The Devil’s Side of UX Design — A Hidden Secret

12 July 2017 by Shivam Sahai No comments
UX Design Playing the Devil's Advocate

UX Design & the Hobson’s Choice for Startups 

As a UX Design consultant, it’s been a fun ride to work with innovative, aspiring startups. What gives me a heady rush working with any startup is – a simple Hobson’s choice I need to make every time; it’s about either making it or breaking it. I remember the way Guy Kawasaki puts this, though I would like build a parachute on the way down.

Working with startups is like taking off from an aircraft carrier; you’re either going to take-off or die. There aren’t too many choices anyways.

This puts a design consultant like me at the centre of the startup volcano. However, what intrigues me personally is how should I define whether or not my services added any value? Whether I made any difference to the startup? By designing a beautiful UI? Flawless navigation? Intuitiveness? Simplicity? Friendly UX design? — I think all of this is bullshit!

I think all of this is as utter crap, at a time when a startup is just learning to crawl, forget walking or running.

This makes me think that design has to be more than just skin-deep attributes that measure the value of my services. This blog is about one such measure I’ve discovered over the years.

Playing the Role of a Devil’s Advocate to a Startup

But why should I play the devil’s advocate? Why the heck should I question the founders who are a lot more immersed than me in their idea? Who understand the problem they are trying to solve far better than me? Why should I push a startup to a different tangent? Why ask the tough questions? Why not just deliver wireframes, sleek UI’s, super cool features and just follow the requirements? Isn’t that much easier to do than taking my ass to the field to conduct user studies? Or to validate the hypotheses? Why get into all this trouble when most people don’t care about it?

The Creative Itch

I think the answer that I’ve introspected for myself is the word creative itch. The itch to hold myself true to my profession (which is abused in the name of good-looking screens). The itch to hold myself responsible for the startup’s fate. The itch to hold it’s success or failure close to my heart.

I’ve worked at a lot of UX design agencies now, seen projects of varied sizes, team dynamics etc. The unfortunate insight from my career is that most of the UX design agencies don’t give a shit about playing the devil’s advocate role to clients, especially when they’re dealing with startups.

The way I’d like to think about it is like this. If I am consulting for an established enterprise, it will survive with superficial make-up in the name of UX design. But a startup is a completely different ball game. There’s too much at stake. Isn’t it? I think it is our responsibility as UX designers to be true in terms of defining our value to them, other than just executing great pixel designs.

Final Word of Advice

So if you’re a startup founder looking to hire a designer or an agency, I suggest you to take a pause and think about what  you really want from design services. There is a lot more than what meets the eye when it comes to UX design. You would be surprised how much value design thinking can add to turn your product idea into a successful business.

And if you would like your design team to tell it like it us, you may want to look up one of the best UX design teams around, if we do say so ourselves 🙂

Shivam Sahai

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