Our Biggest UX Mistakes and How We Resolved Them

We spoke to 3 of our UX Designers here at AJ&Smart to get an idea of the main mistakes they have in common and how they went about fixing them effectively.

What are some of the biggest mistakes we’ve made in our early UX careers? Where to begin...!?

We've put together 5 of the biggest mistakes we've made here at AJ&Smart. Why are we sharing such information with you we hear you ask?

Well because mistakes aren't all that bad providing you learn from them. And they're not even half as bad if you share them with others so they can learn from them too.

So here you go - our biggest mistakes - and our best resolutions all in one place.

If you rather watch us talk through these we have an excellent YouTube video from our mistake makers here: 

And well, if you're more into reading all about them then take a look below!

Mistake 1 - Being Overprotective of UX design and the Dogma of Usability 

Many of us have done this in the beginning of our UX careers. We learn a craft and then no matter what, we defend it with our whole heart - even if it's not the right way forward.

While protecting UX and usability is important, it's also important to adapt your mindset to that of the client. And the typical mindset of clients is that they don't care all that much about the rulebook of UX. Instead their focus is on selling, creating stronger products and building desire.

If you don't wrap your head around this different perspective, you run the risk of trying to get clients to fit your design goals rather than the other way around which is a BIG mistake. The client's business goals are what you should always be leading with. You want to work your knowledge to create value for them, every single time. Once you set your priorities in this way you'll notice much more success with your ideas.

Here at AJ&Smart, we put our client's business goals at the forefront of everything we do. We ask A LOT of questions, and really get to understand the nit and grit of what our clients want - then we get cracking down on our work. By listening - we mean, REALLY listening to their business goals we're able to deliver tons more value and create products that fit the end goal perfectly.

This really takes us miles ahead. If you're one of the usability warriors who combats every bended rule, we totally admire the passion for UX, but our biggest piece of advice is to learn when to adapt your mindset. Flexibility is so important and straying away from the UX rulebook doesn't have to be so bad.

Make learning the language of your clients the priority. Listen to what they're telling you and deduct the information that really is necessary.

The best way to learn how to gain this perspective is really from experience (as are most things) but there are 2 books that we recommend to starting UX designers that seem to do the trick quite well. These are: 

  • The Lean Startup - This book is an absolute gem. It will teach you all sorts of ways of how to understand products from different perspectives. From the product manager to the CEO, this one will give you a pretty solid overview.
  • Hacking Growth - Another great read, this book discusses cross-functional teams and the dynamics between them. Covering how companies explode into big, profitable businesses - Hacking Growth will run through a whole new perspective on how to perceive products.

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Mistake 2 - Scattering Your Lessons and Not Specializing 

Lacking patience is a problem that many people have across all fields. So while this is listed here for UX, this nugget of information is beneficial for anyone who is an avid self-learner.

Starting in UX design is challenging, but it's also super exciting. You tend to hear a lot of buzz around different subsections and before you know it your bouncing from course to course, not really learning much at all. While it is GREAT to be a keen learner - lacking structure and learning whatever pops up is a rookie mistake. If you work this way you'll notice after a while that you have gained a very scattered set of skills that actually won't benefit you that much. The BEST way to avoid this is to learn strategically.

We recommend taking the time to sit down, write out why you want to learn certain topics, jot down your goals and work out the best route of getting to them. After you do this we suggest assigning a period of time to each task. For example, you could set yourself a time frame of 2 months and really dedicate your time to it. While your working on said topic for these 2 months you can continue to jot down subsections you are hearing about that spark your interest.

Don't be worried about missing out on learning different subsections, by keeping them all noted, you can return to the list after 2 months to work out if branching into one of these areas might be more interesting or if you find sticking on the path you're on more beneficial.

Being exciting by learning is a fantastic trait, but it's so important to stay patient and to be strategic about what you want to learn. This is how to REALLY reap the benefits of self-learning.

Mistake 3 - Assuming that you know Best

Sometimes you get assigned a task and you know, you just KNOW in the back of your mind that your idea is better. And sometimes it is - definitely. But sometimes you really miss the mark.

And this is how you get into BIG trouble.

So our third mistake is thinking that we knew better. When you're a new designer, there's a tendency to assume that you're picking up on areas that others might not be catching. And while it's fun to view things from different angles, play around with ideas and push boundaries it is SO important to follow the directions and do the task assigned.

Usually when clients are giving you directions, they have a much bigger picture for you to fit into. Assuming you know where you fit in this picture and overriding their idea is usually not a good idea.

A good example of this is if a client asks for 5 screens over 1 perfect screen. Even if it goes against those perfectionist instincts of yours, don't spend all your time tweaking 1-2 slides and deliver the smaller quantity. While it might look better, the client might just be trying to get a feel of what they are looking for. In this scenario they definitely don't want you setting things in stone for them. So deal with the task at hand and follow the instructions. Client's don't usually like surprises when it means that their instructions have been abandoned.

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Mistake 4 - Forgetting to Communicate

Ever heard of the zone? You know it's that place you get to when you're working away - nothing can distract you because you're so on a ROLL getting your work done. Yep, it's a beautiful place to be.

The thing is - while the zone is GREAT, you still have to remember to keep the important people in the loop. Staying silent is a real mistake.

Clients (and your managers, if you work for an agency) NEED to know what's going on. They probably hired you for your brilliant mind - but it's so important to not expect your client and managers to trust you to silently crack on with no anxiety. Checking in and communicating the progress of your projects can really set the difference between a novice designer and one with more experience.

A real plus of keeping everyone in the loop means that they can track your progress along with you. This bodes super well if you need an extension or extra resources. Clients and managers tend to be way more lenient with you if you're not blurting out your needs last minute.

Mistake 5 - Not Owning Up to Mistakes 

This one is so simple and so hard. We know...

But it's the MOST important mistake to learn from. No matter what, always take full ownership of where you messed up. It might be hard to swallow but it’s the right thing to do - even if you feel like you can hide where you went wrong. 

Making mistakes happens - to all of us. The most important thing is to learn where you went wrong and do what you can to resolve any issues that your mistake caused.

Don't hide it and definitely don't play the blame game. Mistake making shows a lot about character - and so you want to handle every mess up maturely and with honesty. If you make a mistake approach the client or your manager by saying something along the lines of “I’m really sorry about this. Next time I’ll know how to do X better since I’ve learned this lesson.”  Saying this statement, explaining where you went wrong and telling your manager or client what you’ve learned from the experience will set you much further ahead than burying the problem and hoping it goes away.

And to wrap up - Whatever the mistake you make is - don’t beat yourself up over it! It happens to the best of us.

If you work out where you went wrong and are honest about it you’re one step ahead of many people and the client and your manager will most likely appreciate the honesty. Mistakes happen - following the right protocol to fix them is where you get a real sense of character. So if you do make mistakes, don't excessively worry, just try to take a step back, reflect and then come back with a solution and follow it like a checklist so you never have to make the mistake again! 

Related: If you're new to UX and want to learn more, check out our guide to the best free online UX courses!