2013 Mission: Create The Best Designs of My Career

Every January I walk into work with a fresh outlook, clear mind, and am brimming with ideas on what I want to accomplish for the year.

…for exactly 17 minutes.

At the 18th minute (17:03 to be exact), the emails, calls, and instant messages come rolling in asking for my advice, help, work, skills, along with memories about unfinished business from last year. Very quickly I get a full list of to-do’s that have nothing to do with what I really want to accomplish. If I’m not careful, I could spend the whole year fighting these little fires (hence the lateness of this ‘welcome to 2013’ post).

This year, I’m going to be very intentional about achieving my 2013 mission…

2013 Mission: Create the best designs of my career

I know. Lofty. But if I shoot for anything less, our customers lose out. What follows is a list of what I’m going to do so I focus on my mission.

Make My To-Do List MY LIST
My default reaction when I get a request is to agree, then break it down into nuggets I can work on. The result is that each nugget is identified, a solution is defined, and I work to complete them successfully.

The problem?

Most of those to-do’s are either too small to help achieve my mission (just fixing an issue in an existing user interface), or they are to-do’s that contribute to someone else’s mission! While I love helping others succeed, I can’t lose focus of helping our users succeed by providing them the best designs I have ever done.

This year, every time I see a task, I’ll ask myself, “Will this help me accomplish my mission”?¬† If yes, then onto the to-do list it goes. If not, well, I will say no or delegate to someone who can do it.

Team with “Better Than Me’s”
In the world of user experience, it’s always a plus to have a team filled with folks that are better than you. For me, it raises my game and in the end I produce a better design for our users. I’m fortunate to be in a team that is filled with awesome designers, crazy-great developers, and fellow inventors.

Let my game rise!

Design Less
In 2013, I want to reduce how much UI is needed in designs. In the same way I edit down a song to make the lyrics and music better, I need to constantly  reduce the amount of UI so the interaction is better.

If I keep cutting ‘bells and whistles’ in the design, at some point one sweet tone will ring true…that’s when I’ll know it’s ready.

Design so Users Succeed
This may seem obvious, but many times my focus has been “How do I fit this feature into the product”, or even, “This will provide the feature AND be simpler to develop”. This year my focus will be, “How can our user succeed in their goals…and does this feature even help in that success?”. If I can’t answer that, then maybe the feature shouldn’t be added.

Start. NOW.
I will not wait for the perfect moment, or the muse to strike. I won’t get coffee first…I’ll start the design NOW. The hardest part is to get something on paper. Once there’s something there, you can easily see the gaps, the bad stuff to replace, and the good stuff to keep.

Then, once a draft is done, walking to the coffee lady can be filled with mental iterations on making the design better…then my draft 2 on paper is really draft 18.

Put Pencil to Paper
Seriously. I will actually get blank paper and pencils. Nothing is faster than capturing inspired designs than a pencil drawing on paper. I lost my way trying to create realistic mockups for the first iteration of the design. This year I’ll wait until it’s the 7th iteration.

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Welcome to 2013! Happy to have you as a reader, and I can’t wait to create some awesome user experiences!

Question: How are you going to create the best designs of your career?

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