project, it can be difficult at times not to take criticism personally. So how can you turn negative feedback to your advantage?
Mistakes are learning curves
It’s easy to beat yourself up when you receive negative feedback, thinking you’ll do better next time and that the more practice you have in the field the less mistakes you’ll make in future. Although there’s some truth to this, I also don’t believe mistakes in UX design are totally avoidable. UX design is user-centered and most of the time you’re learning more about your user as go along and test your prototype. But that doesn’t mean bad design is acceptable. Often when you’re engrossed in a task, whether it’s design or writing a novel, it’s not possible to see all your flaws. That’s why it’s always a good idea to step away from your work and get a fresh pair of eyes to review it. In this way you can minimize obvious design flaws.
Let it go
Ok, so you got some bad feedback on a project you spent a lot of time on. Get over it! Lick your wounds and let it go. This is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt as a designer. This may sound harsh but the sooner you acknowledge that a design does not belong to you, the easier it will be to adapt to feedback. If you’re not able to do this then you cannot be a happy UX designer. A UX designer creates design around the user. At times you may not agree with style choices that work for your user, but you need to remind yourself that the end product, as much as you’d like to think of it as your baby, is going to be used and abused by someone else. You have to detach yourself emotionally from your work and instead focus your energy on the end user.
Put yourself in the user’s shoes
Don’t strive to just be a better designer, instead aim to be a better listener. This way you will improve your ability to empathize with your user and consequently design better user experiences. Doing so, you may receive less negative feedback. But don’t expect to get zero negative feedback, that’s not realistic or even beneficial. As I already mentioned, designing effective user experiences is not a static or linear process but a an iterative one, meaning you learn more about the user as you go along and feedback is helps you more than it hinders you.
Stand by your design
hat’s not to say you should accept all the feedback you receive. There will be times when the client will challenge you. They may want you to implement their own design wishes contrary to what research shows is best for the user. So it’s also your job to gently remind your client of this and to stand by your design decisions. Be confident. If you are a new designer this can take some time as you overcome the imposter syndrome, but know that this is normal and many designers faced the same doubts in the beginning of their career. Also know who to accept feedback from. Remember everyone will have an opinion but that doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong.
No one shoe fits all approach
Scrolling through the web you will find endless inspiration and guidelines showing what the latest design trends are for the year. This may be helpful as a reference but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most effective method for your user. It would be the same as suggesting that because pink is this season’s hot colour, everyone will look good in it. This is how you should approach any UX design project. Do the research and test a design to see if it works for your user and if it improves conversion rates.
Remember that designing around the user is not a linear process but an ongoing learning curve; so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit the nail on the head the first time round. It’s not helpful and it’s also not realistic. Understand that your design doesn’t belong to you and don’t take negative feedback personally. Base your design decisions on the end user and not on what’s trending or what the client wants. So, the next time you receive negative feedback remember to turn it to your advantage!