Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Influence of User Experience

Having six years of experience in the designing of User Experience is actually not saying too much. Is it really six years, or is it one year, six times over? Many professionals view themselves as having so many years of experience in their occupation, they forget to look at the true value they have put out into the corporation or community they are trying to influence.

So in fact, there are probably a lot of "fakers" out there, not knowing really why they're doing what they're doing because their vision has been lost. Then there are others who actually achieve, who really set realistic, attainable goals - goals that make them stretch to the next level. When this happens, there really is a greater level of expectation and the person truly attains a "year of experience". Of course, this goes without saying, there needs to be consistent action.

So when I look at myself in terms of what I have achieved in Usability or User Experience Design, I have a long way to go. The foundation is indeed set. I have enough talent and know-how to take myself to the next level. What I need to do is to keep in the learning mode in everything I do. This kind of approach is much overlooked.

I can tell you that in terms of designing for the best User Experience, the principles have never changed. The practices have gotten better with each year a new application tool is revamped, redeveloped or newly developed. Methods such as Task Analysis, Card Sorting etc. have all been "tried, tested and true" methods into developing a better understanding of the user and what they experience.

I think the best way a usability professional can do to serve their users, aside from all these fancy techniques, is to Listen to their users. We have two ears and one mouth. Let's use them in proportion! Taking some of the principles of Dale Carnegie's book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and applying them to everyday activities can give you great returns. For instance, Carnegie says that people love talking about themselves. That's great! And it's all in-line with the usability profession. We listen to user's gripes and concerns, we jot them down, take as many qualitative notes as possible. We listen, listen, listen to no end. It's when there are no issues that really, we should question the quality of the feedback. It's not like we look for problems - we just want to serve those users and help solve user issues.

I think to that end, our influence as usability professionals, and the discipline within User Experience Design can affect more than what we deal with daily. Implementation is improved, support calls are reduced, and all the other basic ROI factors are amended. It's just business sense to empower as many people with this type of basic knowledge, as it takes any corporation farther with a greater competitive advantage.

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