Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I don’t need your design process

Sometimes, you question whether you’ve just been winging it for the last ten years. That’s usually when you’re surrounded by people you’re supposed to have an affinity with, but they’re all talking about something you think you should probably understand but quite obviously don’t. Worse than that, perhaps you’re supposed to actually be doing it, since, well, surely that’s what you do. That’s what I felt like a couple of hours ago.

I once applied for a senior user experience designer position for a software company in Cambridge. The only sticking point, in their mind, was that I didn't have any Agile experience. I won’t labour that point, because I have already, suffice to say, despite my protestations that it really wouldn’t be an issue, because I’ll still be able to function if for some reason we have to stand up on a Tuesday morning, it was the one thing I couldn’t honestly say I could tick off their list. I couldn’t adopt their process. I didn’t get the job.

This is ridiculous to me. As a designer, I tend to go through a process. I tend to take a problem, try to understand it, and try to solve it. By design. There’s usually more to it than that, but, really, not much. I’ll put my hand up right now. I could not articulate the difference between waterfall and agile, if questioned. I’m not even sure if those things stand up to comparison on common criteria. I’ve seen the lean UX manifesto and been talked through it a few times, but it’s still just the good bits of UX, without the bad bits. If you want to throw in kano, keynote, kelloggs, that’s fine, but it won’t change the way I approach a problem. I might find that some of the tactical methods are useful, helpful, more efficient. I might loosely adopt some strategies and roll them into a framework suitable for the task at hand. I might find that faced with a hill, just skiing down it is the most appropriate thing to do.

But I won’t pick a process. I’m fine with the one I’ve got. It’s not wilful. I don’t doubt your process is appropriate, effective and successful. I just don’t need it. But thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A word for a thousand pictures

Well, maybe not a thousand, but a few. Maybe a hundred. And more than just one word. I mean, we’re wont to drivel on about pictures telling a thousand words and that’s pretty useful when we sit in a box all day and sketch things out and then justify it to project managers by saying that it’s critical to visualise and that it helps tell the story and the client will respond, like, totally strongly to that

Except it’s not always true. I’ve spent all day in a box sketching things out that, like, a client will totally respond strongly to, but they simply don’t tell the whole story. They don’t replace a thousand words. There needs to be some words.

And it’s those words which actually articulate the human behaviours and cognitive processes that I think really need to be understood, because it’s those that make the difference in this case. It’s about the emotional response and what that can tell us with regard to the design decisions we make. The pictures are nice, but on their own, however much I stand in front of them and wave my arms around saying things like “this totally expresses their engagement franchise model”, they don’t provide the full contextual description. I can’t have a conversation with the clients about how their customers are feeling and without demonstrating that, I’m not really going to honestly say I’m designing for a great experience. I’m just drawing good pictures.