UX Designers, we need to talk the talk before we walk the walk.
“Are you responsible for the failure of removing the Edit button from this interface?!”.
That’s how a conversation (if I can call it that) with a colleague started a little while ago.
Normally, or a few years back, I would find myself twisting uncomfortably in my seat, looking at the other people hearing this accusation, feeling very embarrassed, and searching for a way to defend myself.
“Well, yea, but… It wasn’t just my call, it was made with other people”, or even “why are you accusing me…?”
But not this time.
This time, I asked my co-worker to sit down with me and talk about this decision.
I explained to him what was the reasoning that guided me in making this call, including some data we found that supported our assumption and asked him to follow up on feedback from our users, so he can update me if he hears any questions regarding this “missing” functionality.
I asked him if that sounds good to him and after a few short sentences, my “accuser” became my “partner” and we agreed on a course of action. He left my desk smiling and content, while my team members stared at the event.
Constantly in defensive position
There are tons of articles describing the UX Designer’s responsibilities, the process we need to perform (and many times lead) and the value this field contains for a business.
It’s seems so obvious, why wouldn’t everybody get it? But to tell you the truth, no matter how professional I am, or how empathic I am to users’ needs — as a UX designer I get questioned a lot.
Since I’m the first UX designer at the start-up I work at, a large portion of my job is to teach people what it means to create products which are “User/People-centric”.
One of the obstacles I face is that colleagues don’t understand the innate difference between UX and UI.
I’m not sure even the industry of UX/UI designers can quite articulate the differences, but what I do find, is that some people tend to think my job is to “make things pretty” :)
That requires me to constantly justify my decisions, explain how I got to make them and clarify the logic behind them through users’ perspectives and actual data. Phew…Exhausting!
Don’t bring a brush to a gunfight
Something that I find very helpful, is adapting the way I deliver my message to the person standing in front of me.
There’s a huge difference between talking to a fellow designer, and talking to a PM (product manager) or a developer. As so beautifully put in this article by Kurt Varner, when you shift your perspective to that of who’s standing in front of you, it helps you be more empathic to their line of thinking, and help the conversation flow, since you speak their “language”.
Keep calm and get things done
During the last few years, I’ve learned something from my 3.5 year old daughter that helps me on a daily basis. When I’m calm, she’s calm. My ability to remain calm and practical, affects others (especially in tantrum-like situations).
In order for me to be calm, I have to know that my decisions are solid.
A hunch just doesn’t cut it. Using data, from Google Analytics for example, helps me make educated decisions.
Reading constantly (or better yet — using pocket’s amazing feature to listen to articles) and staying updated with professional related subjects, is crucial at my position in creating industry leading product and making the right choices.
That doesn’t mean I have all the answers, but if I’m not sure, I can honestly say that I don’t know. I often find that telling someone, “That’s a good question, let’s find out” is way better than giving a confident, yet possibly wrong, answer.
To sum it up, to be a good UX designer, you need to be empathic.
Both to the user’s needs, and also to understand where your colleagues’ concern are coming from. To be a great UX designer, you need to convince and drive user centered approach across your organisation.
Without being able to communicate with others well, you’ll find that task very hard to achieve.
Make solid and concrete decisions based on knowledge and data, and don’t be afraid to share knowledge you own with others.
Speak the same “Language” (terms colleagues are familiar with) as the person you’re talking to.
Don’t get intimidated by the situation. (Sit down with them and listen).
By following these guidelines, I increase the chances of creating a dialogue with co-workers, instead of an argument, and being able to better explain my point of view as a professional.
Originally published on Medium