Blog Post: Why Design Standards Aren’t Evil

I have been very fortunate to work with some fantastic creatives over my career. The little design work I have done over the years can never compare to the inventive ways designers can solve the problems our customers have. The upper crust even take feedback on their designs, which goes far against the stereotype.

What makes them successful, however, can make work in the corporate world sometimes problematic. 

The truly creative designers buck trends and thumb their nose in the face of conventional thought patterns. So when you need to impose some sort of framework or standards around their process, they get all squinty-eyed.

Again, this is a stereotype. One of the best creative directors I have ever worked with had rigorous design standards he wanted every member of the team to follow. He is a rare breed indeed.

I bring up all of this in light of a great article by Mike Maass from Citrix. In his post on UX Magazine, he lays out some great thinking behind a good Design Strategy. If we had a standard practice of creative output, it can allow the software to get out of the way of users and allow them to best use your product:

“An expertly designed interface—one that exceeds user expectations—gets out of the way and lets the experience take center stage so the user can achieve their task unhindered. Thus, the heroes of UX are those who do their jobs so well as to craft the unseen, to hide the UI behind an unmistakably fantastic UX. Doing this consistently is the great irony of UX design.”

This is not as easy of a task has the article lays out, which is usually the case. Many great designers get to where they are by having their own process of not only creating from scratch, but iterating upon their initial work.

However, just like software engineers, if you don’t have some sort of standard for the output of great work it allows chaos to ensue right in the middle of a project.

Think about it: when your development teams encounter difficulty with a new feature request or defect, we encourage them to let the process take over. The coding discipline initiated allows other developers to come in midstream and either consult or help complete. Random code implemented without following protocol usually leads to double the work to fix after.

Same for designing a suite of products with the singular goal of forwarding your platform. If one designer implemented buttons in a completely different manner than another, the user can be taken completely out of the experience. Maass argues that consistent UX allows the interface not get in the way of a flow, thus becoming invisible.

The design standards should follow the rules of simplicity and precision. There’s nothing wrong with changing a strategy, but it can only be done as a collective group. Once it’s decided upon, stick to it and make your standards easy to implement.

It’s great to see companies like Citrix accomplish something like this. While I’m sure the process was challenging to put into place, it’s clear from their product line it’s working. 

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