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User Experience Design




Despite Consulting in User Experience (UX) and having taught its methods to undergrads at Sydney U. for 7 years, I think it's important to start by establishing that UX is still a very misunderstood concept and profession. Most of that misconception is unfortunately perpetuated by Designers themselves and the rise of sensationalist-rather-than-credible sources, like smashing magazine, becoming the most popular destinations for Design theory.

Often when people refer to wireframes and sketches of screens they are relating to Interaction Design (IxD), or more purposefully the much more specific field of User Interface (UI) Design. Other times people refer to a need to understand the "touch points" of a customer's journey and they are referring to Service Design (SD). Yet in other settings people speak of conducting surveys, interviews and usability testing sessions and they are referring to the Research component. In truth UX is not a profession but a category, one that contains all of these things and more. Dan SAFFER has come the closest to formulating a big-picture of what UX encases;

A Venn diagram by Dan SAFFER depicting the enormity of User Experience Design
This Venn diagram is Dan SAFFER's revised UX model from the original version in his book Designing for Interaction

To be less vague, UX is nothing short of all the facets of dealing with a company, its products and services, throughout the entire lifespan of a user's interactions with them. From finding out what they do, to perusing their offerings, purchasing, dealing with their support staff, the treatment of maintenance and repair processes, perceptions of their professionalism, sincerity and quality, and even the state of the relationship with the company after yu are no longer their customer. That is a huge set of concerns and that is why I'm of the mind - in the same way the Zurb manifesto recites - that UX is not a job. It's not a single person's role and certainly not any of the sub-components mentioned above, or at least not in isolation.

“User experience is really the whole totality. Opening the package… good example. It's the total experience that matters. And that starts from when you first hear about a product… experience is more based upon memory than reality. If your memory of the product is wonderful, you will excuse all sorts of incidental things.” Don NORMAN

At its smallest, UX is a team. At its most comprehensive, UX is part of every person's responsibilities, therefore UX is really a work culture. One that recognises that the user (or "customer") is the very reason the organisation even exists. Consultants like myself can come in and recommend changes after observing the existing interactions, but it really relies on the willingness of the company to want to change the way they operate to offer the best experience. It's a reciprocal effect too, because happier customers engender happier staff through the mutual benefit of more pleasant interactions where customers feel valued and staff feel appreciated.

Masters students card sorting
Some of my postgrad Interface Design students closed-card-sorting

Consider whether the team you've formed to...

  1. Identify the shortfalls
  2. Enact the changes and
  3. Monitor their sustained efficacy
... are adequately proficient in;

  • User research and modelling
  • Information Architecture and the canons of navigation
  • Analytics, concise report and specifications drafting
  • Engaging with and communicating to even the highest stakeholders
  • Design thinking methodology and iterative artefact/prototype production
  • Agile workflows and Project Management tools
  • Prototyping from low through high fidelity and in a range of software and tactile material
  • Familiar with prescriptive elements of HCI theory and best-practices, such as pattern languages
  • Familiar with Design theory, to properly integrate hedonic experiential qualities
  • Programming in at least one language, to best liaise with engineers and "tinker" rather than talk
  • Time, process, people and expectation management
  • Familiar with lean philosophies of documentation and rapid release and the feedback loop
  • Usability testing and performance monitoring
  • Managing the launch and release schedule
  • Working with Marketing on sales and adoption data-acquisition and demographic sampling
  • Creating clear training material for customer facing staff on brand and "voice" strategy
  • Strategising with operations regarding channels of continuous feedback

Anyone into their Design buzz-words might be thinking "this is like waiting on a unicorn", or to put it plainly - it sounds like too much for one person. And for the most part maybe it is, it requires good collaboration across all staff who are genuinely motivated to support the outcome and that point can't be belabored.


Need proven "UXperts" ?

If you're serious about improving your UX and you need UX experts who know the Scientific (rather than popular) theory and have successfully demonstrated it within some of Australia's largest Banking, Travel and Telecommunications companies, I consult with just such an organisation founded by Sydney Design Socialite and unstoppable force Katja FORBES, who is the mentor and inspiration of so many women in technology in Sydney. We embed seasoned professionals within large and complex UX projects. Katja also organises some of Sydney's most successful Design-industry social events and workshops through the IxDA.
Get in touch.