As part of an early career rotational program, I rotate to a different technology team every 8 months at my company over the course of 2 years. For my first rotation, I worked with my company’s Experience Design team. As this unique experience comes to a close, it has become apparent that the lessons beyond technology have been invaluable.
User First or Customer First Approach
Or as I like to call it people first. Those that work in UX or marketing are familiar with designing products with the user in mind. Who is the user and what are their habits? These are determined through the creation of personas or jobs to be done. However, it can go even deeper than that.
By keeping the idea of designing for your user in mind, you are learning to keep your audience in mind. Thus, a reminder to craft your words carefully while speaking, be aware of the emotions of the people around you, and to treat others the way THEY want to be treated. UX teams recognize the needs, behaviors, and personality of their users, as we should for the people in our lives if we wish to truly understand others.
Design Thinking is Everywhere
Empathize. Define. Ideate. Prototype. Test. Repeat.
Design thinking methodology is not limited to the confines of product design. Design thinking can be applied to a multitude of problems. This is a process to use when in doubt of the next steps to take. You can apply design thinking to reorganize your bedroom or when making important financial decisions.
This is an article with examples of how to use design thinking on a day to day basis.
Visual Appearance Matters
People are inherently wired to trust screens that are visually appealing. Associates will trust you if you present a PowerPoint with coordinating colors and appealing images. When something is pleasing to the eye AND comprehensible, you have a winner. The same rule applies to individuals. Psychology has proven you gain a little bit of trust when someone likes your outfit. Presentation matters and it ties to not only how well a product sells, but consequently to the amount of trust people put in you.
Affinity Mapping can be a Self-Help Exercise
Affinity mapping is an exercise of grouping alike ideas into clusters. An article explaining the process can be found here.
However, I use affinity mapping now in making decisions, understanding complex ideas, or finding the best way to solve a problem. This exercise can be performed to dissect and comprehend books or to more deeply understand the results of a personality test. In order to create actionable steps following my StrengthsQuest assessment I, once again, turned to affinity mapping. Through this exercise, I was able to create a plan to capitalize on my own strengths.
One of the projects I was assigned to involved the redesign of a company application. I downloaded the application, thinking the necessary changes would be obvious and plentiful. To my surprise, it was not. I actually thought it looked just fine as it was. However, the product designer next to me picked up my phone, took one look at it, and said “Wow! We’ve got a lot of work to do.” He quickly pointed out the placements of the buttons were not intuitive, the home page is loaded with too much information, and the color choice was flawed. After he explained it to me, I agreed and wondered “Why didn’t I question this at all?”
The only way we can have better products, better experiences, and new solutions is if we question what already exists. If we don’t walk around wondering why things are the way they are, we can never make improvements.
The Devil is in the Detail
Visual Designers are tasked with making decisions like where to place a button on a home page and what color the page border should be. In order to construct the most visually appealing product, one must dive into the details of every design decision. This may involve debating between “Banana Yellow” and “Banana Peel Yellow”. It may sound ridiculous, it sure did to me at first. It is, nevertheless, an incredibly important decision that requires a bit of examination. The difference between a banana color and it’s peel color, may be the difference between a user trusting your site and choosing to click the subscribe button or make a purchase.
Imagine everyone approached problems with this much of a critical eye. It is one way to ensure that less problems come back to bite us in the butt. It is also a way of training ourselves to think analytically and make intentional decisions.
It taught me to care about every little detail when you are creating something. It doesn’t matter what you are making, but every detail should be decided upon with purpose. Overlooking the smallest detail can drastically alter your results.
Start Everything with “Why?”
This one is made famous by Simon Sinek, but I watched real people live and breathe this everyday.
“Why are we building this?”
“Why does this matter?”
The list goes on.
When you start everything with why, your end goal becomes clear and it is very difficult to deviate from the path. Starting with why not only provides purpose and meaning to product design, but to our own personal goals as well. When I’m feeling unmotivated I remind myself,
“Why do I go to the gym?”
“Why do I want to write an article?”
And I suddenly find myself not only with more motivation, but also heading in a purposeful direction.
Your Team Matters
Ok, this one does not just apply to UX.
Over these past 8 months, I’ve worked with a team of people that genuinely care about one another, that set their own standards, and are truly passionate about their work.
Looking at the jobs of other recent graduates, it seems rare to find a team that puts all of themselves into the work they do. In addition, I was lucky to have a manager that supported my learning and development, both personal and professional. I will need a whole other article (or three) to write about the lessons I’ve learned from him.
To reflect back to my first point, people really do come first. The people you surround yourself with everyday affect your overall work satisfaction no matter what the work is. The bar has been set high thanks to my first team and now I can only imagine working somewhere where the team comes first.