So… what can you do to become a better ?

Here are 6 key aspects (out of many) that too often UX designers tend to overlook.

  1. Business language
  2. Research
  3. Meeting facilitation
  4. Design process
  5. Technology
  6. Communication and listening

1. Business language

User Experience is not just about designing with empathy for the user using a set of methodologies and tools. You need to have a strategic thinking and create a long-term plan for user’s experience that is aligned with the business goals. Be aware that business is in a continues change so your UX strategy should pivot as well ending up with having a strong foundation on company’s user/customer strategy and maintain a constant head start over competitors.

But in order to contribute to the UX strategy of the company you first need to learn the business language. You have to articulate your ideas and concepts in a common language with the stakeholders and clients, who are usually business people. Talk with colleagues in your company that have strong business knowledge, do your own personal research by reading online business articles or by browsing through specialty books as your time permits and try to understand the business perspective, insights and terminologies.

To learn more about UX Strategy I recommend reading Jaime Levy’s book UX Strategy and follow Jared Spool and it’s UIE.

2. Research

If your company has a research department or a person that offer detailed reports on users behavior along with the market’s pulse, you are in luck. My only advice is that you should never ignore it. Of course there are different details on specific problems that are not covered by this reports in which case you should do your own specific research.

If you don’t benefit from the luxury of having such reports means that research is one of your responsibilities. There are three types of research approaches that UX designers usually take:

  1. Design based on validated assumptions — This is the classic waterfall approach to the design research process. You do a thorough research and create detailed reports on different findings regarding the business market and targeted users. This is something I recommend doing when you are not working on time-pressure because it can be quite time-consuming. You can find some good insights on Nielsen Norman Group website.
  2. Design based on assumptions, validate through prototypes and iterate based on findings — This approach binds with the Agile methodology. You can use Jeff Gothelf’s Lean UX process loop of Build > Measure > Learn or Jake Knapp’s Design Sprints. This are both very useful approaches that allow you to “fail fast” and iterate quickly.
  3. Design based on assumptions and assume that the assumptions are valid — This I recommend doing if you create a product that is not intended to be used by anyone else but you. You should have at least a minimal research done when designing a product for people.

3. Meeting facilitation

Maybe some of you don’t consider this a core value on your skills set. But in fact, facilitating meetings is as important as research especially if we’re speaking about brainstorming meetings, briefing, concept presentations. Just imagine a meeting where an extrovert or a senior takes over the meeting’s conduct and just goes on and on expressing his/hers opinions, not necessarily on the subject, and leaves no room for others to speak. The meeting tends to become boring and worst, you leave it with nothing concrete and realize that you need to meet again. Sounds familiar?

To be a good facilitator you need to consider three things:

  1. Set expectation by letting people know WHAT the meeting is about, like a meeting agenda for example.
  2. Inform the people WHY are you having this meeting, before or at the beginning of it.
  3. Tell the people HOW the meeting is structured and how it will unfold.

Whether you are a talking person or more of a silent one you always need to have a command in the room. You have to be able to cut people off in an elegant way and charisma could certainly help with that.

4. Design process

All of us, designers, have a process that we follow when doing design work. But do we always use it right? Lets take for example a type of project that we are all very familiar with: personal website or portfolio. How many of you stick to a design process while doing that? You probably ended up many times with an unsatisfying feeling because there were always new ideas that pop in your mind and never settled. But when you look at yourself as a client who needs a personal website, things get much more easier. Being loyal to the process helps you be objective in your decisions and keep things on track.

What to do though when you are in a position of ignoring the process and you are forced to accept, for example, ideas from HiPPOs based on their own subjective assumption? Overcome frustration and wait for users feedback. If their assumptions are right, besides feeding their ego, you will end up with a validated product or feature and everybody is happy and relieved. If they are wrong, you need to make sure that you have reported all the possible problems in advance, passing the responsibility to the ones that neglected your suggestions and didn’t respect the design process. Who knows? Maybe next time your word will weight more.

5. Technology

Beside the business language, user psychology and good design skills, a UX Designers also need to know what technologies are used in building the product and what are their capabilities. To have an efficient communication with the developers you need to know what they are talking about, or maybe you find yourself in a situation where you need to explain to stakeholders different technical aspects and why certain things are harder to implement. If you are an user experience designer, that means that you are a binder between the business, the users and the development so it’s essential to understand all of this three perspectives.

If you have ignored the technical part before, now it’s a good time to fill in this knowledge gap. Start by learning html and css and some basic js. This will build a foundation on understanding the principles of coding and also give you a glimpse on how developers think. Stay informed about how technology evolves and ask nicely your developer colleges to help you understand certain things.

6. Communication and listening

I think the hardest part to learn about communication in user experience is to avoid subjectivity. You should only focus on what works and not on what you like or dislike. I randomly found an article written by Eleanor McKenna called 11 Communication Techniques for Designers. She said that once you bring subjectivity into the dialogue, the conversation will be reduced to what someone likes, and the HiPPO will probably get their way.I recommend to go through the entire article, there are really good tips and insights on how to communicate as a designer.

To develop empathy towards users you need, besides hearing them, to actually listen and understand their problems. Don’t jump into conclusion being eager to go to the drawing board, because you may find yourself spending much more time in finding solutions if you don’t really understand user’s context. Listening is a skill that every human should search to improve in their daily life, but narrowing down to our context, to become a better UX Designers you should master this one.

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