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Communicating UX


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Full commentary for this talk can be found at …

Full commentary for this talk can be found at

As user experience designers, our ideas define us. But without the ability to share our thinking, to persuade, we can end up frustrated wondering why a client couldn't see what we saw. UX comes with particular challenges - when we're often working at a conceptual level - so our ability to communicate our ideas is particularly important.

Who is it for? Anyone presenting work, whether that be to internal teams (visual design / developers) or clients (internal or external). It's intended to be particularly of use to junior/mid-weight user experience designers. It's not a 'presentation skills' talks, but instead looks specifically at how we communicate UX deliverables in a way that its intended audience can understand, communicate and contribute to.

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  • 1. Communicating UX. From ‘idea’ to ‘I agree’. Andrew Travers | @byekickHi everyone,Thanks for coming alongMy name is Andrew TraversIʼm an independent user experience designer and strategist in London.
  • 2. ‘Designers sell their work. Designers get up in front of people and explain why they’ve made the decisions they’ve made. And if you can’t do that, you can’t call yourself a designer.’ Mike Monteiro @byekick #uxlxThis talk is about ideas, and how we talk about them.What Mike Monteiro had to say recently to designers, has particular resonance, I think, for UX designers.Working at a strategic and conceptual level, our ability to communicate our ideas is especially important.
  • 3. What we talk about when we talk about user experience @byekick #uxlxSo, Iʼm want to share with you some thoughts on...What we say,and how we say it.
  • 4. - Tell better stories - Improve understanding - Help our clients - Create better experiences @byekick #uxlxHow we move beyond site maps and grey wireframes, to begin to tell better stories about our users and our workHow we can improve understanding by sharing our processHow we help clients to make informed decisionsAnd - ultimately - how, together, we create better user experiences
  • 5. ‘So, here’s the home page’ @byekick #uxlxIʼd like to start by sharing a story with you.It comes from a few years ago, where I was part of a project team, heading on an early morning train to a clientʼs offices topresent a design concept. In between the coffee and the croissants, weʼd all agreed about the need to ʻtell a storyʼ,To share what weʼd found, the problems weʼd identified, and how we were going to go about tackling them.And then, off the train, and into the meeting, our lead designer opened his Mac, fired up Photoshop and said...So heres the home page...Well, you can probably guess what came next. They ate him alive. A brutal hour of merciless critique, picking apart everyaspect of the design from structure, to typography; from colour, to why the funny text was in Latin.So, why HAD he done it?
  • 6. Resisting the big reveal @byekick #uxlxThere is - I think - a terrible temptation for us, in the manner of a modern-day Don Draper, to want toopen the red curtain and reveal our creations with a little panache.Hoping for that moment where the client reels back,astonished by our genius, our insight, our artistry.Perhaps weʼre just launching into the answerbefore weʼve remembered to share what the question was in the first place.
  • 7. Resisting the big reveal We’re not artists, we’re designers. We’re here to solve problems. @byekick #uxlxAnd, of course, were not artists, were designers and were here to solve problems.And if we canʼt define or describe the problem were solving,we cant expect our clients - or, for that matter, our fellow developers and designers -to see our work in its true context,to provide us with the critique we need,and to work with us to find good solutions together.
  • 8. ‘If we believe design is such a valuable lens to view the world through and a fantastic mental mode for problem solving, we should open it up to everyone. Not doing so is double-speak.’ Frank Chimero ‘Designers Poison’ @byekick #uxlxI say ʻtogetherʼ, and I mean together.This comes from Frank Chimeroʼs review of AIGAʼs recent One Day For Design round table on TwitterIf we know how great, how powerful design can be, donʼt wehave a duty to involve others?
  • 9. Framing the scene @byekick #uxlxIʼd argue that this is at least as true for user experience designers as it is for any other designer.Because weʼre still at that step remove from the design execution of a user interface...
  • 10. Framing the scene Explain what has informed your work. And what your work will inform. @byekick #uxlxWeʼve a yet harder role to play in explaining not just what has informed our work -the research, the design principles - but also what our work will inform:Where it begins and where it ends.Connecting the dots between ux, design, and development and how, together they evolve
  • 11. Addressing the fear @byekick #uxlxBefore working with creative agencies, I used to sit on the other side of the table as a client.And my theory - and my experience - is that clients often have a fear lurking at the back of their minds when they work withdesigners.And that fear goes something like this:This designer doesnʼt really understand the unique and special nature of this businessThis designer has already decided on a solution, and are going to give it to me whether I want it or notThis designer wants me to be their guinea pig for an untested ideaAnd the way I think we best counter this fear is by being humble and by being open....
  • 12. Addressing the fear Humility isn’t a tactic, it’s a mindset. @byekick #uxlxAnd I donʼt mean using humility as a tactic to disarm and flatter,but as the fundamental underpinning to how we approach our work.Sounds easy, but when weʼre very often the most expensive person at the table, itʼs easier said than done.It can take confidence and guts.
  • 13. De ning the problem @byekick #uxlxWhether weʼre starting from an expert evaluation, field research, analytics, or stakeholder interviews,itʼs really important we ʻshowʼ rather than ʻtellʼ what we understand the design problem to be.
  • 14. De ning the problem There’s a di erence between showing and telling. @byekick #uxlxAnd that we donʼt take sole ownership of what that problem is, but share our understanding of it.And sometimes we can do this best by just getting out of the way,and putting the client and user closer in touch with one another.Hereʼs how Leisa Reichelt did this, on a project we worried on together last year for an charity called ʻStartHereʼ.
  • 15. ‘D. is 19 and is currently homeless and has been since his care home ‘refused care’ of him. He sleeps on friends’ sofas but manages to attend college. He’s had problems with drug use in the past and has been in prison for shop lifting and assault. He is bi-polar which a ects his con dence very much. He avoids social networking sites as in the past his peers have been abusive towards him.’Start Here is a charity that helps the most vulnerable in society - those with the poorest literary skills, and difficult personalcircumstances - get access to information they need, when they need it.Leisa presented a series of slides like this one in near-silence - letting the experience of our interviewees come throughdirectly to those in the room.And it was all the more powerful - and moving - for Leisa having that confidence to resist the temptation to translate andinterpret, and instead let them get closer to the difficult and complex lives of their users all by themselves.The stories that we tell in explaining our work help put the focus where it should be. Not on us, but on the end user.
  • 16. Establishing a lingua franca @byekick #uxlxHow we tell these stories matters.A shared, common language matters -respecting both the language and conventions of the clientʼs business, andbridging the gap between the clientʼs world and ours.Two years ago at EuroIA, Scott Thomas - the design director for Barack Obamaʼs extraordinary presidential campaign - talkedabout the limitations of wireframes and their disconnect with the language of the political campaign staff he was workingalongside.So, for the Obama site, he split the strategic wireframes from the functional - those that contained the component buildingblocks of a set of pages, and the purpose or story they were there to tell.In other words...
  • 17. Secondary nav Placeholder Search Carousel @byekick #uxlxIn other words, he explained their rationale not in - this - the arcane language of the information architect, but in this
  • 18. Persuade Represent Educate Activate @byekick #uxlxThe argot of the politicianMaking it easier for his campaign staff to engage,easier to imagine how this would translate in execution and with their messaging,and where and how they could best contribute.
  • 19. Showing our working @byekick #uxlxWhen weʼre building our argument, rather than presenting a fait accompliwe need to show our workingTo take our client on the journey with that we ourselves embarked upon:where we started,how our thinking evolved,the ideas we tried and discounted....
  • 20. Showing our working Understand what didn’t work to inform what might. @byekick #uxlxIʼd argue that we should spend almost as much time showing what didnʼt work as much as what did.Because itʼs in collectively understanding what didnʼt work, that we inform our understanding of what might,and that we counter the ʻfearʼ I mentioned earlier of the imposed design, the impossible notion of the single ʻrightʼ solution.
  • 21. Explaining our thinking @byekick #uxlxItʼs in this sharing of our thinking, that we let clients in- where we turn from being the anointed expert - in heavy quotation marks -to collaborating directly with a group of people to reach a shared conclusion.
  • 22. Explaining our thinking This isn’t about language and style but method and mindset. @byekick #uxlxThis isnʼt, I think, about just language and style, but method and mindsetabout how we see our role in relation to our colleagues and our clients,and in amplifying the voice of the user.That isnʼt about just involving them at the research stage, but sketching and analysing together, removing the client/agencybarrier wherever its possible to do so.So, a word on what our end point of that might look like.In a piece for Johnny Holland, Jared Spool talked about the danger of expert-led recommendations.Hereʼs what he had to say...
  • 23. ‘Making recommendations is the easy way out, so it feels like the best path. But, in the long run, it’s a trap. The house odds are against you and eventually, it will all come crumbling down.’ Jared Spool @byekick #uxlxRather than ʻmaking recommendationsʼ, he argues that what the best UX teams do, is to ʻsuggest experimentationʼ,a more collaborative, exploratory, agile approach.And - for me - thatʼs it right there.Thatʼs the point we stop being the mythical designer-as-artist, the Don Draperand become the more mature, trusted, designer-as-consultant.It seems to me thatItʼs worth sacrificing a little bit of short-term ʻwowʼ for the longer-term understanding- and increasing the chances of our work being sustained long after weʼve concluded our engagement...So, Iʼm going to pick out five points to wrap up.
  • 24. 1. SHARE, NOT TELL Our role is, in part, to reconnect clients with their audience, not to prove how clever we are. Don’t get in the way, it’s not about us....So, Iʼm going to pick out five points to wrap up.1. We share, not tell.We need to help bring clients closer to their users.And to resist inserting ourselves inbetween them.We share experiences to improve an experience.
  • 25. 2. DON’T BE A ‘ROCKSTAR’. ROCKSTARS ARE WANKERS. We need to share what we learn as designers, to act as a guide and facilitator. However ‘expert’ we might be, the best solutions come with the active contribution of others.2. Donʼt own the problem to the exclusion of others.The more we involve the people weʼre working with - designers, developers, clients -the better informed and more robust our approach is likely to be.
  • 26. 3. MIND YOUR LANGUAGE We need to connect our work to not just the priorities, but the language of our clients too. We shouldn’t leave it to them to join the dots between our theory and their practice.3. Mind your languageIf we can adapt and reflect our clientsʼ world back at them, we avoid leaving it to them to translate our world into theirs -And the end result is more effective critique of our work,because that IS we want that, RIGHT?
  • 27. 4. SHOW YOUR WORKING From preparatory sketches to discarded ideas - we deepen our client’s appreciation of our thinking. Our openness gives permission for them to be open too.4. Showing our workingBy removing the mystique and barriers to understanding our work,the more we allow the client to be a fuller, more engaged part of the design process with us -and to understand: our role and why we are proposing what we are proposing.Thereʼs a bit of pragmatism here too -weʼre dealing with the common ʻbut, what ifʼs?ʼ up front, andtesting the assumptions our work is based upon,rather the putting up our design proposals to be shot down
  • 28. 5. BE SPOOL, NOT DRAPER By moving from ‘conveyancing’ to ‘collaboration’, we share together, we learn together, we make things better, together.And lastly, ʻBe Spool, not Draperʼ.Suggest and collaborate rather than make recommendations.Thatʼs got to be a richer experience for our clients, but for us too.Sharing together,learning together,Making things better, together.
  • 29. Thanks. Credits Red curtain by Pietroizzo, licensed under Creative Commons for listening.