How to Learn UX Everyday / by Gavin Lau

Everyday I am learning, relearning and reminded of simple lessons in UX.

Yes, as designers we have constraints, but never lose focus: It is always about the best User (Guest) Experience we can deliver.

Here are 5 simple lessons I learn and relearn everyday about UX:

 

1) Design Isn’t the Hard Part

Visual Diary from the Salyut 6 Space Mission

There will always be problems — and problems are opportunities — not roadblocks.

If everything was laid out like a school work assignment — it would all be easy for everyone, not just designers. There isn’t a 100% guaranteed recipe to creating real products and services that add value for users.

The hard part in UX, Product Design (and even Development, Project Management, etc) is:

  • Finding the Work (if you are a consultant, agency or vendor)
  • Defining the Problem
  • Alignment
  • Constant Discussion and Meetings
  • Presentations
  • Reviews
  • Lots of Meetings
  • Collaborating Remotely
  • Going Back to the Drawing Board
  • Deadlines

Keeping this in mind can help tremendously in understanding that navigating all of this is required to move forward.

One of my design colleagues has a great reminder and perspective on our daily work:

“If it was easy, we wouldn’t have jobs.” — Matt Carthum

 

2) Give Them What They Want

Show the client or decision maker what they asked for… and why it does — or doesn’t — work.

Break it in front of them. Give them what they want… then show them what they need.

I learned this from being a consultant and it applies whether you work at an agency or on an in-house team. Designers should have a recommendation, an approach and a clear point of view.

Here is how during a review:

1) Start by telling the story…
 2) Present what is expected: “Here is the solution you asked for and addresses the concerns from last time…”
 3) Show what really works: “But this alternative — our recommendation — is stronger and here is why…”

“Show what can’t be unseen.” — Priyanka Kakar

Collaboration: An Indispensable Skill — Center Centre

 

3) Design Facilitates the Conversation

A review with stakeholders is not a sales pitch — a presentation is a dialog with visual aides.

Another way to look at the goal of presenting design work is alignment and understanding on how to move forward — not approval.

When you approach a conversation this way you truly are treating stakeholders as collaborators.

There is a lot of talk about bringing along people through phases of a project or educating others about the design process. True collaboration can only happen when you facilitate a conversation instead of speaking at people.

“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” ― Peter F. Drucker

Face from Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

 

4) Walk the Middle Path

A partnership is like creating a great comic book: the right combination of images, dialog, plot and pacing that add up to a great story in the mind of the reader.

The writer can’t approach comics like an author creating a novel. The illustrator can’t approach comic books like a fine artist painting a portrait.

In comics, a writer and illustrator, each experts in their field, must tell a story together.

How UX Designers keep to this middle path is by being subject matter experts open to change. As Designers, we don’t know every budget impact, recently discovered technology constraint or prior product learning.

This isn’t a call to compromise, but to being open to seeing all sides. The end product is usable and delights, not a collection of wireframes.

“A burning passion coupled with absolute detachment is the key to all success.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

 

5) Listen, Then Use Judgement

Everyone puts themselves at the center of the Venn Diagram. The truth is that consistently delivering a great product or service requires everyone working in concert.

Listening and hearing are two different things.

Listening is understanding the problem behind the problem. Listening is asking ‘why’ five times. Listening is developing the ability to anticipate reactions.

Once you are truly listening, then you can apply a perspective on where you come down as a UX Designer helping make a call.

The best referees, judges and umpires simply say what others know to be true and become virtually invisible.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” ― Peter F. Drucker
 
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