I often discuss the fact that UX is not a matter of opinion. Typically I am referring to testing and results, but this is also true in a more subtle way: the problems you have chosen to attack in the first place. Are they really problems? Or are they just opinions?
One of the things you will do most as a UX designer is find problems, and solve them.
The way you phrase problems to yourself matters a lot, because your perspective can change everything. The difference between “make this faster” and “make this more powerful” can be very different designs.
And both might be wrong, if the users actually need it to be “simpler”.
Ideally, when you do research, you will discover something users need, and your perspective on the problem is their perspective on the problem.
However, sometimes you will discover opinions. The “solution” to an opinion doesn’t actually solve anything. It just makes the world more consistent with the opinion.
That’s not UX.
Let’s look at a couple examples…
I recently came across two startups — which will remain anonymous to protect the innocent — that are built around this exact mistake. It practically guarantees failure, unfortunately, because there is no value in the solution.
Startup #1: “Spotify for images” allows users to pay a subscription to get images they can use in Powerpoint presentations, rather than stealing them from Google Images.
Startup #2: Suggests things to take pictures of so you don’t fill people’s social media feeds with pictures of your latté foam or your goddamn finger nails.
Now… as an outside observer, most people would agree that both things are not ideal. #1 is a moral issue, and #2 is an annoyance — even if both are the fucking definition of a “first world problem”.
But hypothetically, let’s say you can find a few million people who want to solve those things.
What’s the mistake?
Well, first of all, the people who want to solve the problems are not the people who are paying.
Besides the fact that Startup #1 is just stock photos under a new name, asking people to pay to keep doing what they are already doing is ridiculous. Only the owners of photos actually benefit; not the users.
That’s why illegal downloading can only be beaten by services that are better than stealing.
The real Spotify solves a real need for users, by providing instant access to millions of songs without buying all of them, and discovery tools.
Startup #2 is asking people to replace the photos they want to take with photos they don’t want to take.
If they also used this as a way to teach people to be better photographers (via technical knowledge, composition lessons, exposure settings, etc.) then the user would also benefit, even if they just took much cooler pictures of their latté.
So when you have meetings during the beginning of a project, ask yourself: am I solving a problem, or am I just trying to make the world fit someone’s opinion of a better world?
Are the people causing the problem and the people benefitting from the solution the same people?
The answers could save you from wasting hundreds of hours building something nobody wants.