Doomed to Fail?

Doomed to Fail?

Recently there was a situation in my daily work, that brought me the strongest dark feeling of “This will end bad!” since a long time. Not long ago I did an evaluation of a web application. And that thing was bad, even for a beta version, what is was at that point. The task came in just a few days before christmas vacations and I had not enough time to work my way into all the user needs and requirements (and there was nothing like that documented anyways). I’ve communicated that issue and they where ok that I just look on obvious things. In the end I gave them a 50 page long report on the most critical usability issues, that I could identify without the requirements, like missing back buttons, accessibility issues and obviously incomplete description of form fields. At some point I had to stop, but I had the feeling it could easily grow another 50 pages more. I handed over my report, went into my christmas vacation and didn’t think about it anymore, the job was done. At least, I thought so.

When I came back after vacation my colleague working with that customer had some news. They want a redesign of parts of the app. And they want “the one who did the evaluation” to do it. Inside my head began a big alarm with flashing lights and loud sirens, I imagined my self running in circles in panic.

You ask why? Well, you can see it from two sides.

  • It’s a great opportunity. The customer has faith in my skills. The one who can tell what’s wrong has to know how to make it right, right?
  • The one who can tell what’s wrong has to know how to make it right, right? Erm, nope. Without knowing the facts, meaning the user needs, requirements etc., all is just assumptions, and so incomplete at least.

I’m not claiming that there are any hard feelings. An evaluation is just facts, right? I know one can be sensitive to critic, esp. when its their very own app. But the feeling that I’m running fullspeed into a certain failure here does not want to go away.

But where are the problems here?

First of all: Sure, I’m designing processes and interfaces as well as testing some, that’s the fate of a very small UX team. But usually I try not to evaluate, what I’ve designed and the other way round. Designing what I’ve tested before and what I would have to test again afterwards seems not the best way. I’m would not be objective.

Second: There’s an awful lot of pressure here. Not that I have to come up with a good solution, it has to be quite perfect! Because I just tore their solutions apart. I have to know how to make it flawless, right? And that with only a few iterations (if any…)… in a very short time… And:

Third: I don’t have any requirements or user needs at hand. There are only my assumptions to work with.

And please strictly according to their styleguide only (which does not include some of the elements needed here).

Do you see where this is going?

Of course, I will do it. It’s my job, and I know I can come up with a good solution. But it would not be the best I could, if I had everything I would need. And it will certainly not be perfect.

There’ll be much expectation management needed. It would not be the first time, the customer assumes that an app designed by an UX pro would be flawless, even then when you change features and requirements afterwards…


It’s not over at the moment. Currently I’m in the midst of that work… I wonder what will happen…

Did you ever had such a situation? Do you agree with my fears here?

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