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!

Slideshare Image

Go to Slideshare

By Mohan Krishnaraj

Best Practices & Tools for Nailing Customer Experience

“To compete in today’s business world, you must be available, relevant and responsive – all the time.Your customers expect nothing less.” – Shep Hyken – Author of “The Amazement Revolution”

We are happy to share that we hosted a webinar on “The Best Practices & Tools for Nailing Customer Experience” for our US and UK based audience on the 25th and 26th of February this year. This was our first offering and we hope to continue with a series of webinars that are informative, engaging and useful for our clients, and followers.

The webinar was run by our UX champions, Mohan Krishnaraj, Sr. Director of UX and Justin Hamacher, Director of UX. We had a great turnout and the participants enjoyed the discussion which ended with a Q&A session. The conversation revolved around defining customer experience strategy, responsive web design, accessibility, analytics and user research. We wanted our audience to leave with a thought on how to create the future of an effortless customer experience.

In today’s competitive world, companies are certainly thinking about the benefits that come with giving their customers a memorable experience, to entice them to come back for more. The truth is that, this is not a simple process, but  a complex and well thought out strategy that includes many pieces that all fit in to make one unique and effective customer experience.

Our webinar touched on the benefits of having a responsive web presence. According to Mohan Krishnaraj, “A company can create deeper relationships with its customers if it is responsive, available, relevant and accessible. If companies are not using responsive web design, they are doing it wrong.” It’s the perfect time to work on cohesive designs across an array of ever-increasing screens.

As mobile traffic continues to surge, it is essential for marketers to include responsive web design in the multi-screen era we live in. It is necessary to conquer device proliferation and acquire new age customers. Responsive design offers customers an optimal viewing experience across various platforms, allowing businesses to be in front of customers at every step of their online journey.

Responsive design not only makes your website look attractive and device-friendly, it also makes it accessible and structured without clumsy zooming or shrinking. It helps companies increase conversions, transactions and revenue, and this webinar helped all the participants develop these skills. We’re excited about the success of the webinar and plan to continue our series of webinars in the future.

Watch the webinar here

 

 

Disseminating UX Research Data and Information: Bridging the Research to Design Gap

One of the major quandaries for a UX researcher is determining the most effective way of disseminating UX research results to a project team. This is particularly true for UX researchers who focus on qualitative research, where identifying contextual issues requires broad and varied descriptive tools.  This process of ensuring research findings are heard and understood, can also be time consuming; as translating a text-based analysis to visual formats is complex, and often outside the skillset of researchers who have trained in the social sciences, not design or data visualization.

However, the technology industry is known for its fast pace, and learning to identify appropriate ways of disseminating information to a project team and stakeholders is a must for UX researchers. Moreover, isn’t relationship building and communication strategies what UX research is all about? It should be impossible for us to ignore the contextual issues and character traits that prevent people from reading, or being interested in, full written reports. It is simply part of our job.

So, how does a project team achieve a common understanding of users and their context? Below, I have listed a few general examples of methods used at Aditi for disseminating such information.

  • Frequent or strategic presentations – Making sure to present analysis and findings as the project moves along. This keeps everyone on the same page, starts to ingrain some key ideas, starts conversations, builds trust with the client, and does not overwhelm.
  • Co-workingPlacing project teams in the same space, so after overarching findings have been presented, the UX researcher is consistently present to answer questions and engage in conversations. This allows for even minor design decisions to be backed by research findings.
  • Data Visualizations and Information GraphicsQuantifying qualitative data or visualizing qualitative information in a way that is easily and quickly consumed. These can be posted on walls in the workplace or included in final presentations or reports.
  • Final Report and PresentationWhile this is standard, it is important to remember that an engaging final report and presentation that shows the full picture of the problem space and how a project can best serve its user populations is an important piece of UX research.  

While many can see the value of above activities anecdotally, UX research would do well to add further formalized activities or guidelines for choosing activities to their UX research toolkit. This would help to ensure creative understanding had been reached, and begin to build a dialogue surrounding which activities work best for certain projects, industries, teams, and companies.

For one example of research working to set guidelines for research to design activities, see this article.

Kristina Krause

UX Researcher

Aditi Litehouse

Learn how to turn your customers into your biggest fans!

In a day and age where competing products and services are constantly looking at snatching your customers from right under your noses, providing them with an uplifting customer experience is one of the most critical drivers to retain them.

Join Justin Hamacher and Mohan Krishnaraj, Directors of UX at Aditi Litehouse, for a 60-minute webinar and learn how to create a seamless web experience for your brand. Customers have access to far more technology, over a multitude of devices, than ever before, and we want to help you reach and retain them.

During this webinar, you will learn to:

  • Use analytics and user research to define your “customer experience” strategy
  • Learn the importance of having a responsive and accessible website
  • Review live use cases to understand the advantages and expected results

Register

Link Date & Time
For the USA webinar https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3282309746467144706 Wednesday February 26th 2014, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PST
For the UK webinar https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8007511544369528578 Thursday February 27th 2014, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM GMT

Abhilash Kumar
PR & Communications

Give me my ‘Refresh’ button!

I love Chrome on my iPhone. But there is this one irritant that I thought I should bring up. Here are some images of the same page (I’m a big tennis and Roger fan) as it appears in Safari and Chrome for iOS.

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10 seconds to notice a key difference between both and then the gripe/argument.

Notice that Chrome does not have a refresh button? Keeps bugging the crap out of me that the refresh is actually hidden underneath the menu! I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that a lot of people track things like scores, stock orders, etc. I think, to not have a visible refresh button is just bad.

Here are some arguments not to have it:
1. How many users actually need to refresh?
2. This kind of stuff is usually accessed in ‘apps’.
3. Provide a refresh button in your page if you are showing constantly updated data.
4. Force an auto refresh or use some sort of script to push newer data at regular intervals.

You know what… I don’t care! The browser on my computer has a refresh button. I’m used to F5. Please don’t take that away from me just because I’m on a phone.

UPDATE: Chrome on Android sports a swanky refresh button. Not freakin’ fair!

Thoughts?

Jatin Shah
Experience Designer

More of his thoughts @ SimpleStuff
Follow him on Twitter @ Twitter