Solving design problems is a battle with your own mind. You can feel overwhelmed with everything there is to consider. Trade-offs need to be made, and stakeholders have their opinions.
To persevere to an ideal solution, master your mind. I personally find mantras useful for any creative project. They’re go-to phrases you can tell yourself when a project gets difficult.
Here are four of my favorite mantras for keeping UX projects on track.
1. Feedback is growth
Early in my career, I found that I avoided feedback. It can be an uncomfortable process, particularly early on. You think you have your design perfect, then you find that test users can’t complete the tasks. You may convince yourself that the first user is just missing something, but after the second or third time, you learn it’s you who is missing something.
Remind yourself that feedback is growth. It can give you the mental resilience to get through the initial sting of feedback that isn’t what you had hoped for.
2. Process brings clarity
I was once sailing on Lake Michigan. The fog was so thick, we could only see a few feet in front of our boat.
It reminded me of the beginning of a design project. It’s easy to panic and get paralyzed when you don’t know where you are.
The problem with fog is lack of information. If we could have seen other boats, we would have felt confident in avoiding a collision. If we could have seen the Chicago skyline, we would have known where we were.
We were able to avoid collisions by listening for the fog horns. We were able to navigate by using a compass. These methods gave us information, and got us back to port safely.
UX processes give us information, too. They help us navigate the fog of the beginning of a project. Remind yourself that process brings clarity. Use processes such as card sorting, user flows, or user personas to gather information to help you reach your destination.
3. There is no wrong way
UX processes bring clarity, but don’t get too fixated on processes that don’t work for you and your team.
Processes are there to answer questions in your mind. Don’t follow process for the sake of process.
Remember that there is no wrong way. The UX processes you’re used to following–such as content inventory, paper prototyping, and user journeys–were virtually unheard of 15 or 20 years ago. They became standard practice because somebody invented them to answer questions.
If you focus on the questions in your mind, and give yourself permission to answer them in a way that suits you, you can reach better solutions.
4. Collect, incubate, solve
Once you’ve learned about a project, whether through standard processes or processes of your own, it’s common to get creatively blocked.
The problem is, you get too focused on reaching a solution. You have lots of information, and you can’t tell which information is relevant.
Creative problems aren’t solved in an instant. After you learn about a problem, that problem needs to incubate before you reach a solution.
Incubation can take as little time as a coffee break or it can take months, depending upon the complexity of the problem (and the proximity of your deadline).
Remind yourself the process that creative solutions usually follow: collect, incubate, solve. Learn what you can, take a crack at a solution, then step away if you have to. It may take several tries to get it right.
Complex design problems are daunting, especially if you feel like you’re in over your head. Embrace the discomfort of learning, and get information however you can. If you’re patient, solutions will appear, guiding your course like a lighthouse in the fog.
Interested in learning more about UX processes? Check out Springboard’s UX Design course—you’ll have your own personal mentor, plus access to a global community of UX experts.