How can I design with purpose rather than urgency? UX Question #77

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Daniella from Chicago asks: How do I handle my manager when he says to work more urgently, but we’re skipping steps in the UX process?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Daniella. This is UX Question number 77 and I am Ben Judy.

I’ll reframe this question as: how can I design with purpose rather than urgency?

You may have heard the old saying, “Good, fast, cheap. Choose two.” On every project, you must balance quality, speed, and cost. Good and fast won’t be cheap. Cheap and fast won’t be good.

What I hear in this question is: what do I do when my boss or my client wants it faster, but I think what they need is good. ‘Good’ meaning a design that meets the needs of users and delivers value to the company.

This is too common. Throughout my career, I’ve heard managers and clients say, can’t the user research be done faster? Can’t the designs be delivered tomorrow? Right now?

And we see it in job descriptions: “UX designer—requirements: works with a sense of urgency.”

Usually, the request to work fast isn’t even about speeding toward outcomes—it’s just about being in a hurry. And haste makes waste. It leads to shortcuts and sloppiness, a lack of creativity in problem solving, and a sense that UX’ers are being micromanaged. Bad user experiences and demotivated designers are the result.

I’m not saying speed isn’t ever a priority. It sometimes is. But there should always be clear reasons why.

So, how can you design with purpose rather than urgency?

Well, it’s probably going to require managing up. Go to that manager or client with their hair on fire, and ask them simple questions like:

What is the mission of our product team?

What is the measurable business benefit of delivering work faster?

If working with greater haste means a lower quality user experience, is that acceptable to you?

I’ll be blunt: if they aren’t willing to have this conversation, or if they don’t have good answers—you may not want to work with them. A manager who is continually nagging and demanding a breathless pace of delivery is just a bad manager. They’re certainly a bad strategist.

Designing with purpose requires understanding the reasons behind your efforts and the change you want to see in the world. Knowing your purpose will fuel your desire to work with high energy and efficiency, because you want to get to that ultimate outcome.

You might need to remind or educate your boss that designing with a sense of purpose is the way to win. Creating urgency is usually unhealthy and counterproductive.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: Should UX leaders also do hands-on design work?

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