Amanda Stockwell / User Insights / August 25th, 2014

UX Is Not Just for Designers

If you’ve been following business and tech trends (or our blog!), you’ll know that User Experience (UX) is a quickly growing and ever-important field. Companies are hiring scads of UX professionals to help understand their users and to craft positive experiences for those people. We traditionally think of utilizing UX in the context of websites or mobile applications, but the basic tenets of UX can be helpful in crafting almost any experience, from the way you interact with teammates to the way you connect with potential employers or existing clients.

Let me explain: whether we realize it or not, we all have to impress different “users.” Coworkers, a boss, your friends, a significant other – we interact with each in a different way, and they probably have different expectations for our behavior, and that ties directly to user experience. UX professionals are guided by a few key tenets, including user research, interaction design, visual design, and testing. These core values can be easily applied to everyday situations. Every conversation with your team, every presentation to a client, or every job application is an experience that can be crafted to improve user outcomes. Let’s look at these tenets and some ways to utilize them in everyday business life.

User Research

The golden rule of all user-centered design processes is to know thy user. We strive to understand who we’re trying to serve, why they need what we’re building, and how they’ll be using whatever we build.

User research takes many forms – surveys, focus groups, ethnographic studies – but really, we want to gather and analyze data so we can make better decisions by understanding our potential users. Interviews in bars also work.

Think about this in terms of meeting a new client for the first time. You can do your due diligence with a simple approach: Google them. Determine their role within their company, learn their team, dig into the company’s culture, products and other projects. Learning more about your primary contact on LinkedIn, Twitter or a personal blog can offer valuable insight into their needs and interests.

That information can help make a personal connection when you meet. Mentioning a shared love for softball or fondness for dogs can demonstrate attention to detail, engender empathy and set the tone for a successful partnership.

Interaction Design

treasure mapInteraction design is all about getting someone from Point A to Point B in a system. In the “real world,” we can bastardize this term a bit to talk about personal interaction design and how that can move a project from Point A to Point B.

The biggest struggles in nearly any work scenario are the people involved: personal dynamics, miscommunication and  stubborn teammates can all derail a project. Every work problem can be solved by thinking of the best approach for everyone  involved in order to positively impact the outcome.

As with any UX project, the first step is to carefully consider and try to understand your user. Is your product owner heavy-handed due to a strong sense of responsibility? Is a team member distracted by family issues?

Learn the variables, and then form a strategy to set the tone for the conversation. Get that newborn-baby-induced-insomniac on your team a coffee before launching into a discussion. Reassure your nervous product owner with clear examples of past successes. Doing your due diligence in user research can help you craft personal interactions that bring success to any situation.

Visual Design

Visual design – the look and feel of something – is a key component to any UX project. Aesthetics can convey a story, such as making a website seem trustworthy or professional, and we can use layout and form to make anything more appealing.

Even if you have no design background, you can utilize templates to help with layout and color choices in client reports, choose to include pictures or sketches in meeting notes or use bullet points and bold font to point out key items in emails.

Visual design extends to how you present yourself, as well. Your personal brand tells a story as well. You don’t have to dress up in a suit to be taken seriously, but if it looks like you just rolled out of bed, or it’s been a few days since you’ve showered, that could be distracting. It sounds simple, but a bit of thought about your appearance can help you with everything from getting a job to making a client feel confident in your work.

Testing

Last but not least, feedback makes the UX world go round, and if you’re smart, it can be the key to your success in any context.  In UX, we look to a representative samples of end-users to gather feedback and make sure we’re on the right track, building the right thing and building it right.

Skin prick allergy test

The golden rule in usability is to employ at  least 5 participants to capture 80% of issues, and the same is true whether you’re asking for feedback on your presentation style or on a particular deliverable. Gathering input from a variety of friends, teammates or acquaintances will almost always spot things we’ve missed or provide a perspective you’d never consider.

The core principles of UX can be applied to nearly any situation. Understanding the people you’re around, carefully crafting interactions, focusing on visual appearance and gathering feedback can lead to successful client meetings, team collaborations, business ventures and so much more.

For more information about applying UX principles to the job search process, check out this UXMatters article or our presentation from UXPA2014.

How-Effective-is-Your-Sites-UX

Image credit: Carli Jeen Miller

  • Brittney Sheffield

    Great post Amanda! I’m definitely starting to see a positive shift in the digital industry when it comes to UX, and not just among designers. User research and “user first” thinking among designers, developers and marketers alike is what will take our work to the next level.

  • dwasylow

    You can quickly tell when you land on a site that wasn’t built with user experience in mind – and it’s a disaster. I also encounter user experience flaws in tangible items every day. “Where’s the stupid button I’m supposed to push on this copy machine?”