UXD720 Week 1: Orientation

Image credit: Robert Wiedemann


After hibernating for the last few weeks, It’s now time to get back into academia. Let’s crack on.

The module opened by asking us to discuss what UX means to us. I presented UX in two, juxtaposing lights. In one breath, UX practitioners create stellar, revolutionary user journeys, pioneering and architecting the digital world. In the next, They are the most inconspicuous member of a product team; good design, after all, is invisible (Don Norman, 2013, pp. XI-XVIII).

 “Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself.
– Don Norman.

From the other side of the week’s content and a bit of extra reading, I have a few addenda to that statement. The first comes with my discovery of how UX work might be broken down into competencies.

The ‘exciting’ half of my statement leans into the more inventive facets of UX: Architecture, interaction and visual design. Morten T. Hansen, 2010, recounts Tim Brown’s T-shaped person metaphor. I’d like my depth of knowledge to be in one of these inventive competencies, but my breadth of knowledge should cover research, usability and UX writing. If someone were to ask me what UX meant to me now, I’d give due consideration to focused investigation and measured changes as well as flashy creation.

Ward Andrews, 2018, Divides UX further, into twelve competencies that allow for more attention on the creative practitioner’s mindset, as well as the application of skills. One point that resonates with me is “understanding your audience through empathy and research“.

My personal brand has evolved to focus on interpersonal skills and empathy. In the coming months, I’d like to explore how I could harness perhaps less structured research methods to make human connections with my participants – and gain rich insight along the way.

The final Addendum comes from Don’t Make Me Think. I’m familiar with the concept of ‘not reinventing the wheel’— but it is undeniably clichéd. Steve Krug, 2014, p.29, Highlighted to me the value of using conventions in web design to make navigation effortless. My romanticisation of “architecting the digital world” didn’t acknowledge that convention and innovation are contiguous in a designer’s toolbelt. In practice, conventions have come as a staple in many of my designs, but now I can use them with a little more appreciation.


As well as my reflective journal, this module’s assignment is to produce a high-fidelity prototype, validated in usability research. I can see an opportunity here. In the second rapid ideation challenge of the last module, a coursemate, Astrid, and I came up with an idea that we felt had the potential for success. So, in the next twelve week’s I will be revisiting the concept; a fitness tracker app that rewards regular exercise with points that can be exchanged for discount train tickets.

Our idea aimed to help users in three ways: by encouraging them to be more healthy, save money, and opt for a more environmentally friendly commute. For the idea to be possible at all, we would need to partner with a train service provider. They’d see the benefit of increased sales through a new platform, potentially to a new audience.

Or at least, that was the scope at the point of ideation. I’m open to comprehensive reframing, if my user research calls for it. If the idea doesn’t seem viable in a week’s time, I’ll go back to the drawing board. To paraphrase Sunnie Giles, 2018, I am prepared to embrace failure as a necessary input to radical innovation. We’ll see where next week’s content takes me.


References

ANDREWS, W. 2018. ‘The 12 Competencies of UX Design’. Draw Backwards [online]. Available at: https://drawbackwards.com/blog/the-12-competencies-of-ux-design [accessed 16/05/2021].

GILES, S. 2018. ‘How to fail faster— and why you should’. Forbes [online]. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sunniegiles/2018/04/30/how-to-fail-faster-and-why-you-should/ [ accessed 16/05/2021].

HANSEN, M. T. 2010. ‘IDEO CEO Tim Brown: T-Shaped Stars: The Backbone of IDEO’s Collaborative Culture’. Chief Executive [online]. Available at: https://chiefexecutive.net/ideo-ceo-tim-brown-t-shaped-stars-the-backbone-of-ideoaes-collaborative-culture__trashed/ [accessed 16/05/2021].

KRUG, S. 2014. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Voices That Matter). 3rd edn. San Fransisco: New Riders, 29.

NORMAN, D. A. 2013. ‘Preface to the revised edition’. The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and expanded edition. 2nd edn. New York: Basic Books, XI-XVIII.

Published by Josh 'Skoob' Brough

Experience enthusiast. UX/UI designer. Father to (little) one. Currently studying MA User Experience Design at Falmouth University. Here’s the chronicle.

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