“Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.”—Thomas Mann
As a young product designer, I worked hard to perfect my craft. I read widely, studied the work of the masters, and challenged myself. But I was also fortunate: My managers in those early years were good mentors. They gave me projects that would test me, as well as the autonomy to work, learn, and mess things up a bit. They looked out for me—assigning projects that were suitable for my skill level and helping me to avoid any serious mistakes. However, whenever I asked them what I needed to do to move up to the next level, they’d give me answers, but not a detailed career roadmap. What I was lacking was a comprehensive overview of the specific skills and objectives that would be necessary for me to make progress in the professional world of User Experience.
Although I was mastering the design skillset, I soon realized that this was not sufficient to take me where I ultimately wanted to go. Mastery of craft is simply not enough. It is also important to master the work context so we can design effectively within a product-development organization, as depicted in Figure 1. Read More
Human beings are drawn to stories, which help us make sense of our world by letting us share others’ experiences as though they were our own. We feel characters’ struggles as they navigate difficult challenges and rejoice with them when they finally achieve their goals or share their sorrows if they do not. Stories help us learn to feel empathy—a critical trait for any UX professional.
Most importantly, stories are memorable. According to Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, using a story to convey information is up to “22 times more memorable than facts alone.”
Telling a story can help influence the opinions of others in ways that few other modes of communication can. The value of storytelling extends to how we present ourselves and our abilities professionally. Having participated in dozens of on-site portfolio reviews over the years—sitting on both sides of the review table—I’ve found that the most effective UX-portfolio presentations have one thing in common: the candidate told a story. Read More
This is a question that every UX professional faces at some point: is it better to be a UX generalist—for example, practicing both user research and UX design—or is it better to specialize—perhaps in a specific domain? Companies often question whether a team of UX generalists or a mix of specialists is best.
I might be the ideal person to answer this question. Over the last 15 years, I’ve had the unusual experience of starting out as a UX design generalist, becoming a user research specialist, and again becoming a UX design generalist. In this column, I’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of generalization and specialization for UX professionals and the companies that hire them. Read More