When you hate your design and you're almost finished with it, what do you do?

by Wesley Tansey   Last Updated March 28, 2018 15:16 PM

I started out with a web design template that I loved. I spent a few days finding, cropping, and touching up the perfect images. I tweaked the CSS to better fit my page's style. In short-- I was in love.

Now that I've almost finished, I really hate my design. When I finish designing a site, I stop seeing it as an achievement and only see the imperfections.

What do you do when you realize you hate a design you just completed?

Answers 10

As we learn new things, we find small flaws in our old techniques. Finding problems with a finished design often means that you are growing as an interface designer. The same can be said of developers.

Also, it is easy to get sick of something after looking at it for a long time. Step away from it and come back - you may not be as frustrated with the overall design after a short break.

As long as it is a good design, other people will think it's great - even though you become tired of it.

Matt Rockwell
Matt Rockwell
May 18, 2011 18:43 PM

I've found that that is almost ALWAYS the case when I am building anything.

It's extremely important to complete your idea as you originally had it (unless you have small changes to improve it). My theory is that having a great but slightly imperfect product is much better than perpetually perfecting a product that isn't launched.

Once you have completed your objective, iterate upon it. People also love the updates - it's a great way to make your design feel evolving.

Great reading on this from Jason Fried is Rework. Check out that book :)

May 18, 2011 18:50 PM

I agree with both Matt's and Johnnie's answers.

I usually get bored of projects: After seeing it and thinking about it every day for several weeks or even months it just loses it's appeal - plus I get used to the good stuff and only see the bad (and there always is bad stuff).

My recipe is to bite through and after a few weeks of not seeing it, it's usually not that bad anymore.

But there's an upside: If you're never 100% happy with your work, you'll only get better and better. I'd be frightened if I ever go live with a site or app and think: "This one is perfect".

May 18, 2011 19:12 PM

This happens to me too.

A few things help:

  1. I rarely create just one design. I'll create two or three designs, save them separately in Photoshop, and then pick my favorite. People have differing opinions on this, but I think it's important to pick the "least imperfect" design this way before ever writing a lick of HTML.

  2. Realizing what specifically you don't like about your design can be hugely beneficial. Often times a complete redesign isn't necessary. As an example, the homepage of my site Regex Hero was a little bland and wasn't converting as well as it could. Hisham pointed out that my "Try it now" link didn't look like a link, and that's a big problem. I took the opportunity to redesign that whole horizontal stripe across the homepage, and I added a "Try it now" button next to a large image of my Regex Hero character. Now I think the homepage looks better, works better on an emotional level, and the numbers don't lie. This change resulted in a 47% increase in the conversion rate.

  3. As others have mentioned, taking your eyes away from your design for a day or two can help. When working on your designs every minute of every day it's easy for the image to be burned into your mind. A break can help you forget and coming back to it later can almost emulate that "fresh look" where you can evaluate what you've created more objectively.

Steve Wortham
Steve Wortham
May 18, 2011 21:44 PM

Hating a design can also be a product of lack of feedback. I know when I'm doing creative things that if I get some feedback, it keeps me going and may give me more ideas. If I don't, I too find it easy to start picking it apart.

It comes down to the "hobby" of creativity. Create a piece of art and show no one and you'll soon see flaws and start picking it apart, even if it's perfectly valid in the grand scheme of things.

Nick Bedford
Nick Bedford
May 19, 2011 02:47 AM

I store my designs, and cannibalize them for future projects. The project may (or may not) be completed to my standards, but the hard work and learning remain.

In addition to getting the designs out, this builds up a portfolio and a library to use on short notice.

Subu Sankara Subramanian
Subu Sankara Subramanian
May 19, 2011 06:53 AM

It has always been interesting to me that great artists paint the same painting over and over to achieve something different. For example Matisse's Odalisque.

This means to me that it isn't always specifically clear what you want different. If you can nail down what you don't like about the finished site you can do something about it.

Or maybe it is like fashion, automobiles, and guests, the more we are exposed to something the more we tire of it, and that is a natural consequence of familiarity.

May 19, 2011 11:41 AM

I make sure to do a health-check of the design:

  • did I do what I could given the circumstances?
  • are stakeholders ok with the design?
  • do I have a plan to iterate?

If I can answer yes, then I must be "satisfied" with the design. Above all else, I remind myself of the mantra: Every decision, no matter how appropriate it may be, is a compromise.

May 19, 2011 12:59 PM

Redesign it.

It's not acceptable to hate your design and go with it. Try to have a better understanding of the problem, and an acceptable design to solve it.

Chris Mylonas
Chris Mylonas
May 24, 2011 12:42 PM

If having the perfect design is preventing you from launching a website or completing a contract (and getting paid), you may want to re-think what you're selling/shipping/delivering.

Dans ses écrits, un sàge Italien, dit que le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

Great is the enemy of good. Perfection takes much longer than adequate. Most of the time, and by definition, Adequate is good enough.

If it is for work, someone else really should have the final decision. You do your job right, and get it as close as possible - but then you say "I'd like to spend more time on this, but I've reached a point where the changes will be minimal and the time spent will be great. Do you want me to continue?"

For a personal project, trashing work you dislike is fine, but I wouldn't do that to a client (or to my boss). It becomes very expensive and time consuming, and they're often looking for good enough.

David Clarke
David Clarke
April 26, 2013 08:19 AM

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