Welcome to the first edition of my new column: A Better Future: Designing for good in a changing world. My hope is that this column will be a natural extension of the two series I’ve previously written for UXmatters, “Understanding Gender and Racial Bias in AI” and “The State of UX Design Education.” My goal is to continue educating myself and this community on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the future of design, with a focus on the perils of designing in an artificial intelligence (AI)–powered world and what we, as UX designers and researchers, can do to address these challenges.
To get us all on the same page about capital G, good design, I’m kicking off my column with a discussion about design ethics. This topic feels particularly relevant given the recent news from Menlo Park, California. As I write this, The Wall Street Journal has released The Facebook Files, investigative research that concludes what many of us have suspected for years: Facebook has some special rules for elite users. Instagram is toxic for teenage girls. Facebook is an angry place and makes the world an angrier place. Read More
Most UX designers I know are constantly working to improve their craft through learning more about User Experience or experimenting with new and exciting UX tools and technologies. This is a positive quality that may be a byproduct of the UX design process itself, which is heavily predicated on constant improvement, experimentation, and innovation.
However, one of the most important ways of expanding your understanding of UX design is also one of the most underrated. In my experience, novice UX designers tend to avoid trying to understand the business objectives of their clients, which can complicate what are already new concepts to them. In contrast, I observe that most experienced UX designers seek to understand and absorb business objectives—ultimately, making that effort a major part of their UX design process.
In this column, I’ll break down the value of understanding your clients’ business objectives and show how this can not only improve your design process but your designs. Read More
In the 21st century, work is busy and often distracted. This reality can deprive us of moments to stop, pause, and take the time necessary for reflection and consider the implications and importance of mentoring in leading meaningful cultures.
This situation has been complicated even further by the global pandemic, with the spaces between work and home becoming blurred. People working at home encounter more distractions that can interfere with their ability to focus. Plus, they often lack the time necessary to step away from their work periodically and give their mind and body the rest and recuperation they need.
As UX leaders, we must provide explicit opportunities for mentoring people and prompting conversations that can help people to see, plan, and move forward. We need to help people to share their stories, spot practices, and conduct exercises that enable them to learn how to connect and contextualize their learnings to insert meaning into what they do. We need to provide spaces such as our Sparkle Studio—a learning platform for developing 21st century, transferable soft skills. Read More
In early September 2021, I gave the opening keynote “Our Imperatives: Connection and Fulfillment,” at UXPA International’s conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The crux of the talk revolved around how creating with a deep level of fulfillment translates to connection: both our own connection to our work and the connection of those who engage with our work. Really, in both cases, it’s all about connection, and this connection is no coincidence.
When connection is at its strongest, our personal values are also at their highest level of fulfillment. In this column, I’ll explore more deeply just how powerfully our value system drives fulfillment over the course of our career. Read More
In “Rows and Columns, Part 1: Jump-starting Analysis Using Spreadsheets,” I revealed the magic of using filtering, drop-down menus, and checkboxes in analyzing your user-research projects. Now in Part 2, I’ll discuss how you can use formulas to make your analyses easier to understand. If you’re new to using spreadsheets, you might find formulas somewhat intimidating. Some of them tend not to be very intuitive.
In Part 2, I’ll continue using the fictional example that I used in Part 1, which focuses on the Vinyl Exchange, a digital marketplace for buying and selling music. Read More
Several years ago, I wrote a UXmatters column titled “Wrangling Difficult Usability Testing Participants,” which described ten types of challenging participant behaviors and how to handle them. Since then I’ve come across enough additional types of difficult participants to write more about this topic. Now, in Part 2, I’ll cover nine more types of difficult participants and describe how to handle them.
As I wrote in my earlier column, most usability-testing participants are typical people who find themselves in the unusual situation of participating in usability testing—something that is usually a new experience for them. They really try to be helpful, and you can easily work with them to get the information you need. Unfortunately, you might sometimes come across some difficult participants. However, there are fortunately ways to prevent or overcome the problems that you encounter with them. Now, in Part 2, I’ll provide more tips about how to wrangle difficult participants effectively and get the most out of their usability-testing sessions. Read More
In Part 1 of this two-part series, I shared my own experiences with managing remote UX professionals and teams, covering the following approaches to fostering positive environments for remote work:
Now, in Part 2, I’ll share some additional approaches, as follows:
One program I helped develop and now lead at my company is an innovative, deep-level customer-engagement program that combines design thinking, business-value analysis, and enterprise architecture to help potential clients look at their business challenges in a different way. Rather than focus on features, functions, or even software in general, we focus on helping clients to better understand their business needs and frame them in a way that prevents their seeming insurmountable or like something they could fix only through a massive investment in the wrong technologies.
Overall, this is a highly successful program that has really unlocked benefits for our clients, as well as our own company. In general, our win rate is rather high when we get involved, so many clients want to engage with us—and not just one time but for a longer-term, strategic level of engagement. While that is an achievement for which we are striving, nothing is perfect. So, even when we get involved, we don’t always win. When we don’t win, we often become discouraged and beat ourselves up about what we could have done differently to prevent our losing. Read More
This month in Ask UXmatters, our expert panel discusses how to handle a company’s insistence that you make an application user friendly upon its first use—even if the task for which you’re designing a solution is inherently difficult, complex, or time consuming. The panel explores what user friendly means, specifically within the context of difficult tasks. Our panelists also discuss defining concrete objectives for design solutions. Plus, we’ll consider training as a way of addressing the complexity of such tasks.
It is important to acknowledge that the complexity of a task can sometimes make an application difficult to use—not because the user-interface design is lacking, but just because the task is so inherently difficult. Read More
For many UX designers, discussing design solutions with stakeholders is a source of anxiety and frustration. Our stakeholders hire us to design an experience, admit that they lack any expertise in design, yet frequently express opinions that are contrary to our recommendations or even overrule our decisions. Tom Greever’s book Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience provides in depth advice on how to manage stakeholder relationships and conduct design meetings—all with the goal of clarifying your design intent for stakeholders.
Greever takes an approach that I would characterize as UX for UX. He walks us through the primary venue for explaining design—the meeting—and applies a user-centered design process to the design meeting as though it were a project. Indeed, a design meeting is an experience and, as UX designers, we should be capable of delivering a good meeting experience.
An ever-growing number of leading voices in the UX community are discussing the need for designers to develop not only solid research and design skills but also to develop soft skills that can help them to become valued colleagues. Read More