Many lessons applicable to our day-to-day lives can be easily carried over to UX and design thinking. Here are three items I think about daily in both life and UX.
CLARITY – Do you know where you are going?
Personally I find this the hardest of the Three C’s. Clarity in our day-to-day requires both dealing with the moment and looking to the future. Not only are our options dizzying, but right now and 5 years from now are difficult vantage points to align. Thankfully prioritization and reduction lay at the heart of clarity. The things we choose not to do provide the space to define and work towards other goals. Another key factor is time – what do we choose to do first, and what do we put on the back burner. Personal clarity is less about communicating with others than communicating with ourselves. It requires us to understand our own motivations and use them reduce friction and increase fluidity. Done well clarity is an investment that unlocks opportunities.
Clarity in UX is paramount, without it we risk losing users. From modules, to user flows, to presentations, UX designers are expected to balance user needs and business goals that are sometimes at odds. In UX there is input clarity: What is the problem? How are we measuring success? What is at stake for the stakeholders? What motivated the change, now? And there is also output clarity: Have we framed the problem correctly? Is our solution easy to digest and defendable? Is our story both aspirational and tactical? Do we have the correct people, process and pricing in place? At the micro-level, clarity as it relates to communications is a silent killer, of presentations, reputations, designs and experiences. It takes considerable practice to communicate a level of detail that is appropriate to the situation and the intended goal.
CONSISTENCY – Are you setting yourself up for happiness and success?
Inconsistency has few, if any advantages. As a father of 4 kids I continue to invest in this theme with my family. Motivational posters aside it’s proven that consistency is much easier when you have tangible goals. When I ran my own agency one of my goals was to increase revenue and profits enough to pay my employees more. Currently, with exercise, my goal is to get a first place in an amateur MMA competition. With bedtime rituals I try to do the same thing, in the same order, to reduce the anxiety of my children. Consistency relies heavily on clarity. Without clarity, consistency is unfocused repetition.
As items like Atomic Design and Material Design become more ubiquitous we are driving towards a user experience consistency that utilizes battle tested elements and module designs, allowing us to focus on more strategic design thinking. More often it’s the business case or technical constraint regarding the placement of the form than the design of the form itself. To succeed in today’s market ongoing testing and perpetual iteration promoted by design thinking stalwarts should become ingrained in your organizational fabric.
In my experience process is another core item that requires consistency. Have we reviewed paid media searches? Are we talking to the right people? Does our prototype include business rationale as well as interaction design niceties? Do we understand the publishing workflow. In short have we asked the right questions at the right time? Too often I see UX designers jump into Sketch without sketching or even having fully understood the problem they are solving. (See Clarity above.)
COMPLETION – It matters more when you cross the finish line.
The things that inspire us release the feel good chemicals – endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine are the experiences imprinted with that tag of completion. But the “what-if’s” that release the dreaded cortisol are stamped with fear are often more prevalent. Completion turns regret into lessons. Lessons inspire practice, practice drives us towards finish lines. When we finish we have data to reference.
Finishing takes a number of forms in UX. A user finishing their task is one form of completion. A project full of curveballs, pivots and strategy shifts that finally launches is another. A third counterintuitive one is the idea that the product or process is never complete. As lean methodologies, design thinking and the power of testing begin to spread throughout organizations “completing” will be redefined. The KPI’s of continual optimization will gain traction and completion will kick off a new cycle.
Life and UX are reconnaissance missions where lessons are everywhere if we are open to listening, open to change and ready for action.