On handling critiques
A few days ago I saw a really interesting post by Jason Zimdars about criticism. That post made me think a lot, mostly because I tend to bitch a lot about stuff. Yeah, I really do. What really made me think is a discussion I had with one of my best friends, which is an outstanding designer, about this matter. That conversation really touched me, but I rather keep it for myself, though.
After a few days thinking about it and watching many people joining the “trend” of “respect”, I think I can finally talk about it.
As a designer, I’d seen myself many times on the opposite side. During my time on Tuenti, we received a bunch of ferocious critiques. I can’t remember a single constructive one. Some of them were founded, others weren’t. It was a part of my job to handle those critiques and extract some conclusions about them. Let’s be honest: if many people are saying that they don’t like something, maybe they’re right. Don’t forget that these are the people that use your web/app/whatever on a regular basis. These are the people you get money from –directly or not–, the ones you have to please in some way. However, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to every single thing and take an action from all of them. I’m the one who knows the requirements and constraints of the product, and I’m the one who studied how to design.
Of course, some of the design decisions weren’t mine directly. What many people forgets is that there’s usually someone on top that makes the decisions. I can make the most visually appealing and usable thing in the world… but many times the stakeholder comes and says “Make it blue”, or just picks the worst option from the 10 I made. Does that mean I’m a bad designer? Not at all. Is it my fault? Well… maybe I didn’t communicate well enough my idea to that stakeholder… or maybe I did and he just didn’t listen. Shit happens.
The thing is, you can extract many information of user’s rants. Don’t take it too personal. People doesn’t have the time to make a constructive critique. They have better things to do. Complaining without thinking is also easy –maybe too much–, yes. Obviously, there’s no need to be mean. That’s so disrespectful. Things take a lot of work to get done, yes… but what about if users don’t like it?
I prefer to have negative feedback about something I made which is wrong, even if it’s not respectful or is misinformed. I know how to handle that. It’s part of my job.
[Update] We all should probably give Criticism: Myths and Childishness by Andy Rutledge a read.