How can I avoid taking design feedback personally? UX Question #21

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Clara from Argentina asks: What do you recommend to not take feedback personally? Detaching yourself from your work sounds easy in practice but it’s hard not to get too involved.

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Clara. This is UX Question number 21 and I am Ben Judy.

How can I avoid taking design feedback personally? I have two principles for you.

Principle one: constructive feedback (or critique) is an essential part of the UX design process. When you receive feedback on your design—whether from a user, or a colleague or a project stakeholder—it is a gift. And it is what you need to make the design better.

Remember that UX design should be iterative, and should improve with each iteration. That’s a feature, not a bug.

Now, you can get bad feedback. That’s a different question. You need to filter out design feedback that is uninformed, misguided, or unqualified opinion masquerading as critique. You don’t need take that personally, you just dismiss it as irrelevant.

Assuming the feedback you get is valid, the appropriate personal feeling is gratitude. You should feel thankful for that feedback, because it’s enabling you to do your job more effectively. To deliver better design outcomes for users.

Second principle: your UX design project work is not a reflection of you, your potential, your identity, or your worth. Let me approach it from this angle. Design is not art. The kind of design we do in user experience work may require some degree of artistry or have artistic elements, but it is fundamentally different from art.

An artist creates a panting, a sculpture, a poem, a song, a piece of graphic art, et cetera, as a reflection of some aspect of who they are. You are putting yourself into your art. Art criticism can focus on just the technical aspects of competency, but otherwise it’s inherently personal. If I dislike your art, it’s hard for you to not take that personally, because—fair or unfair—it feels like I’m saying, “I don’t like that part of you represented in your art.”

UX design isn’t like that. It’s much closer to problem solving, and it’s more objective. If I dislike your design, you can say: well, what’s wrong with it? Is it hard to use? Let’s run a usability test. Does it fail some measurement of success? What’s the measurement, what’s the user need or business need it is failing to meet?

Those aren’t personal concerns. That’s just a matter of the design doing what it should do. And it takes a team, it takes feedback from others, to help you make the design better.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: Why is it UX and not UE?

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