The “Designer” Vocabulary

A look at the language of communicating a design today in a connected world.

Designer Expectations

Recently I found a very interesting post titled “Designers Who Don’t Talk Like Designers Get Hired”. The particular paragraph in question was:

“Many designers talk to businesses from a designer’s perspective. This results in lost contracts, poor communication, and feeling as though design is unappreciated by the client. It turns out that by learning to take a business perspective, designers can win more contracts, earn more from their work, and be more valued.”

There were some interesting debates and opinions within our design team about the tone and content of that post.

Personally, I thought the author was making a valid point albeit what appears to be a generalizing statement about the design community at large.

This brought us to the point of this topic which is, how do we define a designer today? What really are mindsets and skill sets of people with specific roles like user researcher, interaction designervisual designer,user experience designercustomer experience designercontent designer, front end designer, etc.

What language should any of these above designers speak? Should they be aware of the skillsets of each other? Is it about being a jack of all trades or a master of all?

To me, everything boils down to the simple fact that a designer today is mostly supporting three goals.

Fact: Like it or not, in most cases, the business is in it to make money by:

By selling a product or products… to make money. Example: Amazon
Providing a service… to make money. Example: Uber
Making systems efficient so that people are productive and hence enable the business… to make more money. Example: UXPin, Basecamp

Cool companies

Three examples of cool companies creating great experiences to make more money. AmazonUber and Basecamp.

Understanding how these goals trickle down to the smallest detail is I think, the big part in anything we design… including how we communicate the design or the approach.

Without undermining the importance of aesthetics in any way, I think using the right vocabulary to communicate a design to a business is extremely important. It is the “why’s” and “as a result of which…” in the conversation.

The dialogue really is about things like why the color, why the layout, why the SVG or why that size?

Should a designer only be communicating in the language of aesthetics? What is the real design problem?

  1. Am I, as a designer making choices that make 5 secs of someones time productive?
  2. Am I, as a designer making choices about how those choices affect the performance of the experience? Is it a designer’s problem?
  3. Am I, as a designer worrying about the perception of everything on the screen as perceived by the user?
  4. Am I, as a designer worrying about where and how the solution is going to be consumed?
  5. Am I, as a designer worrying about the design being scalable and future proof?

Do I as a designer understand the business? Do I need to understand the business?

In the end, I think as designers we need to clearly justify the reasoning behind our designs in a language of ‘gains’. What do you as a business gain by me as a designer communicating a design choice. It is about me as a designer understanding all aspects of a user centered design process and using that insight to support a design decision or approach.

The fact that things have to be aesthetically neat and current are prerequisites to me. There is tremendous effort in visual research and design but they are not value adds. You have to do it. To communicate a design solution just on the basis of aesthetics is not the right way in my opinion.

To support the original article that led to this post, It’s almost like me applying for a chef position in a restaurant with the leading line in my resume that says I cook really well.

Food for thought?

By Jatin Shah
UX Architect at Aditi Technologies
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4 Misconceptions About UX Design and One Hard-to-Ignore TRUTH

In the increasingly design-savvy state of the world, it’s never been more important to stand out and develop a unique brand identity through UX design. While most organizations recognize the ability of UX design to be the key driver for customer conversion, they often don’t recognize how to use UX design strategically to deliver new values driven by core business metrics.

Having overseen UX design-led business transformation at several organizations, here’s my take on the common misconceptions about UX design that can derail you from maximizing its impact on business outcomes.

Misconception #1: UX Design = Design Thinking

In the design world, UX design and design thinking are often considered synonyms. But in reality, design thinking is just an integrative thinking process that involves approaching problems in the right way. When you get the design thinking right, it doesn’t directly translate to getting the design right. UX Design is a much broader process that begins with understanding the business model, performing user research, and designing the service to fit into the users’ lives in a meaningful way.

Design thinking is all about examining and exploiting opposing ideas and constraints to understand the needs of the audience. For instance, a leading bank took a human-centered approach in designing their loyalty program. They even went an extra mile to exempt a loyal customer from being charged for a bounced check. In this sense, solving a complex customer loyalty problem with empathy is design thinking.

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SOURCE: WHITE PAPER – CHANGING THE STORIES BANK CUSTOMERS TELL THEMSELVES BY WWW.MCORPCONSULTING.COM

While better use of design thinking methods is useful for any company to solve its largest problems, design thinking will not, in and of itself, drive better design.

Misconception #2: Enabling Better UX is the Design Team’s Job

By creating a design-centric culture and by hiring design-centric marketers, engineers, product managers, etc., the design team can rely on the larger team, which serves as an extended UX arm. This holistic design-centric team is aligned with UX needs and can easily get started with the build process on their own, rather than waiting for the core design team to initiate the mock-up first. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better than any individual designer or design team can provide.

With the increased popularity of agile methodology, it has left most organizations to wonder if Agile + UX work at all. When companies adopt an agile development environment, UX teams often feel like they just lost their seat at the table. It’s never easy to change, but when you design your agile process to explicitly include UX as a key component and assign a champion to it, you can have the impact on design you always wanted.

“Everybody at Apple is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers.” – Ex-UX Designer at Apple.

Misconception #3: All Fancy New Tech Compliments Design

Anything that requires users to learn new and complex tasks to perform a desired action has little or no chance of adoption. Period.

Tempted by the new technology, numerous app makers have attempted to blend fancy tech with design, making actions extremely difficult to master. The result? A  drop in app and product popularity. Iconic examples of design failures in an attempt to get too cool with technology are the Gesture control TV remote controls, the seldom used Samsung Eye-ball tracking feature, and the fascinating Google Glass. While the idea of the new tech was attractive, the use of these were too complex for the audience.

Misconception #4: Optimized Design Leads the User to the Outcome You Envision

It’s often considered best to overly question user behavior and direct them to the outcome you desire, but redirecting the user who is repeatedly going off the rails with an intention is useless. For example, there is nothing more annoying than mobile websites with “Download Our App” messages every other second before you’ve even had a chance to read what the app can do for you. If users deviate from your intended path, it is absolutely fine to bring them back on track, but if they do it repeatedly, it’s probably intentional. And you should stop badgering them, and learn from their preference.

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The Truth: UX Design Has an Incredible Impact on the Company’s Top and Bottom-Line

Any organization that moves beyond an ad-hoc user-centric mindset to a sustained and centralized UX practice will find that a successful UX design has an incredible impact on their top-line and bottom-line. By institutionalizing UX, every team learns to communicate problems, rather than devising abrupt solutions; every engineer will explore and anticipate additional use cases and will communicate the best technical solution; every visual designer will learn to think beyond the visuals and will consider how it works and behaves.

A disappointed customer will not patronize with your business again if there is a mismatch between what the customer initially sees from the design team and the final output from the development team.  While the QA team acts as a middleman to ensure the output is as promised, it can never be a reality when the QA team has no design DNA. It is only with a design-centric culture that any organization can bridge the customer expectation vs experience divide.

Design has an inherent value in developing empathy and creating experiences that truly matter to customers, thereby increasing their lifetime value and translating to business results. When design is effectively integrated with business vision, strategy, engineering, etc., it serves as an influential force that helps businesses stay closer to customers, and in return, you can monetize customers for the great experience delivered.

What other common misconceptions about UX design have you encountered? Share them in the comments below the slideshare!

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By Mohan Krishnaraj