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There is no love in User Experience Design

No love in User Experience Design

@sis

You stand back, fold your arms and feel good. You’ve completed your design and you want to pat yourself on the back and show the world what you’ve created. Unfortunately, you’ve done the one thing you shouldn’t do as a good user experience designer and that’s fall in love with your idea.

We are no longer in a market where we can afford ourselves time to perfect a product, to wait a year before something goes out to our users. We can look to the mobile channel to appreciate how fast things are changing, within a year, material design took shape and really disrupted a lot of thinking and behaviors for apps and overall usability. Choices in your design that were made a year ago may be no longer relevant.

The trick? Keep your idea non-committed and as lean as possible. The more time you spend on an idea without consulting your users, the more you’ll fall in love with it. This is not a new concept, but something we need to keep in mind as user experience designers. If you take too much time on your idea, the market will change and your best guess is just that. All you can do at that point is hope that your guess was right.

So what do you do? How can you make sure that your prototype starts out on the right path? Be sure to align your stakeholders and user stories as soon as possible. A lot of companies claim to be user-centered, but in reality, most businesses have a need or an idea that they feel passionate about and they will spend countless hours debating it. When they finally decide on a direction, they ramp up a team and build it. Most of the time, this process can be long and drawn out with new ideas and scope creep finding its way into a project and all along the way they never asked or consulted with their customers. By the time the product reaches the market, their customers may have changed their behaviors because the world around them never stopped.

But you might argue, “Prototypes, research and usability tests? Those are always so expensive.” Not so. Create a process where you can afford to fail in the cheapest way possible in the shortest amount of time. You must allow yourself to move quickly and fail often while learning along the way. Post-It notes and a pencil are a User Experience designers best friend. Keep your designs simple, without design flair and be sure of what goals you are trying to reach. Doing so will keep your prototype focused and free of unnecessary features. It will give you the opportunity to get into testing right away. Keep in mind, once you get to a point where Post-It notes cannot communicate the idea, then you’ll need to move into a more interactive prototype. This still can be done efficiently with tools like Axure, Balsamiq or straight up HTML.

As User Experience designers, we love what we do. There’s great satisfaction in stepping back and knowing you had a hand in building something that accomplishes a goal or helps a customer, but remember, never fall in love with your designs.

Train, Trust and Empower Your Employees

@jdhancock

Every day those who are qualified to lead are given the opportunity to do so. It’s an exciting change and a world of responsibility that can alter your workflow. No longer are you responsible for a few projects, but now, you’ve got a team to manage and inspire. However, with this appointment, it can be difficult for many to let go and not try to do all the work themselves.

Enter the challenge: Assigning work to others.

A lot of times we talk ourselves out of delegating the work. We may feel we can do the work better ourselves, that we may not have enough time to explain the project or that we just end up enjoying the work so much, we forget to bring others into the mix. If you’re not careful, at the end of the day, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the work at hand and you can begin to feel unnecessary stress and anxiety of deadlines. So how can you prevent this?

Here are 9 principles to keep in mind to help you better delegate the work and build a stronger team in the process:

1. Create an atmosphere that promotes goals and ways to expand

Make an effort to connect with your team on a regular basis about what leaders are thinking for the future of the business. Be open to new ideas and processes. Encourage your employees to set goals for their work and how they may align them with broader strategic goals for your team or company.

2. Build a trusting relationship with your employees

Have regular one-on-one sessions with your employees. Request that your employee outline beforehand prepared points of discussion such as work to review, quick wins throughout the week and any challenges that you can bring support to. To a reasonable level, use this time to gain a better understanding of how the employee is doing personally outside of work.

3. Set clear expectations for the delegated work

Be sure to communicate what you expect from the work that you delegate. If you don’t level set an expectation, it won’t be met.

4. Have a regular program of training and sharpening skills necessary for the role

There is always a better way of doing things. Don’t let your team or yourself fall into a rut of doing things the way you’ve always done them. This isn’t to say that change is constantly needed, but you should be evaluating the skills necessary to complete your tasks at hand.

5. Buy out time to work with or witness your employees in action

This is key for training and development. When delegating, don’t let your employee silo themselves in the work. Make sure that you are making an effort to witness the work in progress, whether that is attending a meeting that your employee is leading or by simply having them explain to you their thought process and approach to decisions. This is where you can offer advice, coaching and even learn from your employee yourself.

6. Unless the work is suffering, don’t take the work back

Again, it’s easy when you find yourself witnessing the work to be able to overtake a conversation or an idea and run with it. Be careful to let your employee maintain the lead on the project. You don’t want the delegation to turn into a “do what I say and want” situation. You want your employee to be able to learn from their experience, whether the project is a success or not.

7. Have a continual flow of communication – both ways

Ask for progress check-ins or reports, even a quick stop by their work area to get an update on the project. However, be careful not to micro-manage. Make sure your employee knows they can reach out to you whenever they need you.

8. Make sure your employees have all the tools they need to be successful

Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. How would you approach the work? What tools would you need or find useful to get the job done? Don’t expect a decent outcome if your employee is lacking in toolset or understanding of how to use the tools at hand.

9. Evaluate yourself and have your employees evaluate you

Be sure to get feedback from your employees on how you are doing as a leader. What are things that you could improve on to better support them individually and as a team? Be sure to also self-reflect. Look back at your day or week and think of how may have done things differently or not.

At the end of the day we all want the job to be done right and with success. It makes whatever work we do fun and fulfilling. If you ever have the privilege of being a team leader and you want to be successful, you have to train, trust, and empower your employees.