Friday exhale — 2/11/22
Hope everyone’s week was great! I’ve been thinking a lot about feedback and its role in the creative process the past couple of weeks, and with Valentine’s day around the corner hey why not talk a little bit about making things that people actually love?
It’s relatively easy to make something. The distance between “thing —> good thing,” though, is wide (and probably a deeper philosophical question than for one newsletter post).
Today I’m going to keep it light and talk a bit about how understanding what you can do vs what you should do is an absolutely crucial part of the design process. A great mechanism for this is learning how to analyze feedback. Especially when working in teams…deciding when feedback (whether internal or external) is something that needs to be implemented, taken into account, or simply ignored is step 0 to ever getting anything out the door, let alone something lovable.
Getting to the heart…of feedback
On the surface dealing with feedback seems pretty easy — you get some new information, think about if it makes sense, and then say yes or no. But in reality it’s often far more complicated than that. Maybe you’ve got a bunch of great ideas but are on a tight timeline — how do you prioritize? Maybe you have stakeholders of varying seniority across various parts of your company — who’s opinion do you at least have to respond to? Maybe the research results are all over the place, or maybe the problem you’re working on isn’t super focused to begin with — where do you go from here?
Guess what? It depends!
The first piece of advice I can offer is that it’s ok to treat different feedback differently. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the tailspin of “customer X says they need Y thing so we need to do that.” Don’t fall into the trap! Easier said than done.
How do you avoid the trap? In my experience, the easiest way to feeling good about saying no is to simply “know thyself.”
You need to know what your thing is and what it isn’t. You need to be comfortable not being everything to everyone. I can promise you that trying to please everyone in reality pleases no one. You can make some money along the way, sure, but you certainly won’t be loved in the long-term, and some other thing by a more nimble team is going to take your spot in your customer/user’s life. You’ve got to get back to who your product is for.
What is your product being hired by your customer to do for them? What do they get out of the deal? What do you get out of the deal? The temptation is to think only in terms of individual features or product traits, and that’s certainly valuable at times…but it may be time to get deep on the overarching philosophy of your entire product to make these decisions. Who’s buying it? Who’s using it? What are they trying to do with it? What does it make better for them? What are you trying to do with it?
Love yourself first
Coming back to “know thyself” — to some, that last question above may be surprising. “What do I want to do with this?! Why would that matter if it’s for someone else?” And it’s definitely not a bad point. Certainly there are times when someone makes a truly utilitarian purchase…but we’re not just trying to make things here…we’re trying to make love.
Not only would I argue that things made by people who understand and feel the problems they’re trying to solve are just going to be better… but have you ever been in a relationship with someone that doesn’t know what they want or who they are? It’s actually heartbreaking and exhausting — in this case for the person who is paying you money and just trying to get the benefits you promised them in return.
I’m just going to whisper the words “HR software” and hopefully any of you in a corporate environment now understand what I’m saying.
Not knowing what you want to achieve is a recipe for chaos. It results in unfocused decisions and a constant dig for that mythical treasure supposedly buried somewhere around here. Blindly research rudderless metrics, adjust design, repeat, die. Yawn.
Don’t be afraid to go back to things you thought you already solved for — sometimes you need the 10000 foot view to find that clarification. For example, sometimes a slight change to an early, overarching, decision can solve for the pain point in your specific area of concern.
3 simple steps to true love
Know what they want
Know who you are in relation to those things
Don’t do the things outside the center of that Venn diagram
OK, go hold hands and spin in a circle around the camera or whatever. ❤️
Now for the cool stuff —
Hocus Pocus 2 releasing on Halloween — for those of you who don’t know me, I’m always down for the spoop. Me and my wife even started a paranormal podcast a few years back. I need to find a clairvoyant to interview to see if this sequel will be solid or if it’s run amok! amok! amok!
Speaking of clairvoyants…this podcast on Mediums has me obsessed — I’m a bit more of a believer than a skeptic, and while this one is largely about debunked mystics, it’s really about the rise of mediumship as not only an expression of collective grief post-war, but also as one of the first feminist movements. A fascinating history that will probably put a new spin on how you think about the occult — as well as famous illusionists like Harry Houdini.
Tidal got me at $2 for 3 months…go get it just to go through their stellar onboarding — Thanks Neil Young. Their onboarding was super impressive. You’re presented with a bunch of artists and asked to select which you like…which ok, that isn’t that mind-blowing…but the part I loved the most was how once you’d click an artist, it would expand to show more artists related to that artist. I found myself clicking probably 100 artists and gaining immediate trust in their algorithm. Can’t wait to see if the playlists they send me back it up.
The new VW Bus was spotted in Norway! 👀
omg I can’t wait for this to come to the states. vw bus is back, baby 🙌🙌🙌. i’ll take a two-tone cream + red, please.
Those dangerous anarchists in Portland are at it again…building DIY heaters for people experiencing homelessness in winter — As someone who used to live in Portland, and not someone just experiencing it from the news, this is much more in line with the standard I experienced there. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻. This is Good Design.