I like to do these end-of-year retros to reflect on the things I have accomplished and my successes. Hey, we might as well pat ourselves on the back when we can, right? ha ha. What would I say is my biggest accomplishment? Probably co-founding the UX Research and Strategy group.
The group started in May, and has become a huge success. We first crowdsourced the topic to see if there was even a need or interest in a UX Research and Strategy Group. Boy, is there interest! Some of things UX Research and Strategy has accomplished in less than 8 months of existence:
8,000 Linkedin connections
300 Facebook likes
300 Twitter followers
270 Instagram followers
Monthly events with over 50 attendees at each
Workshops, online webinars and partnerships with other meetup groups
Needless to say I am very proud of how quickly this group has grown. I am beyond the moon excited about the events coming from this group in 2020 too.
in 2019, I made it my goal, to do some public speaking engagements. Event if it was a local meetup or class, I wanted to make sure I was sharpening those public speaking skills and working on topics that I could share with the UX and technology community.
First there was WIAD (World Information Architecture) in early 2019. We had a huge crowd and I would consider this event a success. Read the story abut WIAD Dallas 2019.
Then I spoke at a few meetups along the way. Dallas is really lucky that we have a large UX community, and there are other meetup groups, like those who are interested in agile and product ownership that also have an interest in UX.
My biggest speaking engagement, and a talk I am really proud of took place at Big Design Conference. My talk, “Keeping Cognitive Biases out of Your UX Design and Research,” was a big hit. Well, at least I think so. ha ha It’s been an honor to also re-purpose that talk to a couple other local meetups and university events.
Making it through the Big Design talk, gave me the confidence to apply for a few other national conferences. I have already been accepted at the Concentric Conference in January and Connectaha and Convey UX in March 2020. Woot! Let’s keep the public speaking skills in to 2020!
All the things
Aside from the speaking at events and creating a successful meetup group, I had a happy year over all. I got converted to a full time employee and I work on some pretty cool projects. We lost our dog, Peanut in late 2018, and finally found Sadie another brother a few months later. Ricky, the new brother, has brought a lot of happiness in to our household. My health was been OK, but is looking to improve in early 2020 so that is going to be great!
What will 2020 bring?
The UX Research and Strategy group kept me very busy in 2019, and I know it will continue to do so. But I am hoping to off load some of duties so that I can concentrate more on my continued UX education and experience. I want to get familiar with Figma. Also, I want to read a few more UX books and articles that I have been putting on the back burner. I also want to learn a bit more about how to be a better leader. There’s plenty of information on that subject matter to sink my teeth in to. Let’s just hope there’s a bit more time for some of my side interests, like travel and learning in 2020. I hope you find time for things you enjoy in 2020 as well.
“I heard about a need in the UX community, and I decided to meet it.”
This quote pretty much summarized the inspiration behind how the newest UX meetup group in Dallas got started. UX Research and Strategy, now just over a month old, has had one successful event so far, and continues to grow.
I regularly attend meetups, and while attending those, I heard repeatedly that attendees wanted more resources on UX research. They wanted to learn about different methods, best practices, how to “sell researcher to executives,” and other topics along those lines.
So I reached out to a couple of former co-workers and fabulous ladies, Lauren Singer and Lorie Whitaker to see if they were interested in helping me create a meetup group focused on UX Research, and with Lauren’s suggestion, Strategy too. They thought it was a great idea. First we crowd sourced the idea, to test that it was a valid concept. We posted the idea on LinkedIn to gauge interest in the topic. We got a lot of positive feedback and interest so we decided to move forward with the group’s formation. Thus UX Research and Strategy was born.
Our first meetup was held at Lifeblue in Plano. Our generous hosts provided food and beverages as well as an amazing view from their 12th floor balcony. Crazy storms rolled through just a couple of hours before our event was supposed to kick off. We were not sure if anyone was going to show up. No one wants to drive in monstrous thunder storms. But by the time the event started, the storms passed, the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped (a very good thing in Texas) and the crowd started rolling in. We had nearly 50 attendees which made our first meetup much more successful than we anticipated. Woot!
We first started the night with introducing ourselves and the group. We shared the group’s mission and motivations. Then we asked the attendees to participate in an exercise with us. The leaders of UX and Research and Strategy wanted to make sure that this group is meeting the community’s needs. This goes back to the original ask of what people felt was lacking in the UX community, and how we can fill that gap. What better way to get feedback on the group then have the members brainstorm the direction the group should go?
We asked the members to break in to smaller groups to come up with their hopes, fears and ideas for the group. Again, we wanted attendees to weigh in and help us shape the topics the group would cover through 2019 and beyond.
Everyone was happy to participate in this brainstorming activity. After the groups explored the fears, hopes and ideas for the UX Research and Strategy groups, we then recorded some of the highlights in a shareout so that all attendees could hear the fabulous ideas people had.
We wrapped up the night with a bit more networking and idea exchanging. What were the leaders of UX Research and Strategy planning on doing with this information? Planning out all of our future events, of course!
If you would like to stay on top of what the UX Research and Strategy group is up to, be sure to connect to us on LinkedIn. Also follow the group on Eventbrite to see all of the fabulous events we have happening in 2019 and beyond.
Due to popular demand, IXDA Dallas recently helps a UX portfolio review. Having been a person who had to enter the UX field mid career, I know the value of getting advice and feedback on my portfolio from peers and professionals.
Though we had a lower turn out than expected – typical of any free meetup – I would still hail the night as a grand success. We had nearly 10 lead designers who paired up with students who are graduating soon and professionals interested in transitioning into the field of User Experience Design. The only requirement was that the mentee bring a portfolio to go over – no matter how rough or under developed.
As one of the IXDA leaders, I was the designated floater and social media promoter. Some of the feedback I heard while floating around included:
Show your process
Explain the problem you were trying to solve
Include your name and contact information on every slide
Don’t apologize for your portfolio
If you are transitioning from graphic design, omit branding and print design examples
Don’t just show the final resolution mock up, include all of the rough sketches and interim designs to help tell your story.
And on that note, tell your story!
An event like this is mutually beneficial for those who are seeking feedback and for those who are giving advice. That’s the wonderful aspect of the UX community: giving back and helping others. We all have so much to learn from each other. Whether you are a seasoned UX designer, or a student ready to break in to the field, events like this provide strength, opportunity for growth and encouragement for all parties involved.
I recently attended a Ladies that UX Fort Worth event where Kayla Wren covered the topic “Rose Bud, Thorn.” This research method is designed to surfacing three things: the good, the bad and opportunity and insights. I thought that using these lenses was a rather interesting perspective, so I thought I would share the method with you today.
What is the Rose, Bud, Thorn method?
Rose Bud, Thorn is a “Design Thinking” activity that can be used to uncover and surface insights for a number of topics. It’s a way to proclaim what exists now, as well as explore ways for improvement. Basically, this process asks you to look at something from three different perspectives:
Rose: Something that is positive or working well
Thorn: Something that is negative or not working well
Bud: An opportunity or area for improvement
The “Rose” of this process is a way to showcase the good things that are going on. Hopefully not all things are bad. The “Thorn” is the bad parts of the process/app/etc. You must be authentic and recognize that not everything is perfect, and it is critical to discuss what needs improvement. The “Bud” of this the gold mine because this is where you surface ideas and potential improvements.
You can use this method to explore a number of things. It could be reviewing a process, like traveling on an airplane or onbaording a new employee. You can review an app or enterprise software. It can even be a future concept or something that is not even real yet, like how you might envision a new policy or idea.
Why would a person do this?
There are many benefits of this of this procedure including:
It is so darn simple.
You do not have to be a deep subject matter expert on a topic to participate.
Nor does it take any technical knowledge to work in this method.
It’s super low-fidelity, so no computer hookup required.
Only a few supplies are needed: sticky-notes, markers and a wall or whiteboard to accumulate the thoughts and ideas.
It can be done in-person in any office or online on an electronic whiteboard like Mural.
You can do this activity with a larger or small group of people.
Who can do it?
Anyone! Of course that is the answer you were expecting, right? Really though, this activity can be conducted by people with any skill levels. You can go through this process through members of your team, or with external clients. Rose, Thorn, Bud can be among students or professionals. All age levels. All levels of expertise. The more diverse the perspectives the better.
If you are working with a large group of people, it might be better to break this larger group in to smaller, more manageable clusters of participants.
How do get ready?
First, decide on the topic. Then determine if that topic can be broken in to phases or chunks so that the activity can be organized in to smaller, manageable portions if needed. Also determine if the problem is too large for this activity. It might need to be refined so that you are focusing on the right part of the problem you would like to explore for improvements.
Then decide who should participate. Are there subject matter experts who can bring expertise to the brainstorming session? Are there customers who can bring a unique perspective? Who from the team should be included? Developers? Designers? Product owners? Anyone else? Like I mentioned before, the more diverse perspectives you can bring to this process the better. This is a time to brainstorm and come up with a lot of ideas. So give your opportunity to do so with a variety of perspectives. Though, if the group gets too large, it might be better to multiple sessions, pending budget and time constraints.
Next deal with the logistics. I won’t get in to those details in too much depth here because those will vary on your circumstances. Keep in mind basic best practices when conducting any research session:
Define the goal of the research. Also understand the hypothesis and the reason(s) you are conducting the research.
Make sure that you are meeting the stakeholders’ and requesters’ needs and ask.
Plan ahead of time and make sure you are organized and ready for the session.
Run a pilot and make sure the plan that you have runs as smoothly as it can.
How do you do it?
Let’s fast forward to the day of the session. You already have your topic, participants, venue, etc. Now let’s talk about what you will need to do.
Whiteboard or wall for post-it notes
Sharpie markers for each participant
Three color of post-it notes. I recommend pink for Rose/Good, green for Bud/Opportunity and yellow or blue for Thorn/Bad.
Optional: voting stickers for the participants to vote on the Bud/Opportunity that he team will work on to implement or research further
A whiteboard segmented in to topics you would like the group to work through
Talk to the group about the goals of the research process. You want them to be honest, open and creative. Tell them about the topic we are going to explore today and how we are going to explore it through three lenses: the good, the bad and the opportunities.
Overview of the process
Grab three different-colored post-it pad for the phase we are on (pink for Rose, green for Bud and blue for Thorn) and a sharpie marker.
Step up to the board and start with the (first of however many you have) portion of the process you want to brainstorm about.
Take 5 minutes to quietly brainstorm the good and bad aspects of that process, as well as opportunities, by writing on the different colored post-it pad. Don’t forget to change the color of the post-it you write on based on whether or not is was a good point, a bad point or an opportunity.
As you come up with an idea, write it down and then verbally state what it reads as you put it on the board. This is done so that you can inform others of your idea. Plus it might prompt other people to think of something related or different to what you wrote.
Populate the board with as many good, bad and opportunities as you can in in 5 minutes. Don’t start side conversations or dismiss any ideas. This is the time to brainstorm as many ideas as you can and then capture them on the board.
If the group is still going strong, give them another minute or two to get all of the ideas out.
When the time is up, have the group cluster the post-it notes in to themes and similar ideas.
Let the group take a few minutes to reflect on these themes and have a short discussion about what data has surfaced from the exercise.
Are there surprises?
Are there repeated problems?
Are there issues that are present, have been for a long time, but don’t ever seem to be fixed?
What are the opportunities?
Any great ideas?
Any opportunities that could be easily accomplished? Low hanging fruit?
An optional next step is that you have the group use stickers to “vote” on various opportunities to determine what the group should work on first.
There are so many aspects of Design Thinking. And there are so many ways to build empathy for the user and generate ideas during discovery. Rose, Thorn, Bud seems to be an easy method that provides an opportunity for your group to surface several opportunities for improvement. Don’t be intimidated by this method if you are nervous and feel like you do not have extensive experience to conduct or participate in such a session. Just go for it. If you do try the Rose, Thorn, Bud method, please let me know how it worked for you and what opportunities your team has discovered to work on.
To read more about the method, I found another interesting website that breaks down how to do it on Atomic Object’s website.
Guess who is the latest city to have it’s own IxDA chapter? Dallas!
Guess who is one of the co-founders and leaders of the local chapter? Me!
What is IxDA
That is a very good question. “IxDA, or The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) is a member-supported organization dedicated to the discipline of interaction design. Since its launch in 2003, IxDA has grown into a global network of more than 100,000 individuals and over 200 local groups, focusing on interaction design issues for the practitioner, no matter their level of experience.” Yep, I totally swiped that from their website.
So why does Dallas have a chapter now? Well, quite frankly, it’s time. We have an ever-growing Interaction and UX design community here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. There are a lot of major (and minor) companies with a strong UX presence locally. We want a place to gather, share ideas and feel like we belong.
Also, IXDA was created in Dallas to give back to the community. This is our chance, as interaction designers, researchers, product owners, information architects, students or whatever your profession might be to get more involved in your UX community. We don’t want this just to be the same old meetup where you show up, listen to a speaker and then leave. Oh no…. We want you to come to our events to participate, have an interaction with another human being, meet new folks, teach someone something you know, maybe even give a talk yourself. There is a fabulous design community in Dallas, and we want to give everyone a voice and a platform to get more involved.
“All people deserve to live in a well-designed world.”
Who are these leaders anyhow?
Well you know me, Jen Blatz. I feel very honored and privileged to be asked to join the leadership panel with two other great local UX designers. Coby Almond is a UX designer at Pivotal. Rahul Akbar a Design Thinking coach, and Creative Director at IBM. We casually met a couple of times to determine what value we thought this group could bring to the Dallas UX community, as well as how to kick everything off. Once we met, we decided that this was the right time and place to plant an IxDA tree to grow and nurture.
Nice to meet you
So this past week, we had our first meeting. I feel so honored that we had nearly 40 people show up to the event, curious and eager to get involved. We started off by introducing IxDA as an organization, along with it’s values and (best part) lack of membership dues.
Then we gave the mic to Dallas Give Camp. This is a local hackathon that brings together designers, product owners and developers for one weekend. In that weekend, these groups come together to design a website for a select group of charities to help the group better promote their cause and mission. This is also a great way for local designers to give back and help their local community.
Finally we wrapped up the evening with an interactive activity. We asked the room to break up in to smaller groups and grab the old stand-by of a Sharpie marker and a pad of Post-its. It was brainstorming time. We asked the groups to take a few minutes and come up with what they wanted the local IxDA group to be. Specifically, we wanted them to think in 3 themes for the IxDA group:
Their hopes and wants
Their fears no dislikes
Then we asked each group to select a representative to speak on behalf of everyone’s Post-it notes. To us, we view these notes as the way we should form and shape the local IxDA chapter. In the spirit of IxDA giving back to the community, we also want this community to decide what their want and need from this organization at the local level.
Overall, the first meeting of the Dallas IxDA chapter was a grand success. Not only did we have a good turnout, we also generated excitement and enthusiasm that some said has been missing from the UX community for quite some time. We hope that this enthusiasm grows as we host more meetings. Thank you to all of those who came out to “check it out.” And thank you for giving me the honor and opportunity to help bring this group to life and lead it to success.
We want you
Are you interested in participating in the IxDA community here in Dallas? Our next event will be World Interaction Design Day on September 25 , 2018. We are still working out the details so the best place for you to stay on top of the latest news is our @IxDADallas Twitter account.
I had the honor of participating in North Dallas Agile Product Owners Meetup lightening talks this week. Though I am not a product owner, I like to participate with this group because, as a UX designer, I often parter with product owners on my projects. I like to gain a better understanding of approaching work and projects from my co-workers point of view. Also, I work in an agile environment, so this is a great way for me to learn more about those practices.
OK so now on to my talk. I only had a few minutes, so I had to pack a lot of information in a short time. Hence the lightening talk format. Also, I had to make this topic relevant to to my audience: Product Owners. They are generally not designers or an interface or product, though in some cases they could be responsible for coming up with a design concept. At the very least, they will often be working with other members of the team who will be creating the design. Also, the Product Owner might be reviewing the design. So I thought having some basic design principles in their pocket might be helpful for them.
I had over 20 design principles I wanted to talk about. But I had to cut it down to just 6 to comply with the short, lightening talk, format. Short but sweet.
Please feel free to look at my entire presentation: Don’t Fight the Law, Let the Law Win Please feel free to give me any feedback you might have. Also, if you would like me to speak at your Meetup or organization, please reach out. I would be happy to talk about UX design with your group.
Jennifer Blatz explores the world of UX through words and imagery