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Flow of Competence in UX Design Practice

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UX and design culture are beginning to dominate corporate priorities, but despite the current hype there is often a disconnect between the organizational efficiencies desired by executives and the knowledge of how UX can or should address these issues. This exploratory study addresses this space by reframing the concept of competence in UX to include the flow of competence between individual designers and the companies in which they work. Our reframing resulted in a preliminary schema based on interviews conducted with six design practitioners, which allows this flow to be traced in a performative way on the part of individuals and groups over time. We then trace this flow of individual and organizational competence through three case studies of UX adoption. Opportunities for use of this preliminary schema as a generative, rhetorical tool for HCI researchers to further interrogate UX adoption are considered, including accounting for factors that affect adoption.

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Flow of Competence in UX Design Practice

  1. 1. flow of competence in 
 UX DESIGN PRACTICE COLIN M. GRAY AUSTIN L. TOOMBS & SHAD D. GROSS Iowa State University Indiana University
  2. 2. Little attention has been paid to the implementation 
 of UX practices within a corporate context, particularly 
 in what value it can (or should be able to) 
 bring to the organization
  3. 3. “[UX designer] roles are often misunderstood and our adjacent disciplines such as product management and development see their work as unnecessary or in some cases are threatened by them. [...] We find that the culture of the company we are trying to deploy UX resources into isn’t ready to accept them and we find that our role becomes more that of a change manager than a user experience manager. We have a vision for what the future processes of the company can look like but we find it hard to communicate that vision…. ”
 (Thompson, Anderson, Au, Ratzlaff, & Zada, 2010)
  4. 4. Documenting elements of competence in UX practice Mapping the flow or movement of competence between UX practitioners and companies courtesy of Juhan Sonin: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juhansonin/7797009214
  5. 5. Identity-centric view of UX competence 
 (Gray, 2014) T-shaped design thinkers 
 (Guest,1991; Futt & Rasid, 2011) Design leadership, or “being in service” 
 (Nelson & Stolterman, 2012) courtesy of Nathanael Koyne: https://www.flickr.com/photos/purecaffeine/4325067780
  6. 6. FROM STATIC TO DYNAMIC Moving from identifying a static set of 
 UX competencies to understanding how competencies are built and evolve over time
  7. 7. FROM STATIC TO DYNAMIC Moving from identifying a static set of 
 UX competencies to understanding how competencies are built and evolve over time Training of UX designers UX impact on organizations Organizational reaction to UX adoption
  8. 8. DATA COLLECTION • One hour interview with six practitioners in a range of 
 design disciplines • Working definition of competence in relation to their practice and professional experience ANALYSIS • Emergent thematic analysis in two phases • Creation of a preliminary schema OUR APPROACH
  9. 9. DATA COLLECTION • One hour interview with three additional UX practitioners • Competence in interaction design, their design process, and relevant flow patterns to explore their change in competence over time ANALYSIS • Three case studies, showing a wide range of variation ESTABLISHING GENERATIVE VALUE
  10. 10. SCHEMA Ultimate purpose is generative insights, not a precise modeling of reality (Nelson & Stolterman, 2012)
  11. 11. INDIVIDUAL GROUP ESPOUSED INUSE
  12. 12. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE INDIVIDUAL GROUP INUSE ESPOUSED a
  13. 13. CASE STUDIES PETER SENIOR INTERACTION DESIGNER 5 1/2 years experience working for an educational 
 software company NASCENT TO DEVELOPED DESIGN CULTURE JOEL UX MANAGER
 
 5 1/2 years experience working for a software company PUSHING 
 DESIGN CULTURE FORWARD MARTIN INTERACTIVE DESIGN ENGINEER 1 year experience working for a large technology company DESIGNING IN AN ENGINEERING CULTURE
  14. 14. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE PERFORM your beliefs as 
 a UX designer ALTER your beliefs based on your performance REFLECTIVE DIALECTIC OF THE INDIVIDUAL INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE
  15. 15. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE PERFORM your beliefs as 
 a UX designer ALTER your beliefs based on your performance REFLECTIVE DIALECTIC OF THE INDIVIDUAL Taking part in non-company design activities to maintain a “contemporary process” Reading widely and regularly Engaging in formal or informal community building within the organization PETER, MARTIN, & JOEL
  16. 16. the organization PERFORMS its beliefs the organization ALTERS its beliefs GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE REFLECTIVE DIALECTIC OF THE ORGANIZATION GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE
  17. 17. the organization PERFORMS its beliefs the organization ALTERS its beliefs GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE REFLECTIVE DIALECTIC OF THE ORGANIZATION Company hired executives sympathetic to design PETER & JOEL 
 “There are a lot of career, highly decorated engineers that now have to deal with people telling them how to design their product, and it’s challenging" MARTIN
  18. 18. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE AN INDIVIDUAL ALTERING THE COMPANY individual PERFORMS her beliefs PERFORMANCE alters company practice company practices CHANGE INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE
  19. 19. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE AN INDIVIDUAL ALTERING THE COMPANY individual PERFORMS her beliefs PERFORMANCE alters company practice company practices CHANGE “…we know we need you, but we also need you to teach us what you do and we need you to teach us how to facilitate what you do. It’s a lot of education to stakeholders about what it is you do because no one here really knows about it.” MARTIN
  20. 20. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE AN INDIVIDUAL ALTERING THE COMPANY individual PERFORMS her beliefs PERFORMANCE alters company practice company practices CHANGE “I could either leave or I could make the best of it. [...] Looking back at it now, it seems kind of ballsy, ‘cause now that I’m at this point in my career, it looks like I had a chip on my shoulder. The key to doing things like this is always to be tactful.” JOEL “When you used to talk about UX, I thought you were full of shit. But now I actually believe what you do is valuable.”
  21. 21. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE A COMPANY CHANGING THE INDIVIDUAL individual ALTERS her beliefs PERFORMANCE alters individual practice beliefs 
 enable PERFORMANCE INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE
  22. 22. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE A COMPANY CHANGING THE INDIVIDUAL individual ALTERS her beliefs PERFORMANCE alters individual practice beliefs 
 enable PERFORMANCE “…the responsibility is on the designer to fit themselves with the business, rather than the business trying to fit a designer, and find one that fits them”
 
 “[stop] asking those questions and rely on a little bit more faith. Whether it’s right or wrong really isn’t in my control. I had to let go of that.” MARTIN
  23. 23. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE A COMPANY CHANGING THE INDIVIDUAL individual ALTERS her beliefs PERFORMANCE alters individual practice beliefs 
 enable PERFORMANCE Engages in side projects, “work[ing] on things in the way he thinks it is appropriate.” PETER
  24. 24. INDIVIDUAL
 ESPOUSED INDIVIDUAL
 IN USE GROUP
 ESPOUSED GROUP IN USE INDIVIDUAL GROUP INUSE ESPOUSED
  25. 25. “When I came out of school, my realistic competence level should have been [lower], and I was way up here [higher] […] and I pissed people off. I’d get into these conversations with people and really push the envelope, saying ‘you know what, we aren’t meeting the needs that the users have’ and all of the things that you know are true. […] competence comes in when you understand why 
 it’s not possible.” 
 PETER
  26. 26. persistence of individuals + larger organizational forces BUILDING A DESIGN CULTURE 
 REQUIRES LEADERSHIP
 [AND LUCK]
  27. 27. STRATEGIES FOR UX ADOPTION EVANGELIZING 
 UX practices to stakeholders TEACHING 
 UX practices to colleagues Educating both colleagues and the stakeholders about the capabilities of UX, and building competencies for delivery and sustainment of UX principles appears to be key to a culture of UX taking hold.
  28. 28. Exploring the tensions and additional states that may exist over time between espoused and in use frames Additional attention should be paid to UX adoption strategies, both within practice and in UX education courtesy of Nathanael Koyne: https://www.flickr.com/photos/purecaffeine/4328394839
  29. 29. COLINGRAY.ME 고맙습니다 THANK YOU

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