I saw a Facebook post that it’s easier to critique than to create. Someone commented underneath that that’s true on face value, but both take work.
And it made me think. It DOES sound like critique is easier or low effort compared to the toils of creation… but what about the other person’s point?
So I started with a dictionary definition of critique.
a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory.
Hmmmm. What is the dictionary definition of criticism?
the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.
Here comes the critique of critique vs creation.
Those of us in creative businesses know the creation isn’t easy. For some of us it comes naturally but it can still be a lot of work to craft the final version.
Those of us who “critique,” who analyze, audit, study, investigate what others have created or are creating… well, that isn’t necessarily easy. That can be a very long process of dissecting what’s working, what’s not working, and what can be improved all while potentially having to communicate that delicately to the creator. Though I don’t always shoot for delicate.
Critique should bring value to the creator. If I create something and you find mistakes or room for improvement, me being open to that will help us end up with a better design, product, or whatever it might be. That means removing the ego. I can’t act like I have designed the best and only thing… and no other ideas should be considered.
Sure, sometimes I’m rather confident of the direction I’m going in. Someone offering a totally different direction might seem foreign. But part of UX is at least to seriously consider these things even if you still end up not using the suggestions. And part of UX is being able to explain why one direction is a better solution given the target audience(s), likely motivations and behaviors, and needs in that moment (on your site, in your app, at your office, etc…).
Critique without value is probably just criticism. Hey, I don’t like this and I think it’s full of flaws. If I just express disapproval without the details of what I think isn’t working (plus suggestions for improvement), then that probably has little value. And it sure was easy!
We deal with that in UX.
If a client tells me he or she doesn’t like something, I ask questions. What about this do you feel won’t connect with your target audience?
This is a better question than, “Why don’t you like it,” or “What don’t you like about it?” The client may be considering himself and his personal preferences rather than using empathy to put himself in the customer’s shoes. The client and his customer may not like or need the same things. Questions help us get refocused.
My fave story here is the time we showed a small business a website design. The entrepreneur’s immediate response was that she didn’t like it. I asked if she’s her own target customer. She laughed and said, “Oh no, I don’t buy this shit!” OK then let’s imagine we ARE the people who buy this shit and imagine how they will perceive this. “Oh, I guess they would like it.” We think so too but we’re open to criticism and critique.
Critique isn’t easy.
Critique that adds value or illuminates a new angle or idea takes time and expertise. And care. I also have to really care about whatever this is to take the time to try to break it down, look at angles, and want to see it improved.
And in UX, we welcome it. And we give a lot of it! We have a whole service based on giving it.
Criticism is easy. Expressing off-the-cuff disapproval is easy. But critique, as per the dictionary definition, requires a detailed analysis and assessment. I’m happy to supply those and most of the time, they are accepted in the positive spirit in which I offer them.