The Three Worst Words You’ll Hear in UX
Chad Nicholas

“Can’t we just…”

I know the phrase. I can’t specify the last instance I heard it. And, worst of all, I’ve said it myself. If I close my eyes, I can see the meeting rooms I’ve heard it in…which is every meeting I’ve ever been in.

When I hear those three little words, even when I say them, I never get a sense of impending assured confidence. I never hear those words and think, “Oh, we’re about to get the best solution to this problem!” No. I can hear it in their voice. The little inflections that say, “Please don’t hurt me too badly when you shoot this down, okay?” The exhausted voice that really wants this problem to just go away because have you seen the time we have left? Let’s get this small thing banged out and get to the bigger problems. Come on, please?! 

Look, I know you mean well. I mean well. But when we toss out ideas in a meeting with more than seven people (read: the worst kind of meeting), that idea is going to take a lot of time to validate or get rid of. There’s a famous Mark Twain adage that he didn’t actually write that goes, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” An ill-conceived idea in a meeting room just drags the meeting down while people begin to tactfully shoot it down. Or, not wanting to seem like they don’t understand the requirements, they’ll nod along as if the idea will solve the problem. And it will! But only if you consider the problem to be the bits of it mentioned in the meeting.

I was in a meeting recently with one of our clients, and we as a group needed to address an issue that had no clear best answer. One of the folks said, “Can’t we just…”. This suggestion was one of the reasonable options before the team and might be the right one to choose. Issue solved, right?

Nope! Whenever we say “Can’t we just…”, what we’re saying is:

Admit it. We’ve all been there. It’s almost always in a group setting, you probably have several agenda items to discuss, the item needs a bit of consensus, and it’s not easy. It’s either complex or impactful or both. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be an agenda item for this group to discuss.

At Expero, we don’t like to just guess. We do under certain time constraints, but we want to get it right. That means finding out what the right design should be—and that means thoroughly evaluating options, often with feedback from stakeholders and end-users. Why would you want to hire professionals to do your user research and UX design and then willfully opt to not think things through?

Honorable mention in the “Worst Words in UX Sweepstakes”: “The Expert”.

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