Each time I’ve started a new project with a new client, or started at a new company, it’s been under the impression that the company was hiring me to create a better experience for a website, software, or something related. Typically, that’s also been coupled with a different opinion of how that will be achieved. What defines a user experience varies from organization to organization. There’s even a difference of opinion in how to refer to it… UX, design, CD, CXD… the list goes on. And honestly, I think that makes sense.
If a group has a pre-defined opinion of it, at all, everyone is going to have a different impression of what UX means. I don’t feel justified walking around, correcting people or telling them that they’re wrong. Mainly because they might not be. For an effective UX strategy to work, it has to work within the context of a given company. A lot of work will be diplomatic consensus generation. All of the different aspects of a company are going to need to get behind the same processes, definitions and ideas. That includes me. I need to be willing to change some of my preconceived notions about UX. I have my understanding of user experience, with certain ideas at the crux of my philosophy, but I’ve never been closed-minded to expanding that philosophy.
Every piece of qualitative data is going to require proof in any organization. Even those who believe in talking to users and responding to users will want to understand the data collected, particularly in an organization that hasn’t previously done it. There’s nothing to be gained by hiding methodologies or not having the process on hand to be explained, while there is great merit in being able to provide the sound justification behind decisions. There’s a science and a reason behind user-centered design. The ability to have a conversation with users and keep digging deeper into the motivations behind interactions is invaluable. And then when we build, I’ll know exactly what to quantify to show how the feedback we got from real people helped change the outcome for the business.
Any time I start something new, I try to start by learning the core product of the business. I’ve done retail across different verticals and multiple categories, but there’s a different science and approach to every vertical. Embrace that. Learning the core business is critical. A user’s interaction and overall experience with software is 100% influenced by the industry they’re engaged with. The process for buying a car is a lot different than the process for buying a hammer. That being so, when I design a solution, I want it to be appropriate for the problem. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand it.
Stepping into a new project is always a lot of work. But it’s exciting work. Taking for granted that your definition, your process, or a cursory understanding of the business will allow you to come up with great solutions is a first step in the wrong direction. I encourage you at every opportunity to re-frame your understanding of UX, relative to the organization you’re working with, with a mind willing to compromise. A ready mind. An open mind ready to be flooded.