The secret sauce to making your life easier as a UX Designer

Raluca Angelescu
December 18, 2023
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Think about it: a lot of the little frustrations in our daily lives come from when reality doesn't match our expectations. Ever been let down by a meal at a restaurant or a place that wasn't quite what you hoped? It's all about that gap between what we imagined and what actually happens.

This is especially true at work. Ever felt disappointed with a meeting or project because things didn't go as you thought they would? Often, it's because we didn't set or understand expectations clearly. So, let's talk about how we can get better at managing expectations – making things smoother for ourselves and everyone else.

Setting the Scene: Expectations in Action

When people don't know what to expect, they make it up. That's just human nature. For example, in the design world, your team might think you're working on one thing, while you're actually doing something else. Or a client expects a project by Friday, but you're still waiting on feedback to even start. Sound familiar?

In today's world, where we can communicate with anyone, anytime, why do these misunderstandings still happen? Often, it's because we're either too busy or too tired. This leads to gaps in expectations.

Take meetings, for instance. Many meetings flop because we don't set clear expectations from the get-go. How long will this meeting last? Why am I here? What's the goal? Without clear answers, people might zone out or not contribute effectively.

The fix? Start with a clear agenda. Don't just list items; set the stage. Tell people what you expect from them. This could be through a quick verbal rundown or a slide – the key is making it clear. This way, everyone knows what's going on, feels more involved, and is more likely to contribute meaningfully.

After setting clear expectations, delve a bit deeper. People often understand what to do but not why. Explaining the 'why' behind a task or project can make a huge difference. It helps people connect with the work and stay committed to shared decisions.

Clarifying and Recalibrating

Misunderstandings can also arise when we rush through meetings and don't clarify expectations. We think everyone's on the same page, but they're not. A simple way to avoid this is to wrap up meetings with open-ended questions. This lets people restate their takeaways and action items, ensuring everyone's aligned.

Remember, timing is crucial too. Asking "By when?" can help focus and define expectations more clearly.

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Learning from Missteps

What about when things don't go as planned, or someone new joins the project? Don't just dismiss past failures or overlook them. Instead, share what's been tried and learned. This approach turns past experiences into valuable lessons, opening the door for fresh perspectives and new ideas.

For instance, if a previous team attempted a user testing method that didn’t yield useful data, it’s important to discuss why it didn’t work. Was the user sample too small? Were the questions not aligned with the objectives? Understanding these nuances can prevent the new team member from repeating the same mistakes.

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When Things Go Awry

Even with the best planning, things can go off track. If this happens, don't panic or give up. Embrace these moments as learning opportunities. Look at what you've done, see what can be salvaged or adapted, and move forward.

If expectations weren't met, reflect on how you could have been clearer. Being self-aware, especially in a role like design, is crucial. Owning up to your part in any misunderstandings can help you grow and get better at everything you do – from setting expectations to delivering outstanding work.

So, with these insights in hand, practice setting and clarifying expectations. With time, you'll not only meet them but also exceed them. 🚀😊

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