The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Jessica Enders—Principal at Formulate Information Design
- Leo Frishberg—Principal Architect, User Experience at Tektronix Inc.
- Mike Hughes—User Assistance Architect at IBM Internet Security Systems; UXmatters columnist
- Paul Sherman—Principal at Sherman Group User Experience; Vice President of Usability Professionals’ Association; UXmatters columnist
Organizational Stories That Teach UX Designers
Q: What organizational stories should we be teaching UX designers to enable them to survive and be more effective in business?—from a UXmatters reader
“We should teach stories that require UX design to accommodate business priorities,” recommends Mike. “A few examples:
- whittling down a long list of requirements to one requirement that fits the development bandwidth—The UX perspective in this situation should be on helping the decision-making process take into account the users’ perceived value of the different requirements. I have found myself, for example, making the argument that certain requirements that a team was going to drop represented the true customer delighters, while those that they were keeping in scope had a more internal focus.
- accommodating technical or platform constraints—Take an approach that leverages the existing code base and requires the least amount of new coding to put a feature into the marketplace.
- designing for success in Quality Assurance—A lot of engineering investment gets burned up in handling rejection churn that could have been avoided through a better analysis of alternative paths and exception cases. I have found this to be particularly true in agile shops where the front-end work is not very rigorous. UX designers should learn modeling techniques such as writing use cases to enable them to recover an organization’s wasted engineering costs by reducing post-code-freeze churn.”
“First of all,” replies Jessica, “I think it’s incredibly good that you have organizational stories on your radar. It shows an appreciation for both understanding organizational culture and the almost unsurpassed way in which stories help convey knowledge and experience. Second, I’d advise you to look out for stories not only from fellow UX professionals, but also from people in diverse roles across relevant organizations. By gathering these stories, you will get a sense of what your organization’s true culture is, not just what the organization outwardly and artificially promotes.
“As for personal accounts, I’ve worked only as a UX consultant, so all of my stories come from that perspective. A story of my work with one of Australia’s biggest companies illustrates one experience I’ve consistently had in my consulting work. In the beginning, they engaged me to do just a quick heuristic review of a Web site that was 80% into their production process. That’s pretty late in the game to get a UX professional involved, so I was, of course, pessimistic about how much influence I could have. Sure enough, they could not do much at that point, beyond some minor improvements around the edges. But having seen the value that I could add, they then brought me into other projects earlier. Almost three years later, I’ve ended up working across many different parts of the company, I no longer have to convince senior decision makers of the value of user experience, and they engage my services earlier and often.
“The moral of this story is: learn to be comfortable starting small and delivering quickly. It’s a sure-fire way to establish both of your credibility, trust, and familiarity, which, in turn, undoubtedly leads to more work and your having more influence—provided there’s a good fit.”