Working in the field of User Experience is rarely working alone. It is a highly collaborative environment and this means that oftentimes developers and designers must work together.
There was a time when designers would just mock up designs and “throw the designs over the wall” to the the developers who would then put the designs in to code. This led to a lot of tension; mostly because there was little communication. Now I find that better designs come as a result of communication across disciplines and areas of expertise.
I love talking with my devs. There are so many benefits of doing so:
Devs are aware of design decisions on the table, they feel more involved
They can point out potential technical issues and constraints
They often have great suggestions
It’s their product too, they will have more pride in their work if they are involved in the process, not just pulled in at the tail end
Talking together builds camaraderie and and stronger teams
They can fill in knowledge gaps or holes you might have
Basically, early communication between UX designers and developers gets everyone on the same page. And let’s face it, we work with these people the majority of the day. It makes for a better work environment if you get along with your co-workers.
So I encourage you to talk with your developers, several times a day if you can. Do this to build stronger relationships, learn from each other and have buy-in from all members of the team so you can build better products.
Our office recently had the honor of hosting renowned GoogleX prototyper Tom Chi. He came in to our office to work with Product Managers on learning the value of testing fast and testing now! I had a chance to participate in the session as both a user, working through prototypes, and as part of a team building the prototypes for testing.
I have to admit a lot of what Tom covered was not completely new:
Find the quickest path to the experience
Test early and test often
Don’t guess. Learn
Don’t “fail.” Learn
Stop talking and start doing
Get in front of your users and get their feedback
But there were a couple of concepts that really resonated with me and thought they provided value to the session.
Drive conjectures to experiments. Experiments drive decisions.
Conjectures are the same thing as guesses. In other words, people tend to get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and over talking about the situation. In fact, a lot of these discussions are not reality based and is a process of throwing out personals opinions. It might be driven by the best intentions. But these conversations often go on for too long and are never backed up by actual user research. So encourage your group to stop talking and start doing.
The way we did this in the Tom Chi Prototyping session was to stop talking and we each sketched ideas quietly for 3 minutes. They key here is to sketch individually insilence. There should be no talking during the sketching exercise so that each person is exploring individual ideas without the influence from others. After sketching, the ideas are then shared with the group. One or more idea is selected as the “champion.” And this this rough sketch is what should be tested with users. No need to create a higher fidelity version of the sketch. Just show them the rough sketch and get quick feedback before you are too emotionally and technically invested.
Focus on people’s energy
Whenever there is energy, that means something that matters is happening. This energy can be positive or negative. When a customer gets exciting about something, pay attention to that. And the same is true when they show angry excitement as well. It’s these magic “energy” moments that really improve or ruin an experience. So tweak those energy points to make them awesome. One particular example Tom Chi mentioned was Uber. Most of the Uber experience is just like riding in a cab. It’s the few seconds that are different in that experience is what matters.
Don’t lead the witness
Finally, I want to talk about one lesson I learned by going through these sessions. Most of the people participating in our sessions were not researchers. In fact, there were product managers and designers. These are empathetic people who are excited about getting great feedback from users. But they don’t understand that the way they ask questions can skew the response from the participant. It is better to ask broad, open-ended questions rather than helping the participants by giving them examples. It is these tactics that researchers know how to do, but others might not know. They don’t understand that by providing examples for the person to think about, they might be blocking other examples they could possibly come up with on their own. With a little coaching, I know that product managers, designers and other non researchers can learn effective ways to ask non-leading questions.
I thought the most valuable aspect of bringing Tom Chi in house was to empower non-designers. I think he gave everyone confidence that they can explore ideas, sketch the ideas, and get quick feedback from customers. I hope this process takes off and continues well in to the future.
My portfolio can only hold so many work samples. I like to edit my work down to a small representative sample so that hiring managers and other UX designers can get a quick taste of some of my UX design capabilities. But there’s so much more to my UX design skills than I can showcase on my website. That is why I love alternative websites like dribbble.com and behance.net so I can show some of my latest works in progress and finished projects.
Dribbble is a great platform for inspiration and sharing your latest work. So I was honored to get an invitation to join the exclusive group. Who knows the true value of sites like Dribbble and Behance? But these sites seem to be an important part of a UX designer’s web presence. So I guess I’d better get in the game as well.
Please take a look at my clips and let me know your thoughts. I always love feedback.
As my project with Wingspan Arts comes to a close, I am pleased to share the results of my Website Audit.
What did I do? I volunteered to perform a Website Audit through Catchafire. For those who don’t know, Catchafire is a website that allows professionals to give back to the community. The professional who volunteers will use his/her skills, be that UX Design, Web development, Graphic design, Marketing and other creative fields. They are providing their exercise to an organization that needs help, and saves that organization sums of money.
What is in a website Audit? A Website Audit report that includes:
Outline of Organization’s goals for the website
Feedback on current website’s layout, user functionality, visual design, content and other features
Recommendations for improvements to help achieve Organization’s desired goals
After I completed the project, I got a wonderful and very lovely review from Rachel, who was my parter in this projects and the representative for Wingspan Arts.
I am honored and humbled to say that I have reached a milestone for myself. I have earned the following of over 300 people. Now, I know that could fall back below 300 at any time. You know how it goes…. But I am going to enjoy the moment even if it doesn’t last forever.
Do you want to follow me too? I would be ever so delighted. You can join the fun at https://twitter.com/jnblatz. Come over and say “Hi.” Let’s have a conversation and maybe learn a bit from each other.