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How to Cure UX Burnout

"How many ways can you design a video media catalogue?"

The question arose while sitting in a conceptualizing session with designers discussing a new landing page for videos.

There are times when we, as designers, feel the UX burnout. When we don’t feel inspired to come up with new solutions or when we constantly revert back to what we know already. Like many other types of burnouts, it may be attributed to a variety of reasons.

We have all been there—the constant doubt of our performance, the diminishing passion, or the deep fatigue that makes us watch our own toenails grow. The same burnout pattern can be seen in our design work.

Do I have UX burnout?

It may seem that every interface being designed at the moment looks disarmingly like the next. Are your toolkits and client bases all so similar that you keep designing the same UX? Or after a whole year of working on one product, are you simply drowning in the same repetitive creative cycle?

Here are some tips for this holiday season to help you get back on your creative feet rather than eating away your burnout sorrows.

1. Zoom out. Dig in.

Sometimes we get caught up in the details of what we are designing—iterations of the same screen, the same feature. Step away and start looking at the bigger picture. Ask yourself questions like:

“What emotional response would people have to this page/screen?”

“What are their goals once they are on this specific page/screen?”

Zooming out and understanding that the screen (or feature) belongs to a bigger system and serves a much bigger purpose can shift your perspective.

“How can this browsing pattern be translated to mobile? Are there mobile patterns that would fit better for the web? Can we imagine the web as a big tablet?”

Designing user experience requires designers to look at many separate parts and create a coherent experience across the different touchpoints. The touchpoint could be a different device, or different layers of the product, or even different personas. Analysing how “User A” would use the system can influence design decisions for “User B”. When encountering UX burnout, sometimes it’s helpful to dig into a specific touchpoint (even if it’s not one that you need to design). It works as a great brainstorming exercise and stretches that creative muscle.

2. Mimic, don’t borrow.  

When facing UX burnout, we do tend to simply ‘borrow’ existing concepts. There are many design rationales behind the benchmarks. The audience, the journey, and the intent could all be different. Ask yourself questions like:

“Does this navigation pattern remind me of something else? Should it?”

Thinking “but Facebook/Netflix/Twitter did it this way” shouldn’t be your rationale for making design decisions.

Much like bio-mimicry—learning from nature and biology to solve other life problems—this thought process is about mimicking the system, models, and elements to reapply them. An interesting example I encountered recently was the redesign of the menu explorer of McDonalds.

McDonalds presented an interface that is unlike a traditional web-based menu—it reminded me of a media catalogue or e-commerce catalogue. This is a refreshing approach whilst at the same time supporting the UI’s intent. Metaphorically borrowing from one experience to another. Not only does this help the UI stand out with a fresh twist, but it also provides a different browsing experience for the users. In this case, the users are guided to explore the menu rather than simply pick something from the menu.

"Can we design more for the emotion instead of the UI?"

A well-crafted user experience has a lot to do with the emotions that it triggers and generates. The emotional elegance is not only about the specifics of the UI, but also about the journey. Mimic the emotion, not the interface.

3. Switch up your routine

If you are in the same creative process everyday, it’s easy to just go with the grind. Often, the creative process can be dampened by routines. Even if you are doing the same tasks every day, each day could be different in the end.  

Switch up your routine from time to time. Step outside your normal creative process. Sit yourself down in a beanbag. Set up a critique with your colleagues to get feedback from him or her. Spend some downtime and read about news in a far corner of the world or watch a couple of Kickstarter videos.

In the end, like any other burnout, the best way to cure it could be having that long overdue rest.

Cathy Wang

Cathy Wang

Cathy Wang is an independent designer and digital strategist. Former Vancouverite, now a nomadic world explorer, she writes about service design and experience strategy, with a focus on human emotion.  

Cathy has a deep love for connecting businesses to people. She dreams about the future and how design can change the world. Secretly, Cathy is a gynoid.

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