On Friday, I premiered on the big stage at Big Design Dallas. My topic was “Cognitive Biases: How to keep them out of UX Research and Design.” This topic us very near and dear to my heart because we all suffer from cognitive biases. You don’t have to hold a psychology degree to know that. The focus of this talk was how to recognize biases in yourself and others. Also what you can do ti fight of the symptoms cognitive biases. Finally, I told my crowd how they can “turn their frown upside down” and how to use cognitive biases for good in your UX designs.
For my first international/national conference speaking gig, I think it went really well. Sure there were a few minor mistakes that only (hopefully) the speaker noticed. My whole goal was to get the crowd interested and engaged in the topic. And I did that by balancing funny images, real-world stories and relatable content.
I am very excited to announce that I have been selected to speak at Big Design on September 20, 2019. My Talk will be about “Preventing cognitive biases from creeping in to your UX design and user research.
I feel really lucky for this first opportunity to speak at a national conference. I will be sharing the stage with some very prestigious UX professionals. This is a great opportunity for me and I am very excited. Read my full bio on the Big Design page. And save the date. My Talk is September 20 at 2:30 p.m.
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.
Another good class I took as part of the Big D Conference was presented by Eva Kaniasty, the founder of Red Pill UX, and a research and design consultancy.
The role of the UX researcher is an important one. We, as UX researchers, need to design our research studies for analysis. Obviously when we perform a story, we are trying to gather important data. This data we gain in our research efforts need to be analyzed and our findings need to be communicated to others. We need to think about how to visualize our research.
Get your stakeholders to empathize with their customers and users. One way to do this is to take photos of the real people using the product. Don’t use fancy stock photography with posed fake models. Use your smartphone and take pictures of people using the product. And take more pictures of the person, sort of posed, to use as your persona image. This makes the persona more realistic and will provide the opportunity for your stakeholders to see the real person behind the persona.
I learned about the website UI Faces where you can go and get more “realistic” photos that are free to use in your personas or other needs. Granted, I checked this site out, and there’s a lot of avatars from people I follow on Twitter. But hey, your customer probably does not follow them and therefore they won’t recognize the images. So go ahead and check out the site to see if it needs your image needs for personas.
The problem with personas today is that many people just make them up. They don’t generate them using interview data or base them on real users. People often create personas based on “ideal” customers which is not accurate. Be sure that when you create personas, create them based on real research. Also make sure that they represent real people and customers, not ideal ones.
Additional notes from this talk
Pie charts are poor visualization tools much of the time.
Icons can be used to visualize data, but don’t over use them.
After you have a research session, write a quick summary right afterwards so you don’t forget the important details. The longer you wait, the more you will forget.
Videos are time consuming and become outdated quickly.
Quotes can be very powerful and easier to generate than video clips.
Look for patterns in your data.
Don’t use a word cloud to summarize data.
Word clouds are hard to read, noisy and the colors used can be confusing, portraying a confusing hierarchy.
A treemap shows the frequency of terms used in a combined bar chart.
Make any color coding meaningful and explain what it means.
Test with color blindness tools to make sure that color can be seen.
Do no over aggregate that data. That happens when you smooth and combine data together too much. When this happens, the data can lose its meaning. Don’t combine much because if you do, you can lose where the problems are.
Use words instead of illustrating with a bunch of repetitive icons.
Don’t use statistics for something subjective like severity ratings.
For “Ease of Use” ratings, use a bar chart, not a pie chart.
Stars are not good to rate the severity of something. People think more stars means “good” and that is the opposite mental model for the severity rating scale.
Dot voting is good to give everyone a chance to vote and it surfaces up the problems that need addressing first. The most votes wins!
The keynote speech of the first day was given by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. The topic covered designing to avoid biases and exclusion. It was really interesting and inspiring. Here are a few highlight from her speech:
Think about how your app or message could make the user feel alienated or as if they don’t belong in some way.
Make sure the voice of your product does not push people out or make them feel like they are not part of the “crowd.”
When a person has to choose his/her race, think about how that makes him/her feel. What if they don’t identify with the choices? What if they are more than one race? Making a person choose a race could make them feel “flattened” and generic. This is especially true if they do not identify with the categories you have presented.
Security questions are not for everyone. Some people have never had a pet. Some people went to many schools and don’t know how they should answer. Let people create their own security questions that they can identify with.
We are used to defining our audience and we think it’s easy to do. We see what is “normal” or “like me” in the media and TV. We forget how diverse the world is.
We must own up to our biases and consciously work past them.
Stress cases normalizes the unexpected.
Talk like a human and add some delight. But delight might not always be appropriate. You can fail to see what could go wrong when you decide to add delight.
If you are not asking yourself “How could this design/text hurt or exclude someone?” you are not thinking about it enough.
I was happy to find out that there is a regional UX design conference here in Dallas. My worry was that I would not be able to find good local events once I left Los Angels. I stand corrected. I attended the Big Design Conference at it was really worth my time and energy. I met a lot of great folks, expanded my UX network, and learned a lot about the UX community here in Dallas and the surrounding area.
For my next few posts, I am going to share some of my notes of the talks I attended during the conference. I hope that more slide decks and notes will be shared from the classes I could not attend. There were so many great options. I had a tough time choosing which courses to take.
Today, I attended my third WIAD or World Information Architecture Day, established by IAI Information Architect Institute. A couple of years ago, I acted as Project Manager for Los Angeles’ WIAD. So ai map to see that the torch has been carried and this event is back in the Los Angeles community. It’s a great opportunity to hear some of the industry’s well regarded IA experts, to meet other great people in the field, and hopefully to get fired up and inspired. What is WIAD? According to the website:
World Information Architecture Day 2016 is a one-day annual celebration of this phenomenon. Hosted in dozens of locations across the world by local organizers on February 20th, we focus on telling stories of information being architected by everyone from teachers to business owners; technologists to artists; designers to product managers.
With representation from all over the world, we believe that the power of similarity and the beauty of difference between stories will inspire those who work in information architecture, as well as those who may be new to it. We aim to teach, share, and have fun — all through the lens of Information Architecture (IA).
I would like to share some of my notes and highlights from today’s fabulous event.
If you’ve ever wondered where you are on a website, than that is an issue of IA.
An aspect of “play studio” is to pick a behavior and design for it.
Shift from a designer to a facilitator.
Research is becoming more collaborative.
Design work is not precious. So it’s good to work on low fidelity objects to keep that true.
Design work is not about ornamentation, it is about implmentation.
Think about creative solutions rather than what requirements are supposed to be delivered.
Designers need to be more collaborative and not worry about people (who are not designers) stepping on their toes and entering their “craft.”
Put the work out early to get user feedback, knowing it is an iterative process.
Try creating ad hoc personas when you don’ have time to create full-fledged personas.
Know your audience. This is so often forgotten. Keep in mind what your user’s current needs and behaviors are. Don’t lose site of who you are designing for.
Know when it is appropriate to work with an established design pattern and not reinvent the wheel.
Take the information you have gathered in research and shake things up when you need something different.
Some corporations appreciate hiring people who will rock the boat and provide a diverse outlook to the company. Get hired to make a change in the corporate structure as well as the product that you will build.
Some companies will avoid innovation because of risk. This leads to fast following.
Tell the story | Develop the culture | Be the voice of the customer.
Innovation requires atriculation.
When you work on a design solution, what will people think, feel, do and become?
UX designers have great skills like: inter-discipline, like people, empathy and listen to others.
Think like a founder, not a designer.
Designers inherit problems, founders define them.
Design THE business, not for it.
Do you expect the world to anticipate your needs? Because you should.
The problem you have been given is not the right problem. Discover the right problem.
Every designer should have some skill in leadership.
What motivates a designer is a frustration with the world and a desire to improve it.
As a designer, you see something better.
Consider delivery mechanisms that extend your core experience.
Leverage what people love, address what they don’t.
Complexity is not the problem
Simplicity does not solve ambiguity
Though I was completely exhausted from WIAD the day before, I was energized by the opportunity to meet new people and gain new skills. We casually formed teams based on a variety of strengths and job titles. My team contained a front-end developer, a graphic artist, a web designer and seasoned marketing guru. and they were all great.
Jennifer Blatz explores the world of UX through words and imagery