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I have been designing for almost 5 years now. I have noticed something very strange in my development lifespan. My appreciation for my works decreases substantially over time. Especially in my UX works for applications, where I work almost 10 hours a day (writing code) and where I am confronted with the interface all the time.

When I layout the user interface in Illustrator for example, I am very satisfied with how it looks, but after a couple months of development and seeing it over and over again, I always find something that I could improve and I kind of end up in this vicious cycle which does not seem to have an end.

This is a huge problem for me because my own products do not seem to be worthy to be launched in my eyes. I also have to say that I am a perfectionist, so of course that plays a key role.

Does anybody experience the same thing?
How do I put an end to this cycle?

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I can certaily relate (and I agree this needs re-wording). Two things come to mind: Keep the development steps, print and hang them. It's easier to apprechiate your work when you can see all the changes and drafts that went into it. Secondly, show it to people. You didn't design it for yourself but for the eyes of others. –  KMSTR Jan 28 '13 at 15:36
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An artist's harshest critic is themselves. –  DA01 Jan 28 '13 at 19:12
    
First of all, thank you @plainclothes for editing my post. I am really sick of it that I create something that really appeals to me, only to despise it one month later. I am going to follow through now and finish these projects and just launch them. Thank you all for your advice. –  the_critic Jan 28 '13 at 19:31
    
Although the asker had almost the exact opposite problem, some of the material in some of the answers to How would I know how good of a designer I am? are relevant here too. –  user568458 Jan 29 '13 at 15:26

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Beware, this is more of a 'sentimental answer'. I'll try to be concise.

This still happens to me and will probably continue to happen, or at least I expect so. For me, it's not only the things I created five years ago, but those I finished last week. I always think there's something else I could have done to improve it.

I don't actually think there is a point in a UI design where you can say "I've reached perfection". There are so many ways to express an idea, so many alternative interfaces that work, that the wisest thing you can do is, I think, choose the path you want to follow, and commit to it.

DA01 puts it perfectly in the comment. Design is art, and designers (even those that spend 10 hours writing code) are artists. The day you stop critizing yourself is the day you stop learning.

The ideal situation would be to find a balance. Include periodic review times in your workflow, invite people, run 5sec tests for the things you feel might not be clear or need some polishing. And take a distance, if you can, switch to other projects so you get a better understanding of what someone who has not been inside the design can see.

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thank you and @Scott you pretty much nailed what I thought is my problem. I simply need to take a little distance from my projects and not further "improve" things that simply do not need any improvement. –  the_critic Jan 28 '13 at 21:13

You need to determine the value of your time first. Basically, figure out what dollar value your expect to get for work. When working on private projects, you need to (metaphorically) pay yourself too. For example, If I'm doing a personal project, I first determine how much it is worth to me. If it is something I actually make money off of, this is easy. It is worth what I expect it to make. If it does not make money, I assess how much I would potentially pay someone else to do it if I did not have the skills or if I had too many other commitments. Then you put as many hours into the project as you could afford to pay yourself, given your previously defined budget. When you hit that mark, stop. If it has some loose ends, tie them up quickly and stop. Do not add any extra stuff beyond this point. If at some point it becomes reasonable to update (such as a personal portfolio site for example), first assess whether or not the existing project is filling it's need. If you are getting bites for work from an existing portfolio site, or if it is being favorably viewed by prospective employers, you do not need to update it; it's already doing what you designed it to do and continuing to pour effort into it is undermining your own skills and taking time away from more relevant endeavors.

If it is something you are just doing on the side for fun, do the same process, but set aside a certain number of work hours you can afford to put into it in your free time (the same chunk of free time you would also dedicate to watching tv, going to the bar, playing video games, or going golfing), and work on it within that time frame. When you have exhausted that time frame, you're done until next week/tomorrow/whenever your schedule resets.

When your project is functional, launch it. If it flops, improve the areas people didn't like and relaunch. You expect by default 100% output from yourself because you know know what level of work you are capable of. The public expects your work to fill a need. If it does that, it is successful. If it does that better than other examples, it is optimal. It does not ever need to be the 100% you expect from yourself to work for others, it just needs to suit their needs and they will use it.

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“Half of art is knowing when to stop.” - Arthur William Radford

I always remind myself that I see everything 50,000 times more than anyone else ever will. It's very, very important to have fresh eyes on things regularly.

I try and work on a variety of projects which entail different designs entirely. This way, if I feel one design may not be up to par, so to speak, I'll put it away for a day or two and not look at it. Then start a new day by looking at that design first thing, preferably from a distance.

At times this sparks an internal "Wow, that looks better than I thought" Other times its merely "Holy cow, that red thingamjig sure is huge and poorly placed."

It's only with fresh eyes can I be truly critical of things I've worked on for long periods. Artists tend to follow the same paths through a piece they took when creating it. The only way I've found to discover a new path through a design, or even if that path is needed, is via fresh eyes on it. I always want to rework or change something If I've been staring at it for days or weeks. I think that's just the nature of creation in any field.

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