They say it takes seven years to master a skill. Well, this fall it’ll have been seven years since I took a web design class where I learned how to create websites with HTML and CSS. I’ve come a long way since then, and while I still have a ways to go to truly master my craft, these seven years have taught me what really matters in product design.
Focus on the problem, not your solution
A good product designer never stops listening. Not only is it extremely unlikely that your design perfectly solves the problem, but the variables that make up that problem are constantly changing. And when the variables change, so should your solution.
Work with professionals, not experts
Having worked with both I’ve learned there’s a big difference between the two, and I’d choose a professional over an expert any day. A professional knows what they know and what they don’t. They’ll figure out whatever they need to, even if it’s something they’ve never done before. Most importantly, a professional will get the job done no matter what.
Meanwhile, an expert tends to rely too heavily on their domain knowledge and hesitates to work through problems that fall outside of that domain. When you’re working in a highly iterative environment, you want to be on a team with people who are willing to push things as hard as you do.
It’s not about what you create, but what your creation enables
No one wants to use software, they just want to get something done. When I upload an image, I don’t care how it’s done, I just want my friends to be able to see it. It’s an important reminder to design for what people are actually using your tool for. It’s why the best way to communicate the success of your product is by championing the success of those who use it.