Category Archives: Design

Designers Must Change

As I read Susan Weinshenk’s blog series 7 Tips To Get A Team To Implement Your Recommendation I wondered why we find ourselves struggling to convince a team that we know what’s best, that our ideas are right?  Why do we continue to walk into design reviews praying that our carefully considered work won’t be dismantled? (Insert scene of Don Draper walking into a client pitch.) I hear this all the time “They brought me onboard, so they must understand the value of UX. Why won’t they listen to me?” Heck, I’ve said it myself. Truth is that it’s time for change. Designers must change.

Look at the evolution going on within the development community. Agile methodologies like Scrum have enabled programmers to redefine their relationship with stakeholders. They have created a new way of working that is more effective, creates more business value, increased client satisfaction and last but not least, happier developers. What can we as designers learn from our counterparts to increase our own effectiveness and job satisfaction?

Agile requires people working together on a project to act like a team. Everyone is responsible for the outcome regardless of rank or discipline. It’s an egalitarian structure. (Picture team-building exercises. Trust falls aplenty.) Teams are “self organized” in cross-functional style, which allows everyone to contribute according to their strengths as well as cover gaps instead of restricting themselves to an organizational silo. Collaboration is the name of the game. Agile team members talk to each other A LOT. There is plenty of white-boarding and figuring things out together.


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I Prefer Honey

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Generally it applies to negotiation tactics, but I apply it in a broader fashion. Being nice to each other and saying more positive things than negative is better for everyone. Your work day will be more enjoyable if you talk about what you can do to make things better rather than chewing on the problems that you can’t do anything about.  What does this have to do with User Experience? A lot. The way you present your ideas and the way you react to others ideas is critical to productive collaboration and getting buy in from stakeholders.

photo by Nick Perla

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Kids and Design Inspiration

My son is 5. He just started kindergarten, but has been asking challenging questions since he was able to talk. On the way to school one day he asked what “Percent” means. That’s a pretty profound concept for a little guy to wrap his head around. As I tried to find a metaphor or something to compare it to, I realized what I needed was a mental model that fit in the world of a 5 yr old.

Boy at dinner table
Kids see things from a different perspective.

Last year we took our first family vacation. I loved watching my son’s reaction to the icons and symbols he saw on our travels. He regularly called out pictures such as no smoking signs, train, bus and restaurant icons. It occurred to me that children are a great litmus test for the effectiveness of visual information displayed to a general audience or in situations where written language is ineffective.

Moments like these are great mental design exercises. Nearly every project requires me to create a virtual environment that makes sense to users whose frames of reference are very different from mine. Sometimes I am guilty of forgetting that what makes sense to me doesn’t matter. The design needs to fit into the world of those people who will use it.

As for explaining the concept of percentages, I thought of the 4 out of 5 dentists recommend tagline. I told him that it’s a way of pointing out how many out of a group are different in a certain way from the rest. “For example, if there are 10 kids in your class, 2 are wearing yellow shirts and the rest are wearing red shirts, you could say that 20 percent of your class are wearing yellow shirts.” That seemed to makes sense to him. Now if I could just come up with a good answer for his question today, “Mama, why is there war?”