Building Trust as a Designer: The Art of Balance and Compromise

Feb 28, 2022

As a designer, it can be challenging to balance the needs of users and organizations while meeting deadlines. One of the trade-offs I've considered is the delicate balance between earning the trust of our users and nurturing positive relationships with our colleagues. It would be ideal to prioritize user needs, but we must also maintain trust with those we work with. To make an impact with our designs, we must establish trust with both our users and our team.

Lessons from a Developer-Turned-UX Designer

Reflecting on the start of my career as a front-end developer, I recall being responsible for bringing designers' visions to life. Working with detail-oriented designers obsessed with achieving 'pixel-perfect' outcomes was challenging and rewarding. However, as I gained more experience, I realized that users prioritize usability and trustworthiness over pixel-level details. Convincing the team to prioritize user needs over design perfection was difficult and often led to heated debates.

The Shift towards User-Centricity

After experiencing frustration, I found myself in an environment where user needs were prioritized. The pursuit of 'pixel perfection' was no longer the sole focus, and I was able to work with others who shared this mindset. Although constraints were still present, they took on different forms. Whether it was scaling back features to launch a marketplace quickly or navigating regulations in the public sector, limitations were always present. These experiences taught me to accept constraints and recognize the boundaries teams operate within.

The Designer's Dilemma: Striving for Perfection vs. Embracing Constraints

As designers, we often encounter thought-provoking discourse on 'designing the impossible.' The argument posits that our mandate is to strive for exemplary work, turning away from imposed constraints that technical limitations may present. While there is merit in this philosophy, complacency breeds mediocrity. However, the relentless pursuit of the ideal can shadow collaborative relationships, affecting teamwork and trust. Nonetheless, it is crucial to strike a balance between earning the trust of our users and nurturing positive relationships with our colleagues.

Striking a Delicate Balance

Earning the trust of our colleagues is essential for being a valuable, pragmatic, and collaborative player. Trust and teamwork become tangible during backlog refinement sessions as projects are distilled for timely delivery. Dissolving personal egos into a collective effort is crucial, a lesson reinforced through past collaborations. However, there are moments of doubt when I wonder if compromise was too heavily favored over enhancing the user experience. The answer is not definitive and depends on factors like the team's longevity and capacity and the ticking clock of deadlines.

Earning and Giving Trust

As designers, we often find ourselves walking a tightrope in design, where challenges and the necessity for sacrifice abound. Learning to advocate fiercely for unparalleled user experiences while navigating and honoring the constraints we encounter is more than a mere skill – it's an art. Trust, much like respect, is reciprocal. Push with excessive force, and the fabric of teamwork may fray. However, steering clear of conflict altogether risks the obsolescence of the designer's purpose.

The Mutual Dance of Trust

When trust is given generously, it often returns in kind, just like respect. It's important to continuously provide and earn trust with our users and team to create the space necessary for exceptional work.

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