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“It’s More of a Mindset Than a Method”: UX Practitioners’ Conception of Design Methods

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There has been increasing interest in the work practices of user experience (UX) designers, particularly in relation to approaches that support adoption of human-centered principles in corporate environments. This paper addresses the ways in which UX designers conceive of methods that support their practice, and the methods they consider necessary as a baseline competency for beginning user experience designers. Interviews were conducted with practitioners in a range of companies, with differing levels of expertise and educational backgrounds represented. Interviewees were asked about their use of design methods in practice, and the methods they considered to be core of their practice; in addition, they were asked what set of methods would be vital for beginning designers joining their company. Based on these interviews, I evaluate practitioner conceptions of design methods, proposing an appropriation-oriented mindset that drives the use of tool knowledge, supporting designers’ practice in a variety of corporate contexts. Opportunities are considered for future research in the study of UX practice and training of students in human-computer interaction programs.

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“It’s More of a Mindset Than a Method”: UX Practitioners’ Conception of Design Methods

  1. 1. “IT’S MORE OF A MINDSET THAN A METHOD” UX Practitioners’ Conception 
 of Design Methods COLIN M. GRAY | Purdue University
  2. 2. Work Practices of 
 UX Designers Design 
 Methods (e.g., Goodman, Stolterman, & Wakkary, 2011; Stolterman, 2008) (e.g., Jones, 1970; Hanington & Martin, 2012) Lack of focus 
 on praxis (e.g., Goodman, 2013; Gray, Stolterman, & Siegel, 2014; Roedl & Stolterman, 2013)
  3. 3. Work Practices of 
 UX Designers practitioners’ 
 everyday use of methods situated judgments 
 to select and use methods PRAXIS Design 
 Methods
  4. 4. AGENDA • Situating design methods within HCI research and UX practice • Details of the interview study • Methods that are used and desired in UX practice • Appropriation and recontextualization of methods in practice
  5. 5. 1970 2010s
  6. 6. Jones, 1992, p. 48
  7. 7. METHOD AND PERSPECTIVE Design Activity ACADEMIA less rigorous than prescribed method PRACTICE reduced complexity for ease of communication (see Gray, Stolterman, & Siegel, 2014)
  8. 8. “ingredients” and “meals,” not “recipes” 
 (Woolrych et al., 2011) “designerly tools” 
 (Stolterman et al., 2008; Stolterman & Pierce, 2012) competence
 (Gray, 2014) Design Activity ACADEMIA less rigorous than prescribed method PRACTICE reduced complexity for ease of communication (see Gray, Stolterman, & Siegel, 2014)
  9. 9. METHOD
  10. 10. METHOD Stratified 
 Sample Interview Study Thematic 
 Analysis
  11. 11. PARTICIPANTS Name Experience 
 (Years) Educational Background Job Title Practice Context Avery 21 Computer Science Independent Consultant CONSULTANCYTerence 11 Linguistics/Cognitive Science Independent Contractor/ Consultant Marla 11 Leadership Studies Director of User Experience and Research CLIENT-FACING AGENCY Hugh 6 Visual Design Director of User Experience Bruno 10 Computer Information Systems Director of UX Jean 4 HCI Design Strategist LARGE COMPANY Diane 15 Visual Communication Design Senior UX Architect Philip 2 HCI UX Manager Ganesh 3 HCI Senior Experience Designer Prakash 3 HCI Senior User Experience Designer Scott 3 HCI Senior Interaction Designer SMALL COMPANYEric 3 HCI Senior IxD Design Lead Dhaval 6 HCI Senior Interaction Designer n=13 Most identified as UX or user experience practitioners Stratified by practice context
  12. 12. DEFINITION OF DESIGN METHODS We define a design method as any intellectual or practical support that a practitioner might use to support the design process in a positive way, encompassing everything from everyday methods, techniques, and tools for idea generation and collaboration, such as the pen and paper, whiteboard, brainstorming, dialoguing, to methods and applications for sketching and refining ideas. We also include formal, axiomatic, and algorithmic methods that are designed for design purposes, as well as intellectual tools, such as methods, approaches, frameworks, and techniques that support the design process as a thinking reflective process, as well as abstract theories. An intentionally inclusive framing of design methods}
  13. 13. INTERVIEW QUESTIONS • educational background • years of experience • composition of work team • use of methods in everyday practice, company practices, adaptation or codification of methods • methods for starting UX designers
  14. 14. FINDINGS
  15. 15. FINDINGS METHODS 
 existing practitioners 
 reported using METHODS 
 new practitioners 
 should know how to use
  16. 16. METHODS 
 existing practitioners 
 reported using METHODS 
 new practitioners 
 should know how to use Participant Agile Strategic+design Feedback Collaboration Company+wiki/blog Business+terms Persuasion Brainstorming Contextual+inquiry Mental+models Affinity+diagramming Problem+framing User+journey/experience+map Heuristic+evaluation Usability+testing Persona/scenario Interview/focus+group Storyboard Sketching Whiteboarding Avery ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Terence ! ! ! Marla ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Hugh ! ! Bruno ! ! ! ! ! ! Jean ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Diane ! ! ! ! ! ! Philip ! ! ! ! ! Ganesh ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Prakash ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Scott ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Eric ! ! ! ! ! Dhaval ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! RepresentationAnalysis LARGE3 COMPANY SMALL3COMPANY Approach Communication User3 Research CONSULTANCY AGENCY Participant Confidence Mindset/judgment Empathy/listening Strategic9thinking Feedback Collaboration Business9terms Articulate Broad9knowledge Contextual9inquiry Card9sorting Competitive9analysis Problem9framing Usability9testing Persona/scenario Interview/focus9group Prototyping Sketching Wireframing Creative9Tools Avery ! ! Terence ! Marla ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Hugh ! ! ! Bruno ! ! ! ! Jean ! ! ! ! ! ! Diane ! ! ! Philip ! ! ! ! Ganesh ! ! ! ! ! ! Prakash ! ! ! Scott ! ! ! ! Eric ! ! ! Dhaval ! ! ! ! Approach Communication AGENCY Analysis User8 Research SMALL8COMPANY CONSULTANCY LARGE8 COMPANY Representation
  17. 17. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED APPROACH COMMUNICATION ANALYSIS USER RESEARCH REPRESENTATION
  18. 18. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Agile Strategic design Confidence Mindset/judgment Empathy/listening Strategic thinking APPROACH
  19. 19. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Agile Strategic design Confidence Mindset/judgment Empathy/listening Strategic thinking APPROACH Methods you are forced to do because of management or agile that aren’t design-positive happen, and are not necessarily a good thing—you should push back 
 against them. —Scott
  20. 20. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Agile Strategic design Confidence Mindset/judgment Empathy/listening Strategic thinking APPROACH The other set of skills is—that I really look for lately […] is the ability to empathize with your coworkers, with your users, with clients, with stakeholders. The ability to get people to talk and really listen to what people have to say. And that is I feel is one of the most important skills. —Bruno
  21. 21. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Company wiki/blog Persuasion Feedback Collaboration Business terms COMMUNICATION Articulate
  22. 22. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Company wiki/blog Persuasion Feedback Collaboration Business terms COMMUNICATION ArticulateThe business owner or business unit comes to us and asks for advice, from a very high position. Sometimes they cannot even clearly define exactly what their visions are. […] So when that is the case, the method will be very different. There will be a lot of whiteboarding, will be a lot of brainstorming, conversation—mostly trying to translate their vague unsolidified vision into something more concrete. —Diane
  23. 23. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Brainstorming Mental models Affinity diagramming User journey/
 experience map Heuristic evaluation Broad knowledge Card sorting Competitive analysis ANALYSIS Contextual inquiry Problem framing Usability testing
  24. 24. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Broad knowledge Card sorting Competitive analysis ANALYSIS Contextual inquiry Problem framing Usability testing I’m a big fan of being a generalist, especially when considering how much experience this is. I think a general understanding of all of those areas [development, prototyping, and testing] is tremendously important. […] I’m trying to become even more of a generalist as the years go by. —Hugh
  25. 25. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED USER RESEARCH Persona/scenario Interview/focus group
  26. 26. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED USER RESEARCH Persona/scenario Interview/focus group You gotta know how to interview people; you gotta know how to make sense of the data you are collecting from people and seeing the common themes and differences across the people you are interviewing, whether they be users or stakeholders. That’s just core. That’s just basic. […] When you move on from research, what do you do? Tell me about how you come up with your personas. So not only the end result of the personas […] but tell me about the process of how you got there? —Bruno
  27. 27. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Storyboard Whiteboarding Prototyping Wireframing Creative tools REPRESENTATION Sketching
  28. 28. METHODS USED METHODS DESIRED Storyboard Whiteboarding Prototyping Wireframing Creative tools REPRESENTATION SketchingTreat everything as a prototype—even a sketch is a low-fidelity prototype. And I think that shifts your way of thinking. […] the more we take focus away from those deliverables as the end all, be all, and more as a progression to that final project, it will help us frame our work in a more constructive manner. —Hugh
  29. 29. DISCUSSION
  30. 30. “It’s more of a mindset than a method. I think the core thing is empathy and listening to people and trying to take into consideration all of the different inputs. So, I think a lot of it is that mindset of trying to do the right thing for the user and the business. So you adapt your method based on that. So a usability test might not be necessary all the time—just because you have it in your toolkit doesn’t mean you need to use it. It’s just knowing when to use what method. And I think the methods themselves are quite rudimentary; like usability testing, you have a few tasks, you walk them through. The methods themselves, you probably can describe in a page. But when it comes to actually getting the right value out of them, it’s having that right mindset—what are the right questions we need to ask? How can we answer them? And then using that as the basis for what methods you need.” —Prakash
  31. 31. This mindset of use—and accompanying set of instrumental knowledge—indicates a heightened role of adaptation and appropriation of methods, moving beyond holistic use of “off-the-shelf” methods, and treating the use of methods as an ad hoc bricolage rather than performance of a codified set of steps.
  32. 32. PRAGMATIC APPROACH TO ADAPTATION AND USE Design Activity “more skill than method” 
 —Ganesh methods as “cores”
  33. 33. FUTURE WORK Praxis in HCI Education of HCI Practitioners - scaffolding instrumental judgment - enabling role of “softer” competencies - in situ documentation of method use - additional theory of design practice
  34. 34. THANK YOU colingray.me Portions of this work are supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant Award No. #1115532. Many thanks to members of the research team, including: Erik Stolterman, Marty Siegel, Dave Roedl, Nathan Bilancio, and Jeff Wain

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