User Experience is a delicate thing in a project life cycle. Though the end result is (ideally) beautiful and good, the process of getting there can be a bit tumultuous… and though there is a lovely complexity to the discipline (and final product), I have noticed a few key distinctions that seem to make all the difference in how effective the process seems to be, for me and the teams with whom I have worked…
First, the negative end of the spectrum – how it looks when things don’t go so well:
i.e., “The Default;” “The Expectation.” As a product owner or other major stakeholder, I explain WHAT and WHY. I articulate the things that we are thinking of and the reason that we are thinking we (or our users) might like them. Iterations and dialogue ensues.
As product owner, I not only explain WHAT and WHY, but also weigh in with the HOW. In addition to asking for certain things and explaining the reason behind them, I suggest or push for specific design solutions, techniques, and ideas. The fallout here – and how “bad” it actually is – varies, and the reason may be anything from a distrustful client to a UX team member who is new to either UX or the client product. And the end result – and how “bad” that is – may range from strained communication and weakened working relationship to a poorly-executed, misguided solution that took longer than necessary to reach.
Explanations just don’t get us there. As a product owner or stakeholder, I may offer a WHAT, a WHY, and a HOW, but things just aren’t working. Maybe I don’t know what I want, or my communication is poor; designs come back too late or with too little product-relevant tie-in; there’s no natural rapport between us and one or both of us is lacking enough expertise and energy to get the other person there.
But how about the other end of the spectrum? Here’s what it looks like when things are working well:
(see above) I still explain WHAT and WHY. It’s fine. It’s expected. It’ll get the job done.
As a product owner or stakeholder, I just articulate the WHAT. I explain the things that I am looking for – what I think we would like to see – and the UXer inherently understands the WHY and definitely has a few ideas on HOW we are going to get there. This is an evolution, attained once the UXer is more familiar with the product and inherently gets what’s going on. The client is good at being a client, inherently trusts the UXer, and lets them do their job. There’s some good rapport happening here. It’s a beautiful place to be.
If you thought “better” was beautiful, just wait til the real magic happens… when things are running as a well-oiled machine and, as a product owner or stakeholder, I “explain” very little. I don’t have to, because the UXer and I have formed a partnership. We get where the other one is coming from; we know what each person is bringing to the table, and we both understand what’s going on with the product overall. Perhaps the most magical thing here is that the UXer ultimately brings suggestions – the WHAT – to the client team, too. And, by god, they’re good.