To improve as a designer, and to help your product and team succeed, striving for something pixel-perfect is just part of the battle. It’s important to be as intentional about all your choices as you are about your design, says Facebook design team lead Julie Zhuo, from how you frame a problem to how you make final decisions. During her Bridge talk, Julie offered several tips on how to do just that.
Design is problem-solving—and since no company has a shortage of problems, you’re often pulled in many directions as a designer. “We’re designers, we can probably solve any problem,” Julie says. “But we can’t solve every problem.” So don’t jump in to fix something just because it’s broken. First ask whether it’s worth fixing right now, or at all. Julie suggests coming up with a priority list: Take an hour or two to figure out which of the many problems you could tackle are the most important, then focus your time there.
Julie writes blog posts and journal entries about projects she works on and problems she faces. As things are happening, you rarely have time to distill your thoughts about them into anything crisp, coherent, or easily communicated. Writing gives her a way to do that. “It’s helped me reflect on what’s going on, and come up with a framework to think about it,” she says. She works through, on the page, how to be intentional with her time or about her process. “Then, I can take that and talk about it [with my team], or come up with a story to tell myself about it in my day-to-day.”
On Julie’s team, designers get the feedback they need at a scheduled team critique. But she makes sure they can get and give feedback outside their teams, too. She organizes critiques that cut across teams, like one on visual standards, and allows any designer to come to any team meeting if they’re looking for a new perspective. What’s more, formal critique should just be a starting point. Great products happen when you draw on everyone’s strengths, Julie says, and that means soliciting input from as many people as you can. The number of people you talk to before making a final decision is “the biggest thing that ends up making a difference” in product quality, she says. “It’s not even just talking to designers. It’s talking to PMs, talking to engineers, talking to people that are well-trusted, to get a different perspective.”
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