Welcome to 2017.
It’s been ages (2 years in fact) since I last wrote anything non-work related and not in a google doc or slide deck!
So with the long leave of absence behind me it’s now time to get back into action. Kicking off 2017 by getting back into writing (and thinking) more about what it means to be ‘making things for others’...
Over the past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to work on some really great products and services with some very talented people. One of the things that I always find most surprising is just how different each has been. From completely different sectors, to audiences, teams and client types. It’s been an interesting road of successes, failures and everything in between.
I was recently asked to look into what I thought ‘UX of the future’ will be and it got me thinking not just about trends and grand visions of the future, but more about what I found to be the most valuable and interesting developments over the past few years.
So here are 5 things I feel mean something to me in the world of our work on products and services.
1. New partnerships for new solutions
Basically exciting things happen when we work with people who think differently.
I’ve been really fortunate to partner with some truly talented people from different disciplines. For me this has helped me be a part of creating some really interesting outcomes. Prompting me to believe that ‘the most exciting ideas happen when you add a little hybrid vigour to your team!’
Pairing is common in development, but partnership is more like a modern take on the ‘creative team’ of the hey day of advertising. In product and services these should reflect the diversity of how we make things, allowing ideation to feel less siloed and more open across disciplines to create even better ideas.
I’d love to find a way to make this happen more!
2. Strategic objectives need validating too
Every service or product journey can be changed, fail or succeed long before we start making any apps, interfaces or websites. The strategic objectives and briefs we set for our services, and how we choose to deliver them, can be just as faulty or badly designed as any form or button.
We should always remember that a vision is just that, and should find ways to learn and validate at a strategic level sooner rather than later.
Easier said than done right! I know I have worked on countless briefs and projects that despite best efforts kick off at breakneck speed. It’s only natural for people to jump ahead and start thinking of solutions before asking ‘why’ are we making them.
One thing I’ve definitely learnt is unresolved strategy results in a longer more complicated road to delivery, often missing opportunities for simple solutions. So it’s worth taking the time to do it properly at the beginning no matter how pressing your deadline feels.
3. User experience is an outcome, not a job title
I’ve said this many times, but for me this is still a biggie. Despite the lip service often paid to this sentiment, in my experience it is something every team has to work on to make a reality.
User experience is how our users understand and interact with the products and services we create. To make an experience that is truly great we have to consider the journey from their point of view. That means every single part of what we make can affect their perception and no single person can be responsible for it. From the build stability and visual language to marketing approach and tech support, every aspect affects the whole.
Everyone should be thinking about how their specialism can deliver the best experience. For me this means empowering the whole team, helping them understand users better and think of why and how the outcomes of their job and those around them can make a difference.
This is truly one of the greatest unlocks - it spreads responsibility, expertise and ideas while making decisions more connected and considered. But the most rewarding thing for me is how it helps people understand the implications of their role in a more tangible way - through the experience of real people.
4. We empathise with real people
Data is king in how we qualify success and look to understand what is happening on the services and products we create. The more we can build up an understanding of behaviour patterns from tracking interaction and journeys, to facial recognition we get a better understanding of what's really going on; success and failure alike.
However we mustn’t forget the value of seeing real users. I’ve seen great success from the human aspect of qualitative research and as we become increasingly more engaged with data we must not forget the value it delivers.
The value in empathy, of seeing our products and services being used by real people can not be underestimated. It can help unite and motivate teams at all levels of an organisation and engage people in a way a graph never can.
The value in ‘why’ people do things can often be seen in the behaviour patterns in data, but we can learn even more from it by understanding and engaging with the people who made it happen. For me this is can be the place where we find new opportunities that we never even knew even existed!
5. Design is business
This last one comes from a recent discussion at home over my Christmas break. Sitting with my younger brother trying to describe what exactly I do these days to my 95 year old grandmother who actually got it straight away ‘What you do sounds like business?’
She is correct. Much of what we do these days is; uncovering new opportunities, fixing journey problems and defining them as features or services, is in fact transforming the way companies do business.
We should all remember that the value we deliver in design has moved up the business food chain. What design can do is no longer limited to pixels or print, it’s a way of solving problems that can be applied to almost anything. So don’t let yourself be pigeon holed into just one thing!