Three critical insights from theatre drive my quest to move beyond the design:
- First, I believe that the role of director is critical in successfully executing the vision.
- Second, knowing your audience saves time that you would otherwise waste dispelling confusion over jargon and meaning.
- Finally, communicating the story in an engaging manner engenders trust and enthusiasm.
Let’s take look at each of these insights, then discuss ways you can apply them to your projects.
Quiet on the Set!
As the bridge between all the different sides on a project, UX designers are familiar with the concept of wearing many hats. Designers usually have the delightful and challenging task of being the lone soul who talks to all sides, whether they are business owners, marketing, development, product management, or the users. This is a huge responsibility.
Directors also need to coordinate various groups of people such as the cast, crew, and technical operators. They are also responsible for interpreting the script and story. Plus, directors manage the administrative aspects of shows like schedule and budget. Sound familiar?
A key success factor for both UX designers and directors lies in their ability to be facilitators of the vision. They need to create a well-articulated picture of the theme, the personal perspective, and the moral of the story—their vision. The designer’s or director’s level of success in building and executing the vision is only as strong as their skill at facilitating.
Thankfully, facilitation is a skill and, like any skill, it becomes well honed through practice. The first step in becoming a skilled facilitator is deciding what kind of leader you will be. If you want to be a leader and have influence, you need to be perceived as an expert and authority—not because of arrogance, because of credibility.
Critical to your developing that perception in your audience is setting the rules of engagement—what I like to call the interaction style. While there are many interaction styles that you could take on, the trick is to find the balance between the two that I find most conducive to creating a collaborative environment: the creative artist who can conceive the vision while still accepting input from the ensemble sharing in the creative process and the negotiator who works democratically to build a shared vision with the group. Learning how and when to shift the balance between these interaction styles will enable you to keep the process working and help to minimize personal conflict.
The next part of directing is focusing on the execution plan—and you can determine that through a strategy path. Understanding the business needs and capabilities and the technical and resource constraints lets you determine the optimal strategy path. Do the up-front work, combining stakeholder interviews and user-research methods such as contextual inquiry, requirements definition, technical investigation, and resource allocation and budgeting. You’ll then know where you want to be on the strategic spectrum—whether you want to take the rough, minimum-viable-product route and get something out there quickly or, at the other end of the spectrum, spend the effort to develop a holy-grail product.
The final piece in the directing puzzle is the need to ensure the vision stays on track throughout the process. The journey can be long, and it is easy to get off track, causing all of your good work to be for naught. But don’t worry, there is a way that theatre can help here, too!
The outline for a rehearsal process provides clear direction for managing the process:
- researching and exploring the script
- understanding budget, space, and timing
- auditions and casting
- doing a read-through that sets the stage for a shared understanding of the vision
- rough blocking of the movement
- finessing details and the interpretation of lines and motivations
- doing run-throughs to get a sense of the whole
- tech and production—lights, sets, and costumes
- doing a performance run
By following this outline, you can set some structure that will help you to keep in constant touch with your vision and ensure its progression through
- research—including heuristics and competitive analysis—and requirements gathering with stakeholders and users
- defining the appropriate team members to work on particular areas
- holding a kickoff meeting to get everyone on board
- sketching and creating concept drawings of all initial ideas
- wireframing the ideas you want to move forward with
- creating low-to-medium fidelity prototypes
- doing usability testing to validate and refine the proposed ideas
- creating a high-fidelity prototype, demo, or beta that pulls all of the visual and technical pieces together
- releasing your product