Time to clarity

Time to clarity is the amount of time it takes you to establish a clear/confident picture in your mind of how to go about designing the best possible solution for your users.

What activities can lead to clarity?

  1. Using a clear design process.
  2. Digging into analytics to try and discover existing insights.
  3. Chatting with happiness/support folks to help determine what the most common complaints, and user pains are.
  4. Asking other designers for feedback.
  5. Asking your partner/spouse/relative/friend to try out your interactive prototype while you watch.
  6. Doing some quick usability tests on usertesting.com.
  7. Approaching strangers to help you out for 5 min in exchange for a $10 Starbucks gift card.
  8. Pinging people in your company that have never seen whatever it is that you’re building, and requesting 5 minutes of their time where you watch them talk you through your design.
  9. Running a user report in KISSMetrics or MixPanel (or whatever app you use to track users) to get a list of actual users you might email and request that they give feedback on a design for you.
  10. Running an A/B test on a design if it’s a smaller change (typically easiest if the change is localized on one page) to make sure that your design isn’t sinking the ship.

This is not by any means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good list to get you started.

How does clarity affect my designs?

Let’s look at three specific examples. You may recognize yourself in one of these.

Clarity zero – Designing solo

Clarity is something you have to actively work towards. The desire to achieve clarity as a designer does not come naturally. It’s like working out in the gym. In the beginning, it’s something that you have to force yourself to prioritize. It’s something that you have to train yourself to value.

We all start off at clarity zero. This comes as a result of designing in a silo, with zero feedback, zero regard for existing data or insights, and zero user interaction.

As you experiment with, and begin to embrace the idea that “establishing clarity early on in the design process is a good thing”, it begins to feel a lot more natural. Eventually you’ll get to a place where you’d never even consider designing something without first setting aside time to establish clarity early on.

Clarity 10 – Clarity zero + post launch iteration

With clarity 10, designers do exactly what they did in the clarity zero state, but they also start to retroactively react to user feedback after launching a design. This state of design is slightly better than being in clarity zero, but not much. :-) It’s a start. But, you are still delaying any sort of insights or clarity until much too late in the design process.

Clarity 20-100 – Incorporating multiple activities

An easy way to think about it would be to assign 20 points for every activity you engage in to increase clarity with a particular design. If you’re currently at clarity zero, and you begin incorporating one of the activities listed above, BOOM! You’re now at clarity 20. Congrats! That’s really awesome. As you add more activities, your level of clarity begins to stack up.

With each new design, your goal should be to get to clarity 100 as quickly as possible. By combining multiple activities you’ll begin to see a compounding effect, and you’ll also notice a decrease in your “time to clarity”.

Reducing “time to clarity” is key to becoming a great designer. As you begin to make this a priority you’ll find yourself becoming more efficient, you’ll find that your confidence increases, and you’ll find that the overall value that you can contribute as a designer will go way up.


I don’t do comments on this blog, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.