The UX Unicorn Is Dead: Soft Skills Trump Coding Skills

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Keynote presentation delivered at the EvolveUX 2016 conference, June 14-16 2016, San Francisco CA.

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The UX Unicorn Is Dead: Soft Skills Trump Coding Skills

  1. 1. THE UNICORN IS DEAD Soft Skills Trump Drumpf Coding Skills Paul Sherman
  2. 2. Deconstruct the UX unicorn. Identify critical soft skills for user experience practitioners. Discuss how we can better formalize and train soft skills in our industry. 2 OBJECTIVES http://bit.ly/1XYnfL0
  3. 3. Deconstruct the UX unicorn. Identify critical soft skills for user experience practitioners. Discuss how we can better formalize and train soft skills in our industry. Marvel at rainbow- pooping unicorns. 3 OBJECTIVES http://bit.ly/1XYnfL0
  4. 4. Trained as an aviation human factors researcher. I’ve built small and large UX teams. Teach at Kent State’s UXD program. Provide user experience research and design consulting. 4 ME
  5. 5. 5 I’m also a Pixar plot device.
  6. 6. The Current UX Landscape 6
  7. 7. Everything is awesome! Source: UXPA 2014 International Salary Survey 7 Median User Experience Practitioner Salary 2005 - 2014
  8. 8. Source: The Creative Group 2016 Salary Survey 8 Make it rain! Woo!
  9. 9. 53K+ jobs on LinkedIn! 9
  10. 10. So…what’s the catch? 10
  11. 11. We still struggle for a seat at the grownup table. 11 http://bit.ly/1VVJAqx
  12. 12. SOME TYPICAL SCENARIOS “We need better UX…how long will it take to fix the product by the next release?” “What? There’s no time to do that much research!” 12
  13. 13. SOME TYPICAL SCENARIOS “Do we really need a UX researcher?” “We should use that headcount for another developer.” 13
  14. 14. SOME TYPICAL SCENARIOS “Talk to sales.” “They know what the customer wants.” 14
  15. 15. Check out this job posting… 15 Company: [ REDACTED ] Location: [ REDACTED ] Job Title: Senior UI/UX Consultant Job Description: Iteratively prototype and build clean and intuitive user interfaces. Optimize frontend CSS performance and stay on top of latest techniques. Build and test complex multi-tiered Web Apps and UI Framework Components. Support technical lead with creating clean, organized code in an easily enhanced and maintained structure. Active support and participation from design to screen layout. Maintain a high level of unit and integration test coverage across projects to catch and prevent feature regressions. Practice and encourage adoption of agile development methodologies. Maintain user-interface and design patterns with live style guides to establish site-wide UX consistency. Ensure implementations follow web standards, accessibility, and usability best practices. Utilize responsive web design techniques to mitigate cross-browser and cross-device inconsistencies. Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree or equivalent experience. 6+ years of experience with Strong Front End UI/UX skills in a corporate environment. Knowledgeable in information architecture, human computer interaction, and usability design principles. Ability to create logos and graphics for websites, proposals, and marketing materials. Creativity and ability to work with others on iterative design. Experience completing mockups and wireframing. Experience with usability/user feedback test design and execution for mockups, prototypes, pre-release functionality, and production systems. Understanding of UX principles. Experience with typography, layout, and color theory.
  16. 16. 16 “Experience with usability / user feedback test design and execution for mockups, prototypes, pre- release functionality, and production systems.” RESEARCH
  17. 17. 17 “Experience completing mockups and wireframing.” “Ability to create logos and graphics for websites, proposals, and marketing materials.” RESEARCH DESIGN
  18. 18. 18 “Iteratively prototype and build clean and intuitive user interfaces.” “Optimize frontend CSS performance and stay on top of latest techniques.” “Build and test complex multi-tiered Web Apps and UI Framework Components.” RESEARCH DESIGN DEVELOP
  19. 19. 19 “Maintain a high level of unit and integration test coverage across projects to catch and prevent feature regressions.” RESEARCH DESIGN DEVELOP TEST
  20. 20. 20 “Maintain user-interface and design patterns with live style guides to establish site-wide UX consistency.” “Support technical lead with creating clean, organized code in an easily enhanced and maintained structure.” RESEARCH DESIGN DEVELOP TEST STANDARDIZE & MAINTAIN
  21. 21. 21 RESEARCH DESIGN DEVELOP TEST “Practice and encourage adoption of agile development methodologies.” “Creativity and ability to work with others on iterative design.” EVANGELIZE AGILE & PLAY NICE STANDARDIZE & MAINTAIN
  22. 22. This isn’t just a unicorn… 22
  23. 23. This unicorn poops rainbows, puppies, and sunshine. http://bit.ly/1sCUlT4
  24. 24. UX Unicorn 24
  25. 25. UX Unicorn 25
  26. 26. Have you seen similar job posts? 26
  27. 27. UX Competency Areas 27
  28. 28. User research Information architecture Content strategy Interaction design Visual design Front end development Adapted from Patrick Neeman. Hunting Unicorns: What Makes An Effective UX Practitioner. http://bit.ly/1U4HVKI 28
  29. 29. User research Information architecture Content strategy Interaction design Visual design Front end dev Typical UX skill set groupings 29
  30. 30. Information architecture Content strategy Interaction design Visual design Maybe you’ve seen this… Front end dev User research 30
  31. 31. User research Information architecture Interaction design Visual design I’ve even seen this Content strategy Front end dev 31
  32. 32. Soft skills User research Information architecture Content strategy Interaction design Visual design Front end development 32
  33. 33. User research Information architecture Content strategy Interaction design Visual design Front end development Soft skills 33
  34. 34. Effective communication A focus on problem-solving, learning, and personal improvement Ability to work effectively in teams Self-motivation, initiative and good judgment SOFT SKILLS CONSIST OF… Irena Grugulis & Steven Vincent. “Whose Skill Is It Anyway? ‘Soft’ Skills and Polarization.” Work Employment & Society, December 2009, Vol. 23, No. 4 597-615. 34
  35. 35. Empathic Curious Systematic Pragmatic PEOPLE WITH SOFT SKILLS ARE… Patrick Neeman. Hunting Unicorns: What Makes An Effective UX Practitioner. http://bit.ly/1U4HVKI Fearless Self-aware Articulate Passionate 35
  36. 36. “Businesses have always needed people who can bridge the gaps between functional areas. There are those people – I call them the ‘natural liaisons’ – who have always existed between camps.” “They bridge the gulf between groups, enable communication between them, and understand the frustrations they feel.” “A certain quality often brings them to the role, whatever their job title happens to be.” THE NATURAL LIAISON Adam Polansky, 2006. Changing Perceptions: Getting The Business To Value User-Centred Design Processes. 36 http://bit.ly/1U4HVKI
  37. 37. Identify people’s emotions and aspirations. Communicate the information to product and development. Design solutions that successfully engage emotional needs and aspirations. IT TAKES SOFT SKILLS TO… Kelly Goto, Beyond Usability: Adaptive and Assistive Technology. UXPA 2016 Keynote Address. 37
  38. 38. You want evidence? Because I have some. 38
  39. 39. My question: “What should UX practitioners be learning to be successful?” 39
  40. 40. 40 COMMUNICATION INFLUENCE COLLABORATION JUDGEMENT INITIATIVE EMPATHY
  41. 41. “Researchers and designers need to work on how they present their research findings and designs in a compelling way that inspires the rest of the team to act on them.” - Kit Unger, Director of UX, Smartsheet 41 COMMUNICATION INFLUENCE
  42. 42. “Economy of information. Being understood is more important than using all your big-kid words and buzz-words.” “All your deliverables need to be usable for your team and stakeholders.” - Adam Polansky, UX Strategist, Bottle Rocket Studios 42 COMMUNICATION INFLUENCE
  43. 43. “That 40-page usability study report that you got a 4.0 on at school won't be useful for (or read by) most companies.” “Your work must always have something that can be acted upon by your client / team.” - Rebecca Destello, Senior UX Researcher, Atlas Informatics 43 COMMUNICATION INFLUENCE
  44. 44. “How to influence executives to give you funding for the team / goals.” - Wendy McKibben Spies, Director of Engineering Strategy, Microsoft 44 COMMUNICATION INFLUENCE
  45. 45. “The concept of ‘that's not my job’ deserves a Batman- slapping-Robin kind of reply. The product's success IS your job. And if that means you need to stay late with the developers, so be it.” - John Athayde, VP Design, Cargosense 45 COLLABORATION
  46. 46. 46
  47. 47. “Dive in to understand the business needs as well as user needs.” - Patrick Neeman, whisky aficionado / troublemaker 47 COLLABORATION
  48. 48. “That synthesis and analysis are not the same thing, they are actually the opposite of each other.” “Rigorous analysis (take apart / deconstruct) and synthesis (put back together / reconstruct) methods make or break a good researcher.” - Kelly Goto, Principal, Goto Research 48 JUDGEMENT INITIATIVE
  49. 49. “Critical thinking, scaffolding hypotheses and assumptions, interpreting insights.” - Ha Phan, Principal Designer, GoPro “Critical thinking and the art of taking [criticism].” - Rachel Nabors, web animation expert 49 JUDGEMENT INITIATIVE
  50. 50. “Grit.” - Amy Chenault, Experience Architect, IBM 50 JUDGEMENT INITIATIVE
  51. 51. “Learn about the technologies that your designs will be implemented in.” “You should have a conceptual understanding of HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, or whatever technology stack the development team is using.” - Anonymous (no not /that/ Anonymous) 51 EMPATHY
  52. 52. “Apply your UX skills (and that famous ‘empathy’) to your co- workers, especially those who are not designers.” - Christian Crumlish, Head of Product, 7 Cups 52 EMPATHY
  53. 53. No one said “learn to write production HTML/CSS and Javascript.” Nor did they say “learn Sketch or tool X.” 53 COLLABORATION JUDGEMENT INITIATIVE EMPATHYCOMMUNICATION INFLUENCE
  54. 54. Can Soft Skills Be Taught? 54
  55. 55. “[Natural liaisons] bridge the gulf between groups, enable communication between them, and understand the frustrations they feel.” “A certain quality often brings them to the role, whatever their job title happens to be.” ARE NATURAL LIAISONS BORN THAT WAY? 55
  56. 56. Soft skill interventions work. 56
  57. 57. 57 In 1989: 40 fatal commercial aviation accidents. In 2014: 9 accidents. http://www.planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm
  58. 58. More than 2/3 of crashes were due to “pilot error.” Analysis of flight deck recordings from crashes revealed that junior officers often knew something was wrong, but didn’t speak up. Commercial pilots were taught that the captain was never to be questioned. BACK IN THE MID-1980’S… http://bit.ly/2617bJb 58
  59. 59. Pilots were taught new ways of working together that reflected these ideas: Human error is inevitable. The captain is not always right! Junior officers have a duty to speak up if they think something is wrong. Crews should cross-check each other and question each other’s assumptions. Crews should debrief and critique after each flight. Soft skills } STARTING AROUND 1990… 59
  60. 60. The results speak for themselves. 60
  61. 61. These same techniques have also been successfully deployed in medicine. Have you noticed that each caregiver now asks you your name and why you’re there? 61
  62. 62. How Do We Evolve UX To Focus On Soft Skills? 62
  63. 63. IT’S (INTER) PERSONAL… AND ORGANIZATIONAL 63
  64. 64. What sub-cultures exist in your organizations? Where are the leverage points? Who are the leverage points? 64 UX YOU’RE A UX CHANGE AGENT
  65. 65. START THE UX SOFT SKILLS REVOLUTION 65 Say no to the unicorn.
  66. 66. START THE UX SOFT SKILLS REVOLUTION 66 Say no to the unicorn. Start - or join - the soft skills training conversation in your organization.
  67. 67. START THE UX SOFT SKILLS REVOLUTION 67 Say no to the unicorn. Start - or join - the soft skills training conversation in your organization. Hire people who can communicate, collaborate, influence, and show good judgement.
  68. 68. START THE UX SOFT SKILLS REVOLUTION 68 Say no to the unicorn. Start - or join - the soft skills training conversation in your organization. Hire people who can communicate, collaborate, influence, and show good judgement. Set goals for and measure demonstration of these skills.
  69. 69. START THE UX SOFT SKILLS REVOLUTION 69 Last and not least… Teach soft skills to UX students at the beginning of their careers.
  70. 70. 70 We’re at the very beginning of this journey. http://bit.ly/1OsEYXk
  71. 71. Paul Sherman paul@shermanux.com @pjsherman Get this presentation: www.slideshare.net/PaulSherman 71 http://bit.ly/1Ubw7M9

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