Yesterday, Skuid's director of experience design group, Jeff Cole, participated in a Reddit Expert AMA (Ask Me Anything). For those who aren't familiar with the channel, the AMA is one of Reddit’s mainstream features where experts put themselves on the line to be questioned in their area of expertise by Reddit users everywhere.
The focus of this hour-long session is Jeff’s form of art, enterprise user experience (UX) design. Jeff is an enterprise UX designer with over 30 years of experience helping national brands design compelling products.
He’s worked in marketing, brand development, and strategic business-to-business and business-to-consumer consulting for some of the world's greatest brands, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Home Depot, HCA, Columbia Healthcare, Tarkett, as well as regional and national bank and lending institutions. Here’s a glimpse into the conversation, as seen on Reddit.
Define UX design.
Q: Hello, Jeff! "User experience design" tends to be defined differently depending on who you're speaking with. As an experienced UX professional, how do you personally define UX design, and how does your definition influence your approach to the work you do?
A: Great question! User experience encompasses all aspects of the user’s end interaction. UX isn't limited to a visual interface. It's a concept that has many dimensions and encompasses the entire journey a person takes.
The journey they go through to discover or sell a company's product, the actions and the sequence they take as they interact with the user interface (UI), thoughts and feelings that arise as they try to accomplish their daily tasks and the impressions that they take away from the interaction as a whole.
Q: What is your definition of a UX designer?
A: My definition of user experience design is the discipline of empathy, understanding, design, and development to improve interactions between a user and the products and systems they interact with. It is a non-digital empathy and cognitive practice used often to understand and humanize the impact of successful digital solutions.
Does UX apply to non-designers?
Q: Do you find UX principles important for non-designers? Would engineers (software, solutions, etc.) benefit from brushing up on at least the basic considerations for user experience, or should we leave this to the designers?
A: ABSOLUTELY! Anybody dealing with the customer experience that has input in product design or product marketing can benefit from an understanding of its principles and how they can apply that to design thinking. It is not an exclusive club of understanding for only designers.
Q: As UX design has taken up a more prominent role in the overall systems development life cycle (SDLC), what is your take on the role of the product organization with relation to an engineering organization? Do you find that a bias toward expediency at the cost of UX design time has advantages or disadvantages?
A: That's tricky. I don't think you have to sacrifice speed for good UX. They should constantly be working in tandem with each other. Product definition doesn't have to mean a 12-month cycle.
There are best practices that can be applied quickly that can contribute significant results, such as stakeholder and user interviews, wireframing, and feedback loops. UX + engineering = product team.
Identify best practices for UX across industries.
Q: UX is such a broad field and can be applied to many disciplines. What are common UX best practices you have found in working with clients that transcend industries, products, etc.?
A: Don't build or design ANYTHING without talking to your users. Start with the human need. Try to understand the challenges or problems they want to solve and then take the time to distill insights from your conversations/observations with users long before you decide what features and functionality needs to be included in the product.
Q: In your opinion, which brand is the most successful with the worst UX in their products and which brand is the least successful with the best UX?
A: Interestingly, I think of Reddit as a brand that may not employ all the sexiness of high-end, consumer-brand UX, but I think they're very smart in keeping a very traditional forum-based conversational design.
It means they likely understand and have listened to their users. Could you design a more "Airbnb" or "Apple" visual experience for Reddit? Sure. However, they obviously understand how their users prefer to use the site, and leave well-enough alone, and in the end, deliver in line with their users’ expectations.
As for the latter part of the question, I would suggest any company that may have come to mind as least successful with great UX is likely out of business. I believe UX is the new branding.
Customers and employees interact with products and businesses through the UX of e-commerce and business applications far more frequently than they do with traditional forms of marketing and advertising.
Brand marketing and media investments should consider a customer or employee's digital experience as a leading part of their brand strategy.
What’s the future of UX?
Q: What do you think the future of UX will look like, particularly with so many industries being automated? Do you think any aspects of UX and/or visual design are immune to automation?
A: They're only immune to automation if there are no longer any human elements involved. If there are humans participating in the technology, there will always be a need for good UX/UI.
If computers get so good they can predict a user’s next move, they still won't tap into emotional motivations and reactions. Interested in learning more about Jeff’s philosophy on great UX? Check out his recent article, “How to Avoid SaaS Abandonment and Make your Enterprise Software Work for You,” here.
My definition of user experience design is the discipline of empathy, understanding, design, and development to improve interactions between a user and the products and systems they interact with. It is a non-digital empathy and cognitive practice used often to understand and humanize the impact of successful digital solutions.