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UX Coaching - helping developers become better generalists


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A solution for user experience (UX) practitioners struggling in an Agile environment. Coach the whole team in UX methods so that the basic skills become part of their repertoire. Includes reference to …

A solution for user experience (UX) practitioners struggling in an Agile environment. Coach the whole team in UX methods so that the basic skills become part of their repertoire. Includes reference to Empathizing/Systemizing theory to help ground coaching with techniques that will appeal to developers.
Presented at Balanced Team conference 2011, San Francisco.

Published in: Business, Technology

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  • Of course, after putting the deck together, I saw that Anders had already claimed the name. Oh well.
  • Feeling unempowered?When we say “generalist” we use a very specialized description: we mean “someone who has several different skills that help get software out the door”
  • Things people wanted to learn:How to share UX data with the teamHow to incorporate UX lifecycle into agile projectsFormalize design researchMoving from selling your work to co-creating with collaboratorsCommunicate design with low documentationHow to get job satisfaction as UX personHow to sell UX in the companyAre you really asking how to move from being chicken to being pig?
  • T-shaped people are supposed to be generalists with a good specialty. UX coaches provide the UX specialty for the team while still allowing them to be UX generalists.
  • Empathizers are interested in people and social interaction while systemisers are more focused on the physical world and causality SQ-EQ can predict programming abilityEmpathy here = cognitive empathy, not affective empathy. Type S people may have difficulties ascertaining others' thoughts and feelings, but experience empathy when they are aware of others' states of mind. This bodes well for two reasons: it means that once shown, systemizers can empathize. It is also the opposite behavior to psychopaths, which is somewhat reassuring in the workplace.
  • Anything above the straight lines is “more” EQ or SQ than control group/”users”Men and women in all IT roles systemized more than regular usersMen in technology-heavy roles in IT and most women in IT empathized less than regular usersP-T scale is job role of survey participantControl groups: Women average EQ of 48, average SQ of 24. Men average EQ 38, SQ 31
  • Team members can still empathize even if they are more likely to prefer systemizingAllow team a chance to reset proposed goals after first results – they will always set them too high.
  • If you ARE sharing results from tests, use problem lists augmented with screen shots and occasional wireframe redesigns. These are all systemizer-friendly and were well received (concise, contextual, constructive criticism) (Norgaard, M; Hornbaek, K., (2009). Exploring the value of usability feedback formats. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 25, 49 – 74.)
  • Biz sponsor (female) was one of most systemizingThis should have been sprint 0 but was actually more like sprint 10 (had been going on and off for 2 years with nothing really compelling to show for it)Leave details of how to implement some of these ideas as an exercise for the audience ;-)
  • Transcript

    • 1. UX Coaching
      Helping developers become better generalists
      Chris Nodder
    • 2. The concept of the UX person as a specialist is hurting their interaction with developers because it encourages ivory tower thinking (and whining)
      Hire a UX person who can also do testing, coding and/or bottle washing
      Embrace specialism: consider UX people as coaches to help whole team be empathetic to user needs
    • 3. © Chris Nodder
      © Chris Nodder
    • 4. Team’s UX skills
      Coach’s UX skills
      T-shaped teams…
    • 5. Empathizing-systemizing theory
      Systemizing Quotient (SQ)
      Empathizing Quotient (EQ)
      Simon Baron-Cohen et al, Autism Research Center
      William Hudson “Reduced empathizing skills increase challenges for user-centered design” (CHI '09)
    • 6. Men in IT
      Women in IT
      Dev team members systemize more and empathize less than users
    • 7. It’s a preference, not a handicap
      “Seeing is believing” – increase empathy by having lower empathy team members watch users interact with product
      Increase investment: team proposes product goals, UX helps them find ways to measure
      Pairing across disciplines can help balance systemizing and empathizing in the product
      Needs patience from both parties
      Personas, scenarios, storyboards, screenshots all appeal to systemizers
      Personas and scenarios help with empathy
      Storyboards and screenshots show relation to underlying system
      Ensure systemizers are involved in creation, not just consumption
    • 8. Message to the UX coach
      Best way to share data with the team is to have them experience it
      Get the team to suggest research agenda
      Show them how to make the research agenda valid (reduce bias, increase effect)
      Teach them how to do the research
      Once they see user behavior first hand, the need for communicating results is reduced/incorporated into the current process
      Formalizing/incorporating UX is a red herring. Instead it's a mindset-change thing
      You have to CREATE the mindset through constant coaching
      If you don't do that, developers will (continue to) route around UX
      Satisfaction comes from sharing skills, not from being an expert that nobody listens to
    • 9. Message to the team
      You are not your users, and your product suffers as a result
      UX skills are very valuable on a resume. Spending time with UX people will make you smarter and a better generalist
      Even if you are back-end rather than UI focused you still need to be able to predict how users will work with your system
      Time with users is time well spent
      Reduces rework
      Prevents arguments
      Produces more focused product that people will like better
    • 10. UX Coaching in action
      1-week engagement with team developing a social media platform
      Whole team involved (incl. biz sponsor & devs)
      I facilitated, they directed
      Field visits
      Intensive design sessions (incl. user specification, scenarios, charrettes)
      Paper prototypes
      User testing
      NO CODE written during this time – devs were focused on understanding user needs
      Generated large list of issues/research topics to track
      Subsequent coaching support during development and user testing (run by team)
      Refer back to personas, storyboards, wireframes, shared visit experiences, user test sessions
      More empathetic team members “got it” faster, and started coaching systemizing team members to help them understand. I began to step back.
      Whole team more cohesive and focused because understood product goals in terms of user need
      Easy to see how well goals were being met via user testing/metrics
      Product has been well received by pilot audience (goes live in Oct.)
    • 11.