Me holding a golden balloon that. says "2" while holding my head.

What I learned in my first two years as a digital product designer

11th of October 2020

Two years have passed as me being in digital product design and there has been a lot of learning involved. From smaller things to some really big ones and today I'd like to highlight some key points that I keep coming back to. I might still even struggle with these on the  daily after two years but at least I know about them and how to handle them.

Dribbble is not real

I'm sad to tell you this but Dribbble is not real, yes it's a great place for inspiration but that's it. Designs on Dribbble are all about aesthetic and looks but almost never about functionality. Those pretty graphs you see yeah they don't  mean anything. They are curved nicely because they don't rely on data and the "dummy"  data  below yeah that are just numbers that look pretty. Even more; designs on Dribbble are often not legible for people with a disability. That yellow button with white text in it? Don't even think about using that in a real product that might  get used in all kinds of conditions in all kinds of situations.

All in all Dribbble is not a bad place, it's great to let your creativity run free of limitations and it's also a great place to find inspiration. I often still use it for this and even I catch myself making stuff thats sometimes more pretty than functional.

You are not your work

A hard one here but it has to be said; you are not your work. When colleagues give you feedback it's only their opinion on what's on the screen, they are not criticising you. More than I'd like to admit I have struggled with this and sometimes it pops up again if I'm very much invested and spent a lot of time on something. Often enough you put a lot of yourself into your work, you choose a style for buttons, inputfields and the overall vibe of an application.

This being said, feedback will only make the product you are working on better and more valuable. You and your colleagues are all working on that same goal to deliver a good product. So take the critiques and work with them, in the end you'll end up with a much better result than you might have imagined.

Paper is your friend

Yes I'm a digital product designer and I design applications on a screen that will run on another screen, that doesn't mean every step of the process should be digital. In the early stages of a new project I often had to withhold myself from switching to digital tools too fast. Paper actually gives you a lot of freedom to try a lot of different ideas really fast at a low-fidelity. I can draw 100 home-screens if necessary whereas if I were to do this digitally it would easily take me more time. Another good thing about starting on paper is that you are more focussed on the features than placement. When wireframing digitally I easily get lost in details and pixel perfection even though that's not the goal of a wireframe.

Reflection

The last two years have been full of new learning both big and small, there are probably things I am forgetting. Being "in the field" for the past two years have been absolutely great and I'm happy to say I am still enjoying what I do every single day.

So now it's up to you, what are some things you have learned whilst on the job? What would you like to share with others? Please let me know via any form of social media!