Random thoughts tonight…
Some things I’ve observed and learned over the years about user experience.
• User experience isn’t just a fashionable title
Just because you’re a visual designer doesn’t automatically make you a user experience designer. If you design products solely on what you think is beautiful or awesome, and don’t actually delve into what users need (and make sure they get what they need as easily and quickly as possible), then you’re not user experience-minded.
And visual design sure as hell isn’t the only path to user experience. Some of the best UXers I know come from non “creative” walks of life. Some came from development/programming, some from writing, some from research…different avenues bring different, but equally valuable insight.
• Show confidence but not superiority
You may know lots and lots about ideal, clean interfaces. You may have been doing the research, prototyping and user testing for years and have a good sense of what works well and what doesn’t.
But don’t come into a project acting smarter than everyone else. You’re not a team of one. Chances are, there are things beyond user experience you are not kick-ass on. Be it the subject matter of the product or industry, technology avenues and limitations, or undeniable business needs.
Bring your expertise to the table, but let others do the same.
• Talk to users often, even if informally
Before I really got what user experience is all about, like many I associated the field with traditional usability.
I’ve since learned that there’s lots of ways to get valuable insight from the users or would-be users of your product. Sometimes it’s just a chat about needs, frustrations, or a day-in-the-life of a job. Sometimes it’s talking through a very loose prototype, digitally or on paper. Sometimes it’s actual usability, be it formal in a lab or over a web conference or just hanging out in a room.
It doesn’t have to be stodgy or process-heavy. It just has to be about users.