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Ux professionalism



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We’re seeing a potential devaluation of the term UX as lots of inexperienced designers and developers make the slow (and often incomplete) move into user experience.

Looking at how crafts transform into professions by charting the history of Architecture, Andy will explain what the discipline really is, how it evolved, and the skills you need to call yourself a user experience designer.

Andy will outline 10 key traits of a user experience professional and argue that we need to evolve in order to face the challenges ahead. He will also state that user experience doesn't just belong to one role, but is everybody's responsibility. So you don't have to switch careers and become a UX designer in order to influence a product's experience.

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Ux professionalism

  1. 1. UX Professionalism Building tomorrows digital cathedrals Note: This is an abridged version of the history of architecture and the history of user experience design, to fit into a 45 minute presentation.
  2. 2. The building industry remained unchanged for 1000’s of years (In the most part) the building industry remained unchanged for 1000’s of years.
  3. 3. Unskilled labour gave way to skilled artisans Unskilled labour gave way to skilled artisans. As buildings became more complex, practitioners began to specialise.
  4. 4. Modern city living created ever more complexity Modern city living created even more complexity.
  5. 5. As wood gave way to stone Master Masons rose to power Medieval buildings were built by large teams of masons, under the guidance of a master mason. The master mason was the most senior and experienced mason and would be in charge of directing the other masons. To become a master mason you would have to apprentice under a master mason for many years before you were ready to work o your own. However rather than having a “grand plan” medieval cathedrals were architecturally a bit of a mess, built in a very ad hoc way.
  6. 6. The renaissance heralded an age of wealth, beauty and scientific knowledge And masons started learning more about science and engineering. As well as study the building styles and techniques of ancient rome and greece. 17th century Italian architect Francesco Borromini (considered by some as one of the first professional architects) had a library of over 1,000 books.
  7. 7. Buildings rose in complexity Buildings rose in complexity and these buildings needed a new breed of designer.
  8. 8. Master masons became architects and the field of Architecture was born So the master masons began to be overtaken by a new profession. Building designers like Sir Christopher Wren, who wanted to bring a more systematised and scientific approach to buildings. and so in the 17th and 18th century the modern field of architecture was born. It’s interesting to note that architect comes from the greek arkhi (cheif) and tekton (builder). It’s also worth pointing out that until modern times there wasn’t a distinction between architect and engineer. In fact “architects” weren’t part of any guild (unlike Masons) and were often only given their titles because of their writings.
  9. 9. Modern architects co-ordinate the design process Ultimately architects are hybrid designers bought in to co-ordinate the process of designing a building. They are also responsible for the vast majority of the built environment we live in today. With small projects, the architect may have enough skills to do the majority of the design work themselves, handing over to an engineer to implement. Some design-build architecture firms will do it all, but they are often looked down on by the industry as generalists. For big projects they need to rely on a team of people with different specialisms.
  10. 10. We see architects as a well defined profession but modern architecture is multi-disciplinary Building  technologist Architectural  history Structural  engineer Planing  regula<ons Project  manager CAD Sustainability Materials  expert Quan<ty  surveying Concept  drawing Dra/ing Mechanical  engineer Construc<on  manager Design Urban  planning Accessibility Environmental    law Interior  design Planning  and  zoning Environmental  psychology Electrical  engineer Although for some reason we rarely see articles or online discussions forcing architects to define exactly what architecture is. Possibly because we’ve all been born into a world of architects so assume that somebody knows what it is they do. But in the mid 17th century, while there were many people calling themselves architects, the exact professional responsibility of the architect wasn’t precisely determined. And even today there is a lot of discussion around the philosophical aspects or architecture.
  11. 11. Architecture schools were created to teach these specialisms Architecture isn’t art, engineering or design, but a culmination of all three. As such, in order to manage standards and quality, professional organisations like the architectural association were formed in 1857. It was also necessary to create dedicated schools in order to teach such a specialised subject.
  12. 12. The history of web design is similar We can see a similar evolution when we look at the profession of web design.
  13. 13. We started off as generalists Web  design Web  design Web  design Web  design Web  design Web  design Web  design Web  design The industry started off mostly staffed by passionate hobbyists and generalists like myself. We all did a bit of visual design, a bit of HTML and a bit of CGI programming.
  14. 14. However as digital products became more complicated However 20 years later, the digital products we’re designing have become increasingly complicated. It was no longer possible for one person to retain all the knowledge and skills necessary to design a large-scale digital product.
  15. 15. Many started to specialise Web  design Design  educa<on Responsive  design Mobile  gaming Accessibility User  Experience Web  design Icon  design Many of us started to specialise.
  16. 16. We undertook our own renaissance We undertook our own mini renaissance. As an active design profession we started to explore existing and related disciplines like Human Factors and HCI to help us understand how people could better interact with web technology. We also started to explore library sciences to understand how to manage and categorise large amounts of information. These two fields slowly morphed into Usability, Interaction Design and Information Architecture.
  17. 17. Don Norman popularised the term User Experience in the 90s Don Norman popularised the term user experience in the early 90s. The idea being that whenever we interact with a product or service it results in some kind of experience. This was an idea that encompassed traditional HCI thinking but also extended it, to cover all the aspects of a product or service as perceived by it’s users. Of course you can’t actually design the way somebody experiences a product or service, and I think this is one of the big mistakes novices make when they get into UX design. However it is possible to influence it in certain directions. In the late 90s, a group of largely west coast designers started to think about digital design in a much more holistic fashion. And the field of user experience design was born.
  18. 18. Defining the dammed thing If you go to UX conferences or follow any “UX people”, you may notice that there’s a habit of trying to continuously define UX. This may give external observers or new entrants to the industry the idea UX isn’t a well understood thing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. UX designers who have been in the industry for any length of time have a good understating of their practice. They’ve read the books and papers, attended the conferences, listened to the podcasts and explained what they do to colleagues and clients a thousand times. However UX practitioners are very analytical and, in an emerging and constantly changing industry, are constantly refining the way they present themselves to the world. So a lot of the discussion around “defining the dammed thing” is to inform new entrants to the field, who read a smashing magazine article on usability testing once and now think that they are user experience designers. I suspect the architecture world went through very similar thing and to this day you’d probably struggle to get a room full or architects to define and agree to a thorough definition of the practice, just as you would a group of UX designers.
  19. 19. The elements of user experience In 2000, Jesse James Garrett attempted to explain this growing field in a diagram (and later a short book) entitled The Elements of User Experience. [explain diagram] It may seem like a very simplistic diagram, but it’s still the mental model that most user experience practitioners have to this day. Now if you look at the process outlined, most digital teams already had somebody highly experienced in visual design, information design and possibly interface design, so this wasn’t a new role they needed to create. However only a few large organisations like the BBC had dedicated Information Architects and usability specialists. And even then, they tended to be few and far between. So for mid sized teams, somebody had to take on these roles. Sometimes it was the project manager, producer or BA. Sometimes the designers or developers. And if you were lucky enough to have a dedicated IA, they would end up finding themselves doing research, usability testing and interaction design. It became increasingly difficult for these people to do the extra work that was now being thrown at them, and still maintain their day job. So people started to specialise, and the name they settled on was user experience design.
  20. 20. Dan Saffer’s UX diagram Back in 2006, Dan Saffer created this diagram in an attempt to outline the overlapping and competing elements that make up user experience design. As you can see from this (and many other diagrams) User Experience design encompasses usability, information architecture, communication design and interaction design. To be considered a user experience designer, you need to have a working knowledge of all these fields, and depth in at least a couple. Similarly a user experience deign agency is made up of experts in these particular areas. He’s updated it since to encompass fields outside of digital design. Like engineering and architecture. Personally I’m not a fan of the inflation of user experience design to cover all forms of “experience”. We’ve got existing fields of practice like “service design” which covers this well. So I personally like to consider UX design purely as a form of digital design.
  21. 21. The duality of UX A job Specialised agency A field of practice The natural result of design The way people perceive a product/service So one of the problems with user experience is that it’s not one thing, but multiple things. It’s the way people perceive a product as in “that was a terrible experience”. It’s also the natural output of the design process. So we started seeing a lot of regular designers changing their titles to “user experience design” because hey, I influence the user experience also. UX design is a well understood field of practice that includes all the sub fields I previously mentioned. It’s something that a specific department or agency can specialise in. Just as they could specialise in development of graphic design. It’s also a persons job. Typically defined as somebody that does a mix of research, usability, IA and interaction design. But typically not visual design.
  22. 22. Todays digital cathedrals Around 2006, UX started to become a recognised term and even a job title in the UK. By 2009 it was all the rage and seen as the hot new thing. Today UX designers are in big demand and and the vast majority of modern digital cathedrals will have been designer by UX designers. However this demand has caused a bit of a boom.
  23. 23. The UX Hype Cycle At the same time more traditional we designers started becoming familiar with the term and many changed their names to UX designers (because there was demand and because it could earn more money). The more committed ones even signed onto UX related courses like the ergonomics course at UCL. Suddenly the market was flooded by folks that didn’t have much experience in UX. Prices started shooting up while quality started dropping. So while companies were reaching the peak of inflated expectations, agencies like mine were hitting the trough of disillusionment. Many felt that UX had become a tainted term and started distancing themselves from the term.
  24. 24. Big design up front Those of our industry who cut our teeth in the late 90s and early naughties had learnt their craft in large organisations with very formal processes. The old guard were super experienced but really stuck in their ways. Traditional UX people tend to be heavily weighted towards the IA and Usability side of the spectrum. The IA folks are incredibly analytical and ridged. They love drawing "boxes and arrows" and producing reams and reason of documentation. This was perfect when designing very large, mission critical systems, but wasn’t necessarily flexible enough to cope with the new products coming their way. I’ve worked with several old school, institutional UX people before. They are less architect and more draftsperson. The usability folks weren’t any better. They were great an analysing problems, but many lacked the Design abilities to come up with good solutions.
  25. 25. Lean UX So in the last couple of years the start-up industry have been pushing back with lean UX and agile UX. They wanted to do away with all the rigidity and formality of their predecessors and use a lightweight, informal process instead. This has some real benefits as you’re able to cut out a lot of the cruft and make improvements quickly. Perfect for poorly funded projects. So why spend months doing research and creating stacks of wireframes, when a few quick sketches could do? This is a great sentiment, but isn’t without it’s problems. Lean and agile UX has put the tools and language in the hands of amateurs. And I think this is largely a good thing, as UX is a team problem. However without the experts to know which tools to use when, a lot of the solutions we’re seeing are far too shallow and misguided. So I’m seeing lots of start-ups trying to adopt so called “agile UX practices” without the benefit of an expert, and failing badly. So a lot of these lean UX people have a very shallow understanding of UX and don’t know when they should and when they shouldn’t cut things out. This can lead to significant efficiency as they struggle to solve design problems that would be
  26. 26. The UX professional I believe that we live in a world where both the old guard and new guard have a place. However I also believe there is a middle ground. The old pros need to adopt lighter weight practices while maintaining their deep knowledge and discipline The new guard need to start to specialise and become more professional. Design is a targeted activity, but with the right skills in your team it’s possible to do the work of significantly more people.
  27. 27. UX as a modern design profession In his 1933 book, the professions, Carr Saunders stated that a profession has 5 aspects. • the foundation of a voluntary association • the exclusion of unqualified persons • a development of codes of conduct • a system of tests and examinations • and, finally, the control over relevant educational institutions
  28. 28. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user Most organisations have somebody to represent the needs of the business, the needs of the technology department and the needs of sales and marketing. Rarely do they have anybody that represents the needs of their customers and users. So in most situations, this will be your job.
  29. 29. Get out of the building Get out of the building. To do this you’re going to need to get out of the building and talk to real users. It may seem obvious and it may seem scary, but it’s very easy to do and doesn’t take a lot of resource. We’re talking about a few days worth of user interviews. Maybe a usability test. Maybe a quick user survey. Doesn’t take much to understand the user. The you can use techniques like user personas to help focus the organisation on their users needs
  30. 30. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business However we also need to be pragmatic. Some designers take being the voice of the user too far, and forget that in most instances they are working for a business that also has needs, some of which may not always be served by understanding the needs of the user.
  31. 31. Talk to the business So you have to spend time getting to know the organisation and the individuals. That doesn’t mean that you’re always going to do what the business wants. But you do need to understand what that is. At the end of the day, UX design is about balancing these two needs.
  32. 32. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm
  33. 33. Beware dark patterns
  34. 34. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics
  35. 35. Don’t forget the fundamentals of UX design. Usability. IA. Interaction design. If you don’t have these basics, none of the advanced still will be of much use.
  36. 36. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics 5. Pick the right tool for the job
  37. 37. Become tools experts The question isn’t, “which prototyping tool should I use?” You need to master as many tool as possible, understand the strangest and weaknesses of each, and know when to use them. So get to know Visio, Omnigraffle, Axure and even Balsamiq. However also make paper prototypes, try keynote, learn HTML/CSS and try video
  38. 38. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics 5. Pick the right tool for the job 6. There's no high or low fidelity, just correct fidelity.
  39. 39. Use the lowest fidelity tool you need This is one of the fantastic learning from Agile. These design artefacts are essentially communication tools. Get to know the team and the organisation you were working with and present them with the lowest level fidelity required to communicate intent. If you’re co-located with an agile team, this could be a conversation round a whiteboard, a paper sketch or an “animatic” video demo. The less time you spend documenting, the more time you will be spent solving design problems. However if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So if you’re working with a very conservative organisation, the stakeholders may need to see high fidelity prototypes to fully understand what you’re proposing. Similarly with remote or inexperienced dev teams, you’ll probably find yourself doing a lot more documentation than you’d like. But this is part of your job.
  40. 40. Learn to... Sketch Learn to sketch.
  41. 41. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics 5. Pick the right tool for the job 6. There's no high or low fidelity, just correct fidelity. 7. Be open and transparent
  42. 42. Communication is a design problem Far too many designers want to spend all of their time designing. And far too many agencies only budget for the time it takes to create deliverables. However there’s no point crafting the perfect design if it never gets adopted. Organisation are a design problem themselves. Great designers understand this and use their people skills to make sure that the organisation understands what they have been designing and why.
  43. 43. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics 5. Pick the right tool for the job 6. There's no high or low fidelity, just correct fidelity. 7. Be open and transparent 8. Work across disciplines
  44. 44. Production line thinking Industrial age thinking has encouraged us to do discreet and specialist tasks before passing them on to the next person in the production line. This process is easier to manage but doesn’t take into count modern day knowledge work.
  45. 45. Cross functional pairing We need to get more used to breaking out of our silos and working with other team members. One way to do this is through “cross functional pairing”. At the start of most of our project our UX designers and visual designers work together. This could be with the UX designer setting up and running interviews and the visual designer taking sketch notes. It could be the pair of them working together to sketch out a new process flow. Similarly our UX designers and front end developers will often work together prototyping solutions. By working together they get to input their own skills and abilities. This is one way of encouraging interested designers and developers to contribute their UX knowledge without feeling that they have to become UX designers themselves. User experience is everybody’s responsibility and design is a team game. All designers should care about UX, but that doesn’t mean they’re user experience designer. All developers should care about UX, but that doesn’t mean they’re UX developers. On projects of a certain size, a dedicated User Experience professional is needed to co- ordinate these activities.
  46. 46. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics 5. Pick the right tool for the job 6. There's no high or low fidelity, just correct fidelity. 7. Be open and transparent 8. Work across disciplines 9. Be a design facilitator
  47. 47. Good designers are facilitators Design is no-longer about creative individuals coming up with their own solutions and imposing them on a company or product. It’s about using your interpersonal skills to create environments and activities where the whole team can contribute their good ideas. Why have one mind working on the problem for a month when you can have 10 minds working on the same problem for a day? It’s then your job to examine, sift, evaluate and hone these ideas into something of value. In most cases the solution will simply present itself once you’ve had time to assemble all the pieces. So I think the ability to run interviews and workshops is the most important skill a UX person can have. This is a high level consultancy skill that most designers don’t feel comfortable leading.
  48. 48. Graphical facilitation
  49. 49. Graphical facilitation
  50. 50. Design games
  51. 51. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics 5. Pick the right tool for the job 6. There's no high or low fidelity, just correct fidelity. 7. Be open and transparent 8. Work across disciplines 9. Be a design facilitator 10. Strive for mastery
  52. 52. 10,000 Hours Malcom Gladwell looked at concert musicians and realised that to become a maestro you needed around 10,000 hours of practice and experience before you stop analysing your playing and instead internalise it and do it naturally. He looked at other fields and it looked like many of them also required 10,000 hours of practice and repetition to become competent. 10,000 hours works out roughly as 10 years of work. It’s important to note that this does need to be 10 years of unique experience, not one year repeated 10 times. However considering the general work hours we do in this industry, and the amount of stuff people do in their own time, really dedicated people can probably become experts in 5 years.
  53. 53. UX professional charter 1. Be the voice of the user 2. Respect the needs of the business 3. Do no harm 4. Don't forget the basics 5. Pick the right tool for the job 6. There's no high or low fidelity, just correct fidelity. 7. Be open and transparent 8. Work across disciplines 9. Be a design facilitator 10. Strive for mastery My 10 steps to becoming a true UX pro. These aren’t the only ones so I’m sure you can find plenty more.
  54. 54. @andybudd