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Fresh Eyes

Sometimes my brain is fried.

The whole aim of UX writing is to explain exactly what the user needs to know, when they need to know it. No more, no less; not earlier, not later. In the simplest way possible.

Usually, that's fairly easy. But when a feature is incredibly complicated, or a flow is long, or the users aren't typical, it's easy to second guess your decisions. If most tasks can be completed in one or two iterations, those that take seven or eight become frustrating.

Sometimes powering through is the right answer: figure out the problem and move on. This approach works well for shorter flows, or when reacting to specific feedback. It doesn't work when it's not clear what the problem is, when there are requirements coming from different sources, or when you've been staring at the problem for days.

My initial reaction when I can't immediately solve a problem is to feel useless. Would a better writer have a quick solution? Maybe. But I'm not a better writer. I'm becoming one, sure, but I have to solve a problem in real-time. When I find myself getting frustrated or discouraged, I remind myself to go through the checklist:

  • Do I understand how the feature works?

  • Do I understand the user's intent?

  • Is the content limited by the current design?

  • Is the content in the right place?

  • Am I saying too much, or not enough?

  • Have I been staring at this for too long?

Lot of the time, that final one is what gets me. If I'm struggling to thread a needle, I'll put it down, make a cup of tea, and come back to it a few minutes later. Content is no different: sometimes you just have to remove yourself from the situation for a bit.

Problems that seem impossible on Friday often have obvious solutions on Monday. If Monday rolls around and there's still no magical answer, starting from scratch is often the way to go. Kill your darlings, as Faulker said. Finding what's right often means first finding what's not.

Full disclosure: I'm writing this post now because I'm stuck. I'm working on several flows without clear solutions, and I felt myself getting frustrated. So the kettle's getting ready for chai tea, Spotify's on in the background, and I'm working on some data entry tasks to give myself a mental break. In an hour or so I'll come back, and hopefully my vision will be cleared enough to see where I'm going wrong and, if I'm lucky, a solution.


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