Barry Khan

Rubbish first drafts



Nostalgia alert! Many moons ago I’d like nothing more than spending hours in photoshop pushing pixels around a screen. I’d never be that happy with the result as too close to it.

I would finally unveil said design to a client or design lead, and that’s the perfect word to describe it. We would talk about the design process, the inspiration, the client brief and how we've smashed it after hrs of pixel pushing. Finally the veil drops and the client is happy, usually.

Where’s the user

Were my hrs well spent pushing pixels? Well I quickly realised they weren’t, for many reasons. Back then UX was in its infancy and my role was to use my “expert opinion” and insight on human computer interaction to deliver usable, inspirational designs.

The user wasn’t considered any more than that, so my bias steered the product vision. Fast forward at 10-15 years and user research is at the forefront of design decisions. User centred design has matured and the understanding of what it can give to businesses has been realised.

Image showing 2 designs with slightly different UI So if the user is at the heart of decisions why do I keep seeing UI polls on linkedIn; “which is better” 🤦🏻♂️. Why are junior designers still pushing pixels.

Crappy first drafts

With experience came confidence to share my crappy first drafts, because when you design for users the quicker the user is involved in that design the better.

The better for your stakeholders, your product and services, your margins and your internal workforce, but most importantly better for your users.

The insight we can get from testing our ideas early and crappy, are huge. It allows us to pivot, step back and think wider or scrap the project entirely.

The insight we get from a pixel perfect solution could be just as rich, could also be massively misplaced, too focused and cost considerably more effort. It’s also harder to move away from a design that has been refined.

I will discuss this more in a prototyping brain dump coming soon.


Sharing crappy first drafts is great, providing those that view them have full understanding that what they are seeing is rough and far from refined. This becomes second nature when you work closely with your team and even stakeholders. In the early days of a project this does need to be spelled out.

Multiple ideas

When we have one idea, even when its rough, we can still get attached to it. In my experience it’s always best to explore multiple approaches and take them to a rough draft view, whether that’s a prototype or a journey map. Having more than one idea also makes its really easy to drop the weaker ones, and still keep the project moving.

Wrap it up

So in a nutshell share crappy with your team and communities sooner, just ensure you explain to others that’s what it is. Go for quantity of ideas over quality in the early days of ideation and get those ideas in-front of your team, communities and your users.

Image of Barry Khan, Service Designer About me. I'm a Service Designer with nearly 20 years design experience in the public and private sector, for agencies and in-house design teams.

Currently consulting for the UK Government, and like to waffle about all things design including service design, interaction design, agile, product strategy and accessibility and inclusivity.