Is UX Design Killing Creativity?
Call me crazy, but in some respects, UX design has stagnation coded in.
Conventions have value. Obviously, putting the Search Bar on the bottom-left corner wouldn’t make a website more ingenious, only more confusing.
This is due to the phenomenon called Mental Modes. Users tend to transfer expectations they built around a familiar system onto another, as they have grown tired of relearning a new interface every other time.
UX design is a process.
I value research, I make design decisions based on user insights, and I always put the users first. But sometimes, I feel that the process of following conventions and only satisfying my user’s needs is preventing myself from getting truly creative.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean we cannot work creatively. It only means real innovation takes more than just playing with the surface and that we need to find other ways to use our imagination.
As a general rule, the more you know about your target audience, the more creative solutions you can deliver.
Instead of diving into UI solutions immediately, first, understand the user’s problems. This requires even more research.
I always try to start my work with in-depth interviews whenever possible. This way, I can truly understand the problems our users have, and articulate solutions based on those specific cases. This would give me a much wider perspective for creative thinking, and a solid foundation to start generating ideas.
When searching for best practices, look for examples not only from direct competitors.
As a designer, I like reading UX case studies as they give me a glimpse into the minds of other designers. They might have interesting or unorthodox ways of solving a user’s problem which you might never ever think of.
Sometimes we find the most interesting ideas applied in the least expected places. Dropbox or Trello don’t likely come to mind first as examples for gamification in UX, for instance — but think twice before dismissing them!
Personally, when dealing with a problem, I have the hardest time coming up with more than a couple of ideas. I always have a quick solution in mind, but usually, the most obvious solution might not turn out to be the best nor the most creative.
To avoid this, I force myself to come up with a couple of possible ideas, before narrowing down the possibilities to one.
Why is this important? According to Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (the father of the well-known flow theory), a creative person should possess three skills essential to innovation:
When a problem has you stuck, looking at it from another perspective often helps. Reframing does this most effectively and can prove to be strikingly helpful in problem-solving, decision making and learning.
To reframe the problem, take a step back and try to see the problem in another way. It not only helps to generate more ideas but also supports the above-mentioned flexibility and originality as well.
Challenge the question itself. Instead of asking how to get more registered users, ask how to make the registration process more convenient for them.
A new question provides completely different sets of answers, and thus, solutions.
Another way is to ask the opposite of the original question. So, instead of asking for the best solution to this problem, ask “what’s the worst thing you can do?”. It sounds weird at first but, bad ideas don’t always turn out that bad.
The ideation process can contain some problems. For one, we automatically exclude a lot of ideas because we find them bad or useless for some reason.
It may sound controversial, but this wrong attitude can fail us. Although it can prove right in many cases, this habit eliminates the opportunity of later examining why they don’t work. Not to mention that if I let myself think about those bad ideas, a couple of unique solutions might pop up from that.
The question of how to be more creative has always proven quite elusive.
Users don’t tolerate radical changes in the interface (as Snapchat has shown us) but they still hunger for innovative solutions.
If we want to bring the best possible answers to light, we need to develop a mindset that supports creative thinking. Hopefully, these tips will help you to find the best possible solutions for your design problems.
If you want to collaborate, talk about UI/UX design, or just want to chat, you can connect with me via LinkedIn 😁
Is UX Design Killing Creativity?
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