UX Crash Course: Stupid Question 1 of 30

Throughout these lessons, we will cover a lot of questions that you might hear from bosses, clients, and if you’re a beginner, maybe from yourself. But let’s start by handling all the answers we won’t talk about. The first stupid question is:

“What if I don’t know the answer?!”


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Ok, so here’s the situation…

You’re sitting in a meeting with some important corporate types, presenting your design for them to approve. It has taken you weeks of work to create it. It’s important. 

Everything is going fine.

You’re feeling awesome.

Then they drop a question on you, and you’ve got nothin’. You’re like the King-Slayer in Game of Thrones: stumped.

What do you do? 

Panic? Hide behind the coffee? Attack?

All of those sound entertaining, but there is a better way.


The stupid answer:

Use this handy guide to pretend you know UX.

I’m kidding. Don’t fucking do that.


The real answer:

Say: “I don’t know.”


Why this isn’t as stupid as it seems:

You might have laughed because the real answer sounds obvious, but would you do it in real life?

(I am convinced that jargon is born when people try to answer questions they don’t understand.)

Most people feel obligated to give an answer when they are responsible for something. Most people are afraid to say “I don’t know.” When someone important is sitting across from you, asking a serious question, and you don’t know the answer, you will feel real social pressure.

But you’re not most people anymore. You’re a god damn UX designer!

Giving no answer is sometimes better than giving an answer. And over time, that’s how you build trust and respect for yourself.

If your colleagues know that you will admit it when you don’t have an answer, they will believe you when you do.


Don’t lie.

The worst thing you could do is try to lie or bullshit your way through it. Every time you do that, you hurt UX in general.

Not just in a moral way. In a real, practical way.

UX seems totally mysterious to most people. It might still seem kind of mysterious to you, if you’re not very experienced yet. That’s fine. But that makes most people feel a little uncomfortable.

They just have to trust that you know what you’re talking about.

But when you lie, and people discover your lie, they start thinking: maybe all UX designers are full of shit.

That’s bad.


Explain how you will find the answer.

You have a lot of tools in UX, and they can help you find answers to things you don’t know. User research, books, analytics, daily lessons on blogs by sexy UX designers, A/B tests, and so on.

Tell them how you plan to explore the answer, and it will help them trust you. All you need is a bit of time. That’s not unreasonable.


Stand up for yourself.

Sometimes it is impossible to know the answer without an A/B test.

When UX designers say they don’t know, there is always an asshole in the room who starts making suggestions based on nothing.

“Maybe an Ice Bucket Challenge would help our conversion rate. It worked for ALS!”

“We should offer a free iPhone. Bitches love iPhones.”

“My insurance company has a great website, let’s do that!”


You’re still the UX designer and still the most qualified person in the room to find the answer to their question.

And it’s ok to tell everyone to calm down and wait. Just try to use less profanity than I usually do.



Tomorrow we will answer the question: “Can anybody do UX? Can everybody?”