Friday, May 4, 2012

Remove Yourself from the Equation.

It's happening again.  The conversations sometimes feel like background noise, but each and every sentence said is very important to deciding which way we go in terms of design direction.  Or is it?  Drawing is great.  Discussing is as good.  Making the discussions meaningful is best.  So how do you do that?

I'm going to let you in on a little secret on my unique ability.

We do this many times.  Whether it's discussing the results of a usability testing session, or trying to determine what style or pattern to use in our user interface, I find that there is something missing.  I sit there and stay quiet.  I let others talk and concentrate on the problem and get to the root.  I reflect back in what seems like a lifetime, but in fact is milliseconds, to all the years of knowledge of past usability testing sessions, the type of feedback we received and the design decisions that were made as a result.  This is what I do during heated discussions - when my colleagues try to figure out the ins and outs of the results, what was said or even how the user behaved, etc., etc., etc...

This is when I remove myself from the equation.

Why do I do this?  Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.  I get too attached to the outcome so I feel the need to argue or justify or persuade.  What most people don't get is that great analysis comes from looking at all perspectives and not being attached to anything.  Only then, after the work in your mind has been done, should you come out with something that changes other people's minds.

What happens is that most people look at the surface - what color to use on the user interface.  Others look just under the surface - how does the user interface behave, or what is its immediate impact.  What I do is look at all those layers, including the Why's, and beyond - through my own collected experience of UX itself.  Those experiences are a part of me but they're also external to me.  What I learn from it is the treasure, not the outcome itself.

I think many of us as UX practitioners is forgetting the full breadth of knowledge and perspective we've accumulated over the years.  And I think we've forgotten it because we're just too busy defending our design decisions or discussing something we think is profound but turns out to be something superficial.  And many times, we take it too personally.

Some people think monkeys can do this.  "Just train him and all things will go well."


While indeed, having a starting a point is good, having someone with experience is even better.  And the objective is to gain that experience from the time you're committing yourself to the practice.  And it requires a lifetime to do so.  It requires design knowledge, not just the practicalities of usability testing.  That of course, is another topic.

Analyze well!