What Makes A UXer Unique?

April 23, 2014

I have been reading a lot of UX Design job descriptions of late. This has given rise to several questions. I have my thoughts on these queries but wanted to hear back from you. Let me know your thinking on these below:

  1. What is the difference between a Web Designer and an Interaction Designer?
  2. What is the difference between a Web Designer and a Front-End Developer?
  3. What is the difference between a Front-End Dev and an Interaction Designer?
  4. What is the difference between a Front-End Dev and a UX Designer?
  5. What is the delineation between a Front-End Dev and a UX Designer?

I look forward to hearing from you.


How To Hire A Good UX Designer

April 12, 2014

Hiring a good user experience designer can be a challenging thing if you do not know what to look for or the questions to ask. For the best UXers, it’s not the vocabulary nor the portfolio as much as it is the way they think.

The following are a series of quotes from UX professionals and experts who have hired and evaluated what it takes to recruit the best user experience designers:

“Process over Portfolio – A great (and truly accomplished) UX designer knows it’s their process that stands out. The steps they choose to take when crafting a meaningful experience for their customers will give you far more insight into the way they’ll operate within your company and the value they’ll bring to the table than a set of glossy, superficial images….”

“Interview questions should engage candidates in a discussion of their approach to their work, experience, and general problem-solving [process].”

“There are many other people that touch the product throughout the process — visual designers, developers, marketers, CEOs — and ultimately the final product might not match the UX designer’s intentions whatsoever. In that case, the picture in the portfolio wouldn’t do much to communicate the UX designer’s skills….”

“If you are truly unable to determine the breadth or depth of a candidate’s skills regarding your definition of user experience, I suggest that you review the language you’re using in your job requisition. By including keywords for the skills that you require, you can do a lot to eliminate folks who clearly don’t have what you’re looking for.”

“Intel over Instinct – The best user experience designers strive to gather the richest possible information about their target audiences in order to make the most informed design decisions. Intuition is enriched with experience, whereas instinct is innate. Neither is conscious, but instinct is an immediate reaction whereas intuition is an immediate understanding. A great user experience designer recognizes the difference.”

“Don’t just ask questions, watch behavior. Engage candidates in exercises of some kind. They don’t have to be long or difficult. Just something that lets them get out of interview mode, so you can see them work. This sounds a lot like the difference between good usability evaluation or UX research, which focus on behavior, and market research surveys, which focus on opinion.”

“Ask design questions that refer to popular or relevant trends. Try testing how well candidates are able to integrate new trends into a user experience. For instance, if you’re in the financial services industry, you can ask how they would suggest leveraging real-time communication.”

“Empathy over Ego – The best user experience designers practice UX because they love getting to know people on a very personal level. Their passion in life is connecting with other people and understanding them in ways others don’t. Sniffing out a big ego can be a bit tricky especially if you haven’t worked with many UX designers — we’re definitely a confident bunch. But there’s a thin line between self-assurance and arrogance.”

“Ask questions that focus on how empathetic a prospective candidate can be with a given user. Focus on how quickly candidates can develop empathy, and what questions they ask to clarify users’ needs.”

“I’ve found that the best way to test knowledge is by showing the prospect a set of wireframes, a prototype, or a live site and asking them for five things they’d change to improve a user experience and what techniques they’d use to support their recommendations.”

Look for…”Someone who can make the complex simple, beautiful and ever so slightly fun.” “Someone with the passion and curiosity to constantly learn more about how people interact with digital products.” “[Someone with] a desire to innovate and gather knowledge about potential users and customers, and the humility to know that their first design iterations will rarely be great.” “The willingness to collaborate with both the end user and the business client during the design process.”

“UXers should have good client facing skills, the ability to think strategically, well read in research and some cognitive psychology, and be able to facilitate cross-functional teams.”

 I hope these help spur your thinking as you look for a seasoned UX designer for your next team opening or project.

Sources include:
UX Matters
Whitney Hess
Smashing Magazine UX
Human Factors International

“Interview questions should engage candidates in a discussion of their approach to their work, experience, and general problem-solving approach.” – See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2011/11/interviewing-candidates-for-ux-jobs.php#sthash.7zvEN9IS.dpuf

 


You Are Not A UXer If You…

April 11, 2014

I have been getting a lot of questions lately about what makes a good user experience designer. Unfortunately, the phrase “user experience” is gaining momentum but not a lot of clarity. We used to be called information architects, then usability specialists, and now user experience designers and customer experience designers.

While searching how best to answer clients and friends about the question of UX, I happened upon Whitney Hess’ blog. I believe Whitney makes a good point that one way to understand what a good UXer is, means to have a clearer picture of what a good UXer is not. See her detailed post on these points below:

You’re not a good UXer if you…

  1. Don’t talk to users
  2. Can’t identify your target audience
  3. Don’t define the problem before trying to solve it
  4. Can’t articulate your users’ goals
  5. Design in a vacuum
  6. Make design decisions based on personal preferences
  7. Don’t consider the business objectives
  8. Don’t use UX methodologies
  9. Don’t design for conditions and edge cases
  10. Only think about the interface

I hope this helps remove some of the fuzzy thinking and mystique behind a good UXer. Enjoy!


Life Lessons From A 90 Year Old

March 29, 2014

Sometimes it’s nice to hear the same things you often tell your kids. I guess we all need to be reminded of the important things in life. Better to learn them earlier than later. And while this might seem like a “mushy” post, having been extremely ill at one point in my life helped me see what was truly important and what was less so. I hope you enjoy!

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short not to enjoy it.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for things that matter.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye… But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful.  Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to be happy.  But it’s all up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words, ‘In five years, will this matter?’

27. Always choose Life.

28. Forgive but don’t forget.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give Time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d
grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you think you need.

42. The best is yet to come…

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

(Source: reginabrett.com)


What To Do While in Job Transition

March 12, 2014

By Eric Brown

I am in job transition. It’s been 5 years since I was last looking for a job.

Job transition can be nerve racking for some while opportunistic for others. I tend to fall into the latter camp. Being in transition has been an opportune time to reconnect with many in my network. I am saddened I had let some of it fall into neglect while focused on my previous work. A person can only do so much and I had reprioritized several things over the last couple years that were nonnegotiable–my family-time being a big one. As a friend of mine has said, “you can find another job but not another family.”

What have I been doing these last couple months? I like to break it into the 4-R’s: Reorient, Review, Refine, and Reconnect. If you are in job transition or know someone who is, I hope you will find this post helpful and share it with your friends and network.

Reorient

This is often the most challenging and emotional piece of job transition. Reorienting for me means taking stock of my life–past experience, present reality, and future dreams. Ask yourself the following questions as you think about pursuing a new job or career:

What stage of life am I in?

This can impact the kinds of opportunities you may pursue. If you are in a season of life where travel is necessary and you don’t have a family or small children, it is easier to narrow your focus of potential jobs.

What are my gifts and talents?

Do your gifts and talents fit the career path you are on? If not, have you been intentional about the positions you’ve held or are you moving from one paycheck to another? It may be time to step back and see what you really enjoy doing and are naturally good at.

What skills and experiences do I have?

Have the skills and experiences you’ve acquired had a pattern you can can identify? Do they reconcile with your gifts and talents? This will begin to point you toward future career choices and do not be surprised if you need to change careers.

Where am I in need of additional training or guidance?

We all have feelings of inadequacy. Don’t let that stop you. As you begin to identify your desired role, think about what you need to learn or sharpen as you move forward. Look for people you admire that have the skills or traits you feel inadequate in and ask them for guidance, feedback, and assistance.

What am I passionate about?

List out the things you dream about doing. List out the things that get you energized at work. Think through the things that inspire you and are fun and creative.  Similarly, think about the things you strongly dislike. You may already know but if not, you should begin to see what you’re passionate about.

Now that you have put all these lists together or have a mental inventory, filter all this information through your passions. See if they complement what you love doing. If not, be willing to prune.

These questions demand time. Do not sit down and gloss over them. We can easily skip across the surface of our psyche and not do a deep dive. Be gut-wrenchingly honest and open as you answer these questions and then write down your answers. Have someone you trust and who knows you well review your answers and tell you if you’re on target and if anything is missing. Next review your lists and see if there are any patterns or trends.

Review

After spending time in introspection it is time to review what you have learned about yourself. For me, being close to home for this season of family life has been very important, so travel is an option but my preference is to keep it limited. Also, should need arise, relocating is an option but only within driving distance of my aging parents.

As for my gifts, I saw that I was able to intuitively grasp problems and issues quickly and identify steps needed to solve them. I also have years of creative experience and skills in technology and digital strategy. Leveraging these for business and customer goals is both challenging and fun.
What do I love to do? I am passionate about creating tools and resources that people can use to better themselves and their lives. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than passing on what I have learned or created so someone else can have a better life.

The next question was to determine how all these goals, experiences, talents, and passions fit together and what kinds of opportunities did they point toward?

Refine

Based on all the information I had and numerous conversations with people that know me well, I decided to narrow my focus from all the myriad experiences in web technology I’ve had to user experience (UX) and usability. For me this work sums up my previous experience, my current skills (not to mention job trends), and my future desire to impact people. Plus, this work will impact the future success of any company I work for. Yet, having experience with applying UX principles can vary depending on the past projects you have worked on and the companies you have worked for.

I realized I needed additional training and certification in the field, so I signed up for a series of courses from Human Factors International. After four intense classes and studying for the final comprehensive exam, I am pleased to say I passed and am now a Certified Usability Analyst (CUA). With this certificate and the worldwide credibility that is recognized I can command a compensation that fits with my current stage of life. Not bad for a months worth of work.

Reconnect

The final and ongoing step is to reconnect with my network of friends and colleagues. This is more critical than you may know. Today’s job market is flooded with good credentials and hard working go-getters. As resumés come across the desks of hiring managers it is not so much on what you have done and can do, as much as who you know. Sending a piece of paper or PDF to a company is not the same as getting in front of people face-to-face. The only way you can do this is to maintain a strong, healthy, and growing network.

As I mentioned earlier, I had let my network suffer because of the demands of work and life. Reconnecting takes time and effort. As a friend said, “it takes full time work to find full time work” and was he right. Don’t neglect your network.

The amazing byproduct for me has been the willingness of many in my network to genuinely want to help. The outpouring of support, encouragement, and new connections have blessed me more than words can say.

As of this writing I have several consulting opportunities and I am pursuing a dozen full time opportunities. I attribute this to the 4R’s. I hope you will apply them in your next job transition. If you do, let me know here so I can cheer you onward!

Have fun!


Book Review: Lean Analytics

March 8, 2014

Image of Lean Analytics book coverLean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz is part of The Lean Series offered by O’Reilly Media. In this book you will learn how to figure out your business model and your stage of growth. You will then be challenged to find the One Metric That Matters to you right now, and how to draw a line in the sand so you know when to “step on the gas and when to slam on the brakes.”
Although this book is primarily for start-ups you can apply the principles outlined by Croll and Yoskovitz in any company, division, or department you find yourself. The practice of lean analytics will speed you on your way to success with new projects, products, and business development verticals.
First, pinpoint your business model. Several of the business models covered here are:

  • E-Commerce
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Free Mobile App
  • User-Generated Content
  • and more.

Next you’re encouraged to find the stage you are in. This will be one of the following five:

  1. Empathy
  2. Stickiness
  3. Virality
  4. Revenue
  5. Scale

These two elements will then determine the one key metric you should measure most at this time. Setting a goal, or as the authors say–drawing a line in the sand, will help you see how well you are doing as you measure and track progress.
The book is full of good data, reports, and case studies. The principles you will be applying are not pie-in-the-sky but practical and tested by numerous organizations.
If you have read some of The Lean Series, this is a must addition as it expands on topics you may have already heard about. If you have not read this book and you are, or want to apply lean principles to your work place pick up a copy today.


Organizational Integration: How To Create a Robust Digital Culture – Pt. 2

December 22, 2013

(This is fifth and final post on strategic organizational integration. See the first post here.)

What To Do Next

Like me, poor collaboration and integration are what Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston saw time and again with the clients they worked with. Their book, Marketing In The Round, speaks to some of these very same issues about integration and collaboration. Where they are focused more on marketing the same principles apply across an organization.

How To Make it Happen:

  • Get everyone involved (including senior leadership)
  • Develop a strategy around your cause, purpose, and passion
  • Integrate and communicate about what’s happening and what’s needed –a new product, increased sales or donations, customer feed back, increased awareness, etc
  • Collaborate to create a tactical plan
  • Set goals and measures
  • Create a master calendar for sequencing
  • Refine your goals as you go

1) Discussion for your first meeting:

  • S.W.O.T. analysis of the organization (be brutally honest)
  • Who are your primary customers? (do the research)
  • What trends are affecting the organization? (get internal / external feedback)
  • How do you create value for your customers? (ask them, they will tell you)
  • Do we have anything innovative coming out soon? (why or why not?)
  • What challenges will we face as we move toward integration and collaboration? (be prepared)

2) Strategize
As you think about your strategies and tactics, make sure they are clearly defined. I see a lot of misunderstanding in this area.

Objective/Vision = an organizations desired end
Strategy = a plan of action designed to achieve the objective
Target = a specific value assigned to a goal
Tactics = a means to carry out the strategy

Example:
Objective/Vision = to acquire new donors
Strategy = use Facebook to increase reach and conversions
Target = 200 new donors in Q4 2013
Tactics = a $5-Off coupon for sharing weekly offers

3) Integrate and Communicate
Talk about what’s happening and what’s needed –a new product, increased sales or donations, customer feed back, increased awareness, etc.

4) Collaborate
How can marketing play into the plan? How can PR play into the plan? How can communications, social media, direct mail, the website, broadcast and others play into the plan?

5) Set Goals
One to three goals for each tactical area should be created. These goals should support one another and compliment not pull apart. You need to know the pros/cons of each discipline and what they bring to the table to set the right goals.

6) Create a master calendar
Visualizing and sequencing all the efforts will determine your success. Consider which tactics should lead and which should support and interweave.

7) Refine the goals as you go
We have instant reporting in our digital world. We do not need to wait months to analyze data. Review your results and evaluate what needs to be adjusted. Keep communicating with your organizational team.

Integration Done Right

Dietrich and Livingston identify 5 different levels of integration:

  1. Horizontal integration – across business functions like finance and sales. All conscious of how their decisions and actions affect customers.
  2. Vertical integration – this means the web objectives support higher level organizational goals and strategies
  3. Internal integration – this is communication, keeping everyone informed and motivated
  4. External integration – this means getting your venders and other external agencies around the table together and including them in strategies and goal setting
  5. Data integration – sharing data and information internally is critical to know how you are doing and what needs to change

Remember: Integration and collaboration are key – it almost never fails because it’s implemented early. It usually always fails because it’s implemented too late.


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