10 UX Monsters that designers fear, and how to overcome them.

Everyone’s afraid of something—even designers. To pay tribute to Halloween this month, I spoke with different app, web, and service designers about things that give them the creeps and asked them what they do to overcome their fears. 

So here it is: 10 very scary UX Monsters, and how to beat them. 

The Data Monster

The Data Monster is scary because it overwhelms designers with, you know, data. Loads of it: analytics, graphs, Excel spreadsheets, documents, you name it. Even if you’re good with numbers, the Data Monster will find a way to make you feel totally incompetent. In the worst cases, the Data Monster can even cause nightmares. The most common dream reported after seeing one is being trapped inside of an Excel spreadsheet. In order to break free, you have to apply formulas to the spreadsheet, but whenever you try to do so, none of them work…

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster:

  • Break the Data Monster’s spell by asking the data’s owner to explain what the data needs to do. Alternatively: team up with someone good with numbers and go through the data together. 
  • Also an option: use Heap or a similar tool to visualize and better understand the data. 

The GDPR Monster

The GDPR Monster is the Data Monster’s cousin. Instead of overwhelming you with data, the GDPR Monster constantly threatens you with fines that can reach up to 10 million euros if you break the law. Victims usually develop specific eating disorders in reaction to it: they might start avoiding cookies, for example, and cause scenes by trying to explain to others that they can’t eat cookies without signing a privacy agreement. 

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster: 

The Accessibility Monster

Like the GDPR Monster, the Accessibility Monster is scary because it has the weight of the law behind it. Unlike other UX Monsters, however, the Accessibility Monster isn’t actually one creature, but a set of monster-triplets: WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, and WCAG 2.2. To make things worse, each of these triplets looks almost identical and loves punishing anyone who makes the mistake of mixing them up. The most common sign that someone is having an Accessibility Monster pay them horrible visits is that they develop a severe fear of colors—after all, a black and white combo does have the safest color contrast.

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster:

The User Testing Monster

People who have battled with a User Testing Monster before have described it as a many-headed and many-voiced beast that seems to be in horrible disagreement with every part of their mind. The User Testing Monster drags you into a confused state and gets you lost in a labyrinth of choices. Rumors say that once you’re inside, no compass or ball of yarn can ever lead you back out. 

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster:

  • The basics: How to do remote user testing during COVID-19
  • Active listening: instead of tuning the noise out, focus on what the beast is actually saying. If you figure out why it’s so distressed, maybe you’ll be able to help it, and everyone can live happily ever after.

The Service Design Monster

A homunculus, a freak! The Service Design Monster is scary because it challenges designers’ tolerance of things that don’t resemble them. It’s almost like being on a leash pulled by Quasimodo, but instead of seeing Esmeralda, you’re led to an angry medieval church board who are unhappy that their users don’t use their services more. Burning witches, the Inquisition—just look at some of what they’ve come up with and you won’t be surprised that more and more of their users are turning to the competition. 

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster: 

  • The basics: What is service design and why use it in your product development?
  • The differences between service design and app/web design aren’t that big. Both focus on user experience, but service design does it while taking into account a person’s interaction with the service more thoroughly, and can also be applied to designing offline services. 

The Competitive Research Monster 

Having won every beauty pageant competition since it was three years old, the Competitive Research Monster is an expert at making you compare yourself with others and destroying your confidence. People who are under the Competitive Research Monster’s spell are known to start believing that there’s nothing more important than being better than their competitor, forgetting their users and their needs forever.

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster: 

The Edge Case Device Monster

As a believer in body positivity, the Edge Case Device Monster comes in all shapes and sizes and has only one goal: to drive you beyond crazy. By only feeding you assignments for the smallest and largest screens possible, the Edge Case Device Monster makes sure no screen scales or scrolls the same. No wonder its victims are always on edge. 

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster: 

  • The basics: Lay out scaling rules and breaking points. Communicate with developers, make sure they’re on the same page as you are, and make sample screens for them.
  • Run development reviews on edge case simulators or actual devices.

The File Shuffle Monster

The File Shuffle Monster likes soufflé and likes to shuffle. The File Shuffle Monster is passionate about being against the system, liking punk songs, and hating Marie Kondo. It takes only a moment for a person to turn their eyes away from the screen, and the File Shuffle Monster has changed everything—for the worse. Talk about gaslighting. 

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster: 

The Dark Patterns Monster

The Dark Patterns Monster is the king of deception. It enters its victim’s mind and inhabits it like a parasite, whispering sugar-coated promises about how some course of action is, against all logic, still in the interest of the user. The Dark Patterns Monster has been known to force its victims to do ridiculous things, like designing a 200-click logout journey. It is believed that surrounding yourself with talismans like personas and user journeys while chanting user-centric design guidelines can help keep the Dark Patterns Monster away, but no one knows for certain if it helps. 

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster:

  • The basics: Usability heuristics
  • Chant Frank Herbert’s litany against fear and don’t give up: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

The Feedback Monster

As a cosmopolitan and diversity enthusiast, the Feedback Monster loves UX Designers as much as it loves everyone else. Like the User Testing Monster, the Feedback Monster affects its victim’s hearing: a person who has come across it starts to hear only bad or only very good things about their work. To make themselves immune to the monster’s confusing effects, people have been known to give up listening altogether: what you can’t hear can’t harm you.

Recommended weapon(s) of choice for defeating this monster:

Let’s beat the UX Monsters together 

Overcoming your fears can be hard, especially when you go at it alone. Though there are definitely still things we’re afraid of as people, as designers we beat our fear of UX Monsters and we’d love to help you beat yours—if you let us. 

Published by Maria Vous

. Maria is a UX researcher and service designer. With a background in both social sciences and human-computer interaction, she has the best skills of both worlds at her disposal. At Mooncascade, Maria has put her research, analysis and user testing skills into use to help the clients build human-centered solutions with sustainability and the empowerment of human values in mind.