It’s been almost a year(!) since I left my home in Calgary, Alberta (Oh Canada bitchez!) to move to New York City for a job I didn’t know much about at a start-up I didn’t know much about in a city I thought I knew a little bit about (but didn’t know much about, actually).
One of the coolest things that’s happened to me since then was discovering UX design. Having a research and data analytics background and having dabbled in programming and graphic design, it was like flipping a light switch when I found out that all of these things work together to create innovative, beautiful, and much needed experiences for people.
As I’ve been working my way up from a padawan- to jedi-level UX designer, the saying “fake it till you make it" has grown especially dear, and in this spirit, I recently started a Meetup called The UX Lab for UX designers of any and all stripes to get together and hone their craft.
This was a definite fake it till you make it move. I just started designing UX one (very!) short year ago… there’s no way I have the chops to lead a Meetup… or do I?
Two and a half weeks in, the UX Lab is pushing 100 members and we have one event under our belt (a session on usability testing). Already, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the experience. Here are a couple of lessons:
Lesson #1: Depending on your personality/self-confidence level, starting a meetup might be the best way to network
I love attending all kinds of lectures, Skillshare classes, mixers and of course, Meetups. One of the major reasons I attend these events is to connect with people who share my passion for UX design and are doing similar things… but I’ve found that I’m not so good at meeting people in the classes I take or introducing myself to people at the lectures I attend.
Starting a Meetup makes you the gatekeeper to a group of people you would love to meet. For someone like me who is working on her networking skills, this is pretty great because the Meetup founder is expected to introduce herself to new members.
Also, when you start a Meetup, you make it easier for people to learn who you are and what you’re all about. They’ve messaged me to set-up meetings, and they’ve been awesome so far. I’m not sure I would have bumped into them otherwise.
Lesson #2: The Meetup UX team is good people. Going through the process of starting a Meetup will teach you a lot about good UX design
Meetup does a lot of things really really right in how they designed the experience of starting a Meetup. Here are just a couple of the things that really stuck out to me:
Meetup emails existing members who have already expressed interest in your topic(s) about your new Meetup and asks them to join.
You don’t have to pick a date, time or location to announce an event to your members. Its a pretty big realization that you don’t need to make date, time and location mandatory fields when an organizer is planning an event. In fact, what’s important is that they simply commit by making an announcement to their members. That provides enough accountability for the organizer to figure out the details.
Lesson #3: The psychology behind fake it till you make really works… try it :)
I’m by no means the world’s greatest UX designer… but I’m trying to be. Climbing out on a limb and starting The UX Lab was scary, but so far its been totally worthwhile.
If there’s something you’re thinking about doing… give it a try. Even if you feel like you’re faking it.
If you’re a UX designer of any kind and ever want to shoot the shit about it or work on something cool, please get in touch. I would love to meet you :)
As far as the user is concerned, the experience is the product.
- adapted from Jef Raskins quote “As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product.”
Caption: Natural selection, baby. I found this image here.
Thanks to the internet, it is not difficult to find something that solves your problems or fulfills your needs. A typical Google search will return thousands of results.
It is difficult to filter through all these results, fake reviews, and promoted crap and make the best choice. Today, the critical action you perform is not finding, but filtering.
As you and all other users become more and more sophisticated at filtering, the experience a company offers you will become central in the decision to choose one brand over another. Users are beginning to expect beautiful, well thought out, deep, and emotionally compelling experiences to accompany the products they buy and the services they use.
It is at this point that companies with the “UX gene” will differentiate themselves, foster engagement, loyalty, and sharing, and, essentially, thrive. Those who do not figure out how to activate the UX gene, simply put, will not survive.
When you start your test and ask your participant to use your website/app to accomplish a task, don’t ask:
"How would you do [task] using this website/app?"
"Please do [task] using this website/app."
Why is this important?
For your participant, this little tweak will completely reframe the scenario in her mind, from a question about her knowledge of something into a request to do something.
In the first scenario, the participant immediately begins trying to understand the website/app in an abstract manner, trying to figure out how it all fits together, and how it all works according to the design pattern and rules you’ve created.
The user thinks of this more like a test of whether or not they can figure out how the website/app is supposed to work, not whether or not it actually does work. Worse, it signals them to pause and analyze and think about the website/app, rather than use it.
In contrast, the second scenario spurs the participant right into action, and they will begin understanding how things work in a concrete manner, as they attempt to accomplish the taskstep-by-step. Just using the website/app without thinking too much about how you’re “supposed” to is a much better way to run into stumbling blocks or problems with its design.
And ultimately, this is what you are interested in, not someone’s ability to understand and parrot your design pattern back to you when they’re put on the spot.
This seems kind of obvious…
I know right! Except that I found myself naturally shying away from phrasing my questions as requests… it feels a little demanding and aggressive (and no one likes a bossypants!)
I’m hoping that being conscientious about this subtle difference in phrasing can improve the believability and usefulness of my usability testing results… and I hope you find it helpful too!
Do you think this difference in phrasing is important? What other little tweaks do you use to get the most out of your usability testing sessions?
As I’m spending more and more of my time thinking about UX design, I’m beginning to formulate a few ideas about the craft.
One such “principle” that has been brewing is that:
It’s far easier for someone to edit something than to create it.
It seems kind of obvious. Put a blank canvas of any kind in front of anyone and chances are, it will kind of freak them out, at least a little bit. I feel like this every time I sit down to write a blog post, or turn to a blank new page in my notebook to sketch.
However, if you were to write/draw something, call it a ‘rough draft’ and send it to me to take a look, I can safely say that I would have no problem criticizing, questioning, suggesting (and hopefully improving) it.
A lot of social media actually reinforces editing rather than creating behaviours. Think of all of the people who are popular on Twitter, Facebook, and right here on Tumblr, who post links or reblog material with or without putting their own little editorial spin on it. We pay attention to these individuals, not for anything original or striking of their own creation, but because they are good at editing the content on the internet.
So how does this tie in to UX? Well, I think that UX designers should try to provide users with the opportunity to edit rather than create whenever possible (and especially when the task is already frictionous <-this is a made-up word… like filling in a form or setting up a profile).
Here are a few examples that I think illustrate how the principle of editing vs. creating can be leveraged in UX Design (but I would love to hear about ones you’ve come across):
Although there are those that dislike it, I think Pinterest did a good job of incorporating the principle into their getting started experience by automatically giving new users feeds to follow based on information they collected earlier in the sign-up process.
Using mad-libs style forms rather than big empty text boxes is another example of allowing the user to edit rather than create.
Medium, the new hotness in blogging, does this in a literal way (after all, it is an online writing platform), allowing users to participate by leaving notes on other people’s posts (i.e., editing).
Think about it.
By embracing editing, Medium has engaged an entire group of users who would otherwise been sidelined by their fear of those startlingly blank white pages with their cursors stolidly blinking down the seconds until the impending zombie apocalypse (Damn you, apocalyptic zombie cursor!).
And that’s pretty cool.