The Art Of Avoiding Dodgy Design Jobs


I get to chat with quite a few designers and UX pros in my digital and real life wanderings. One thing I find fascinating, is that job titles across teams are so bizarrely fluid.

Every once in a while I stumble across teams with matching titles, but upon further digging I discover that the titles mean completely different things in the 2 organizations.

So lets take a look at this.

Part 1: Why aren’t there set standards for job titles in the design & UX industries?

This is one of the most bizarre aspects of working as a UX pro or a designer. Pull up a job board, and search designer. You’ll get hundreds of hits. As a designer, this will fill you with glee… until you start reading the job descriptions and you realize that only about a quarter of them align with your skill set.

Some common descriptions?

  • Designer = Strictly A Graphic Designer.
  • Designer = Strictly An Interaction Designer.
  • Designer = Strictly A Front End Developer.
  • Designer = UX Pro with research, content strategy, IA or a variety of other specialty backgrounds
  • Designer = Generalist who can handle 3 or 4 of the above skills in various combinations

What the what is up with this giant rift of job title understanding? It’s a mess. Even designers argue about what the job titles “really mean.” And the worst part is that companies without previous design experience (Believe it or not, those companies still exist. Seriously) don’t even know how to explain what they want, even during interviews.

This moves me along to part 2.

Part 2: Why do design jobs sometimes turn into black hole, toxic, soul sucking work environments?

So lets say you go in to an interview, and the company rep tells you that they’re looking for a graphic designer. You’re pumped and you dive in.

After about 3 months you want to dive out… a 5 story window. Why? Because what the company described as graphic design is actually light graphic design mixed with tons of interaction design and front end development. And when you try to explain that you don’t have experience with front end dev or interaction design, they get frustrated and claim that you misrepresented yourself during the interview. They say you’re a designer, so you should be able to do all of the things. So you find yourself scrambling around nights and weekends trying to cram 10 years of front end dev & interaction design knowledge into 2 weeks so you can keep your job. (Feel free to apply for other jobs at this point if you discover that you aren’t at all passionate about the other surprise job expectations. As designers, passion drives us to creating extraordinary things. Being forced to do things you aren’t even remotely passionate about can be soul crushing.)

Part 3: How do you avoid landing in a situation like the one described above?

Knowing how to ask the right questions during your interview can help. When a company says they are looking for a designer, ask clarifying questions to make 100% sure that they know what they’re actually looking for.

1. Will this job require me to make graphics in a program like Photoshop or Sketch?
2. Will I need to create wireframes or workflow diagrams in a program like Azure?
3. Will I need to know how to develop front end code?
4. Will I be conducting any research with your clients?
5. Will I be in charge of creating product prototypes?
6. Will I be expected to build (develop) the products I design? (Seriously, this happens.)

You can ask about a million additional clarifying questions, but those are just a few to get you started.

I know this may sound obvious for some people, but folks who are just entering the design field sometimes assume that companies know what they are looking for when they interview for design positions, and unfortunately that isn’t always the case. If the person who is interviewing you says they aren’t 100% sure what the job will entail, you may want to dodge the bullet.

If you  have run in to this situation in the past, don’t feel like it’s your fault. Between the confusion around titles and companies not always having a firm grasp of what they’re looking for, even the most seasoned designers can end up in an interview/job that doesn’t apply to their skill set.

To sum things up, don’t be a afraid to ask in depth questions during your interview. It can save you AND the company months of frustration. And, if you ask all the right questions and still end up in a position where the company is flinging bizarre requests at you that are out of your range of skills (and you aren’t being given time to master them and/or you have exactly zero interest in adding the random skills to your professional skill set), don’t be afraid to exit stage left and apply for other jobs.

Designing with Analytics Insights: Because People Lie

Users Lie

Why integrate analytics in your software designs? Because sometimes, users lie.

It’s not always on purpose, in fact, most of the time it’s not on purpose.

For a majority of people on earth, our memory recall is just straight up flawed.

We have conducted studies in the past in which folks would tell us they use a feature on a daily basis, only to find when we pull analytics that they are using the feature MAYBE every 3-6 months.

Could it be a misunderstanding on the part of the participants around which feature we’re asking about? Yep. Could it be that they just feel like they use the feature way more than they actually do? Yep again.

Analytics It Up

Integrate analytics tracking everywhere you can. Google Analytics makes it extremely easy to record custom click events. Toss some of those click events on tasks you want more information about, and you’ll have a goldmine of data to draw from.

Don’t Limit Your Research Methods

Should analytics tracking be the only form of user research that your company relies on? Absolutely not. Analytics data can answer very specific questions and help you track trends.

It cannot tell you WHY the data is coming in the way it is. You need to perform user research with real, live people as well. Mixing and matching your methods will help develop a more complete picture of what your clients are doing and the problems you need to help them solve.

Tagged , , , ,

What’s the difference between UX and UI? (Wearable Edition)

A little over a year ago, my daughter snuck up on me while I was working and asked me what the difference was between UX and UI. I wound up doodling a little cartoon of a little guy, and a bike, and the little guy having the best experience of his life riding the bike.

Lately there has been a large amount of discussion around wearables in our industry. Pebble, Android wear, and Apple Watch discussions are popping up all over the place.

I was chatting with a family member recently about how wearables  are a huge innovation destination opportunity for our industry.

I was showing some different types of wearables, and he turned around and said, “Well… the prices are pretty different. What’s the difference between them? They all seem to do similar things.”

Brand fan loyalty plays a part, but when there are 6 different Android watches with similar functionality, UX is the key differentiator. People are now willing to fork over extra cash for a positive user experience.

UX has become the core foundation of the design industry. Desktop products, e-commerce, websites, mobile apps, tablet apps: The deciding factor for purchase has begun to revolve around UX. Most of the products do the same things. How do folks decide which way to go? They look at peer reviews, and the peer reviews are completely experience based. If peers are having positive or negative experiences with a product, their public feedback greatly impacts the purchasing decisions of future buyers.

We have entered a time when having so-so UX is a product killer. Focus on the little big details. Test your products during design, development and a final sweep prior to release. Usability testing throughout the process has become key to product success.

Companies are becoming so agile that you can’t afford to kick out clunky functionality. Consumers are refusing to put up with it, and your competitors will zip past you and steal your business. Either fix your product UX, or get out of the way. (Actually, don’t bother trying to get out of the way, you’re going to get mowed down regardless.)

The Rush On Slack Domains

Back in the 90s when I built my first website, (HTML 1 with an incredibly shameful ticker and a sparkling gif backdrop… I cringe every time I think about it) there was a rush on .net domain names. 

Then came the rush on .coms. All of a sudden if you had a .net instead of a .com, your business looked old school. 

Then came the rush on social media handles and vanity URLs. Consistent branding across Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, etc became very important. If your branding was inconsistent, no one could find you and you were losing sales across various channels. 

Now there’s a new player in town: Slack. The only people on earth who aren’t head over heels in love with Slack, are the ones who have never used it. 

When you set up your Slack account you have to assign it a unique domain name. 

If your business, isn’t using Slack yet, trust me when I say you need to head over to Slack.com to reserve your business domain before someone else snaps it up. 

Slack is redefining internal communication and collaboration in companies all over the world right now, it’s only a matter of time until your company makes the switch from your antiquated communication tool to Slack. 

Feel free to send me gifts when you switch to Slack in a few months and already have your branded domain reserved. You’re welcome in advance. 

Chromecast: Awesome For Homework Help… Who Knew?!

 

So I finally bought a Chromecast.

I know, I’m about YEARS behind the times on this. I’d been planning to get one for ages, and then tonight I was meandering around BestBuy and decided to take the plunge.

It was the best 35 bucks I have ever spent. As soon as I got home, my kiddo hooked it up to her laptop. She asked me to proofread her art essay. Instead of me cowering over her shoulder, stressing her out, she cast it up on our TV. I proofread and she made changes as I went! No stress, no hovering, no elbow banging discomfort, just parental homework assistance without encroaching on personal space. Frustration levels went from a typical 90 to about a 10 on her part.

Next up was Spanish homework. She has to listen to these insanely fast dialogs and translate them. On the laptop they’re fuzzy and weird and garbled sounding, but in our living room surround sound through the Chromecast HDMI connection, you can hear EVERY syllable.

Next came Math. She had a question about an equation. Instead of me having to yank the laptop out of her hand to review the question and then scribble down an answer to get my thoughts together before handing the laptop back to her (which takes forever, and takes time away from her being able to continue trying to solve the question herself) she just cast it up on the TV. While she kept working, I jotted down the solution. By the time I was done, she had already figured out the answer, and we were able to compare notes. She totally nailed it.

From a parent usage perspective Chromecast is pretty sweet too. I’m currently rocking out to Spotify through my surround sound! (Yes, the bass is shaking my entire living room.) I had been dreaming of the day that my Blu-Ray player would integrate a Spotify app, but no dice. (Aside: Is it just me or is the SmartTV/Blu-Ray Player app market moving along at a slower than snail pace? They’re KILLING me right now. And the SmartTV apps that DO exist? The UI typically makes me want to stab out my eyes with hot pokers. Let’s not even go near talking about the UX, AKA Nightmare material.)

Now I don’t have to rely on brand dinosaurs to catch up with tech… I can just cast whatever I want through my home theater. SmartTV apps are officially dead to me. :P

As an added bonus, Chromecast UX is fab. You click the little icon to shoot things from your device to your TV, then control them with your phone/laptop/tablet. No more hunting around for the “right remote.” Also, you can plug it in to your HDMI Port, and then plug the charging cord into the Chromecast and the other end into a USB port on your TV! So no annoying cords/scrambling around to find another wall outlet to charge it! So easy!

To sum things up: Chromecast is freaking amazing and if you don’t own one, you should def run out and buy one right now. Unless you’re on the east coast… It’s 10pm here, so you may have to wait till tomorrow. But my west coasters? Gotta get on this, especially if you have kids. It’s definitely well worth the tiny investment!

Then: I don’t care how it looks, just ship it! Now: Ship quality, or your product is dead in the water.

CBHZ2-XU0AADRtO

“I don’t care that it looks like trash, just ship it!”

Ok… let’s chat about this, like rational adults.

Back in days of old, when no one cared about UX at all, users just wanted a product that worked most of the time. This was the case because typically there was only one product on the market that did what they needed it to do, so this attitude was fine. Folks continued to buy relatively lame products, because they didn’t have a choice. In fact, it was an industry standard to just shove things out the door regardless of quality. It didn’t have to look good, it didn’t have to be very usable, it just had to kind of work.

Fast forward to the present. UX is the foundation of product design, and the industry is moving at break neck speed. You can no longer afford to ship a garbage release, because it gets easier every day for users to migrate to a new, better executed product.

Innovation doesn’t just mean creating something brand new, it can mean making something that already exists more extraordinary. Why did I mention this mid article? If your product releases are shipping half baked, a company that is more agile than you are is going to sweep in and clean out your customer base. By the time you catch up and fix your mistakes it will be too late. The other company will have moved on to adding even newer, more fabulous features, and you’ll be eating their dust. (If you can even afford their dust at that point.)

It’s 2015. You can no longer ship trash. If features in your upcoming release are a hot mess, YANK THEM FROM THE RELEASE. Give yourself time to clean them up, and pull them into the next release.

The general public is not going to put up with ancient product release attitudes anymore. If you want to stay in business, get on board with the quality comes first mentality.

Tagged , , , , ,

Wait… Which Bathroom?!

  We def should have taken a tally of how many people nearly walked in to the wrong bathroom! 

I covered the hotel name to protect the (not so) innocent, but yeah. UX Fail! 

(Good eye Kelly!) :)

UX Win: Amazon Fire HD Packaging

So my kiddo entered this international festival singing contest (record a song, send it to the festival selection committee, 16 finalists are picked, then they narrow it down to 3).

She won 3rd place! I was mega pumped for her. What exactly does this have to do with UX?

Today, an Amazon Fire HD magically showed up at our doorstep. We had no idea that 3rd place came with fun tech perks!

So the Fire arrived, she freaked and started opening it. Then something MAGICAL happened.

A ray of light shone down from heaven on the box. Amazon has PERFECTED the art of keeping parents and kids from accidentally amputating fingers while trying to get their packages open! The UX was so epic, in fact, that I made her stop mid tear to take this pic!

Her response? “Only you would stop to take a picture of this, mom… but it is great UX.”

Ah the joys of raising a tech loving kid who gets me. I will cherish this exchange and recall it 2 years from now when she hits her teens and is embarrassed to be seen with me. ;)

Thank you Amazon for rocking my UX world with your killer packaging (and de-packaging) setup. It caused unexpected delight all over the place here tonight.

It was also a fab reminder to always pay attention to the little big details. Positive experiences with your brand can start way before a user even touches or downloads your product. Take advantage of every single touch point, no matter how small, to make your brand shine. Paying attention to little tiny details can make a great big impact.

Tagged , , , , ,

MVPs: Minimum Viable Product Mutants

Over the course of the past few years, MVPs have begun to mutate. I’m not talking fun, turtle power mutations, I’m talking product stomping, Godzilla style mutations.  People are managing to completely skip over the “V” in MVP.  Why is this occurring?

True MVPs

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. The concept seems to have really taken off in the tech industry when Steve Blank and Eric Reis started talking it up.

The basis is that an MVP is a way to get the most bang for your buck when you’re marketing a new product concept. The idea is that you invest the least amount of money and effort possible to give your product idea a market test run, to see if your target audience is even remotely interested. If they aren’t interested, no harm no foul, because you made a very small investment. If they are interested, it gives you a green light to invest more time and cash to build out a more substantial version of the product.

Thankfully MVPs are not required to be partially developed versions of a product, because quite a few companies can’t afford that kind of investment.

There are tons of MVP options out there, I’m going to talk about 4 of my favorites in this article.

Types of MVPs 

The type of MVP your company should select depends on resources (staffing, time and finances), your audience, and the scope of the project.

The most common types of MPVs are:

1. Wireframes

Wireframes are a great MVP choice if you’re short on time and cash, and you’re presenting your MVP to a tech savvy, creative audience. If you’re targeting people who can really visualize the awesomeness that will come to be, wireframes are a safe bet. If you’re presenting to a group of clients who don’t fall into that category, you may want to invest in a more graphically enhanced MVP type.

2. Mockups

Mockups are a little safer if you’re working with an audience that doesn’t have much practice mentally visualizing abstract concepts. Kick out some beautifully executed mockups in a program like Sketch to get your point across. Think of them as a guide that gives a tour of what’s to come. For some stakeholders a picture is worth a thousand wireframes.

3. Rapid prototypes

There are some fantastic rapid prototyping tools out there right now. My team recently used InVision to create a killer MVP that we presented at a tech conference. The pitch went over great, and the product has moved through our internal approval processes really quickly as a result.

Sometimes people just need to see something that moves, with buttons they can push and eye catching pictures and colors to draw them in. You have to clearly explain to some audiences that they’re not seeing/working with the actual product so they don’t get overly distracted by functionality, but rapid prototypes are great for an audience that needs even more assistance in the area of visualization.

4. “Lite” Product Versions

This MVP type is where the recent mutation issues have really taken root. If you’re solidly funded and staffed, you may get approval to create a small scale, developed MVP. It’s not going to be a fully featured masterpiece, it should be more of a cleanly executed version with only a few key features integrated, that can serve as a foundation if the project gets enough market buy in to proceed. Adding some bonus mockups to tell the rest of the story rounds out this style of MVP.

A few years ago our amazing team banged out a beautifully polished mobile app “lite” MVP in a matter of weeks, and it was a fantastic success.

After we tested the market with it and realized it was going to be huge, we were able to use the “lite” app as a firm foundation and jumping off point for all of our future app enhancements that followed. We were fortunate to have the staffing and the funding available to make this a possibility.

At the end of the day, the point of an MVP is to sell a concept to the market. That being said, lets talk a bit about what an MVP is not.

What MVPs Are Not 

Some folks only focus on the “minimum” in MVP and skip right over the “viable” piece.

Due to this misrepresentation of the concept, for some people MVPs have become synonymous with sloppy, Frankenstein-esque, hideous product representations.

Releasing half baked features smashed in to a poorly constructed version of a product is not an MVP. It’s a train wreck, and it’s counter productive.

Using a poorly executed MVP to test the market will very likely mean that you’ll get negative market feedback, regardless of how awesome your concept really is.

The  whole point of an MVP is to sell the concept to the market, not to scare people away. That’s why selecting the appropriate type of MVP is so important. If you select an MPV that you can execute well, that falls within your budget & hits the sweet spot with your audience, you can get a far more accurate feel for the market landscape.

Don’t get in over your head with your MVP. If you don’t have the time or budget to create a polished, key featured, partially developed version, then kick out a polished mockup or rapid prototype instead.

When it comes to MVPs, appearances aren’t everything, but they’re pretty freaking important.

Why You Should Give MVPs A Shot 

When executed properly, MVPs are incredibly powerful. Rather than spending obscene amounts of money designing and developing a product, only to find out after release that no one wants or needs it, you can create a well executed MVP. If the MVP tanks, you’ve only invested a minimal amount of money and effort. If you get fab feedback, you have the validation you need to throw more time and money at the project.

Basically, well executed MVPs are a win-win opportunity regardless of the market results. They either save you boatloads of what could have been wasted cash, or they give you the market confidence you need to let your product soar into the next phase: full on design & development.

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Design Community Always Has Your Back

Have you ever sat at work, looked around the room and grinned because you love your job so much? If you’re a UX Pro or a designer, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ve done this more than once (a day).

Your People

I was sitting in my office this morning, chatting with another designer about why my favorite Doctor is absolutely David Tennant, when I noticed that a new Slack app update was available. (Yes, I’m that control freak that doesn’t allow automatic app updates.) I clicked on the update details and started cracking up.

“You have got to see these update notes, they’re freaking hilarious!”

My co-worker pulled up the details, and laughed as well.

I looked to my right, and 2 other designers were having a debate about a complex interaction piece in a new product we’re designing. They were both so passionate about their stances that things got a little heated, but once they’d both gotten their ideas out, they smiled at each other and started tweaking the design.

Across from me there were 2 people talking about a new app they had just downloaded, and discussing how they were going to integrate some of the sweet UI elements and gestures into our next mobile design.

To my left another duo of designers were looking over the latest InVision Inside Design blog post, and talking excitedly about how we could apply some of the tips that were highlighted to majorly improve our workflows. (If you haven’t subscribed to receive InVision’s blog updates yet, you should definitely get on it. All of the content is amazing. The Inside Design posts are a direct view into how major design companies around the world make their magic happen.)

In the middle of this bubble of creative madness, one of my coworkers looked up, grinned and said, “Can you imagine what would happen if we tried to have ANY of these conversations with non-designers? My husband totally doesn’t get how exciting this stuff is.”

Another couple of coworkers chimed in with comments and stories about how their friends and family members pick on them constantly about geeking out about things.

Being part of a cohesive, functional design team is a feeling like no other. You’re constantly surrounded by “your people” in a place where rabid excitement about new tech and design trends is not only permitted, but encouraged.

The Design Community Rocks

The design community as a whole is just generally incredible. We’re paving the way to the future. We’re makers and creators and visionaries. We’re new kids and folks who have been rocking the industry for decades. We’re a diverse group, tied together by a common thread: We LOVE all things design.

I recently joined a Slack group made up of thousands of designers. I’d been in the group for about 15 minutes, when someone mentioned that they had run into a wall while searching for a tool to perform a specific task. Within about six seconds there was a crew of 15 people sharing various tool resources and detailed success stories. They were explaining pros and cons, things to look out for, and giving tips. What other industry is made up of a group of people who are that invested in helping their peers succeed?

Two years ago I spoke at my first conference. I was completely terrified when I jumped up on that stage, I’m pretty sure I blacked out for the first 8 minutes of the presentation. I finally got in the zone and realized that people were legitimately interested in the topic I was talking about. After the session, attendees walked up to thank me, and several told me they were excited to take the things I’d discussed back to their teams to apply them immediately. They didn’t HAVE to come up to talk to me afterward, but they did. Why? Because the design community is made up of amazing people. Now I submit proposals all over the place, and speak at design conferences on an annual basis. Peer support can be life changing.

Network It Up

Want to network with like minded people? Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to start. If you’re a UX pro, you’ve got to check out the new User Experience Slack group as well.

The User Experience Community on Slack
This is a fairly new, curated group of UX pros who love to share thoughts and ideas and tools and tricks. The best part is that the group is getting HUGE! They even have killer AMA sessions on a regular basis. Sign up, you’ll meet tons of amazing folks.
http://www.designerhangout.co/

Get A J-O-B

Are you looking to enter the design scene, or maybe just hoping to change up your environment with a new company? There are some fabulous designer job search tools out there.

Smashing Magazine Job Board
A job board chock full of design and UX job opportunities.
http://jobs.smashingmagazine.com

UX Mag Job Board
This is another rocking UX job board.
http://uxmag.com/uxjobs

UXJobs 24/7
This entire site is dedicated to helping you find UX jobs.
http://uxjobs247.com/

To those of you who are just now entering the business, I want to welcome you to the most amazing community on earth. To those of you who have been around the block, I want to thank you for paving the way for the next generation of talent.

Thank you, designers, for making me proud on a daily basis to be a part of this incredible community.


Now get back to designing amazing things!

Tagged , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105 other followers

%d bloggers like this: