21 5 / 2012

Shifting role of independent user experience consultants

Right now, independent user experience expert is usually contracted by a digital agency (or any other supplier, or directly by the client) to perform a single task in a digital product development. It can be a user research, wireframe creation, usability audit or any other UX activity.

In the long term I can see a different role for the best UX experts on the market. They will be contracted directly by clients to lead digital projects and guarantee results.

UX expert will then be responsible not only for preparing some UX deliverables, but for the result of the whole project. He will hire digital agency (or help client pick one) and supervise its work.

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Disclaimer: I work full-time at an digital agency.

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21 4 / 2012

6 essential qualities UX Expert must have

I work in the web industry for over 10 years now and since the time user experience discipline was forged I have met UX experts that have (or lack) different skills and qualities.

Though UX field is a broad one, I have realized that every expert practicing it should have few essential skills. It doesn’t matter whether you call yourself user experience designer, consultant, principal or anything else, here is the basic skill set that you should gain and improve over time.

1. Communication skills and persuasiveness

As the UX expert, I deal with all kinds of project stakeholders - clients, users, production team, partners and other suppliers. Most of the time I’ll listen to them and then try to persuade them that your solution is the way to go. Hone your communication and presentation skills to be able to push through your ideas. Learn how to argue and support your expert opinions with research and best practices.

2. Empathy

By now you have probably realized, that in UX profession you’ll deal with a lot of people. To further improve your communication skills you need to be able to understand how the other stakeholders feel and think. Empathy is a critical first step to persuasiveness. 

3. Modesty

How many times have I heard or read: “I’m the EXPERT, so why the client doesn’t listen to me?” It’s all true, you should be the one who knows the best solution. Yet, we are only people, our knowledge is limited and we make mistakes. From time to time, it is good to tame your ego and question your proposals. Have someone else a better solution? Shouldn’t we ask users or do a research? Modesty will allow you to hold back and accept the fact, that your own ideas are not always the best ones.

4. Analytical thinking

You can’t make it without this one. User experience requires input data (research) and analysis. I like to call myself analyst rather than UX consultant, because that’s what I do ALL the time. Without the ability to analyze the data, emphasize important information, sort them and find hidden relations you will never be able to design working solutions.

5. Creativity

This one is my favorite and it’s not only because of me lacking it. I consider myself as a strictly analytical person that likes to work in stable boundaries using proven patterns and tools. I find this extremely limiting. Creativity is essential for innovation and innovation is what helps you to be ahead of your competition. I always try to develop my creativity and encourage it. You can watch my favorite Cameron Moll’s speech at LessConf3010 to find out how to support your creativity.

6. Hunger to learn new things

Finally, this one is the key. You don’t like learning new stuff? Then go and find another job. Tech industry is evolving at tremendous pace these days and anyone who doesn’t adore this will soon be run over by a competition. So go ahead and learn something new today.

So this is it. There is plenty other skills and qualities UX designers should have, but I value these above others. I would love to hear your opinion on this.

According to you, what are the other skills that user experience expert can’t live without?

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12 4 / 2012

Magazine so full of inspiration it could actually change your life

I have never seen so much inspiration in one place and have not been this excited for quite a long time!

Our agency recently purchased the first volume of Offscreen magazine focusing on life (personal and work) of people crafting websites and applications. It’s like a lifestyle magazine for people around the web.

Reading the magazine was just an overwhelming experience to me. It showed me a whole new universe hiding behind the pixel-perfect world. The universe of people who value their lifestyle more than those pixels.

Here is the summary of super-inspiring thoughts throughout the first volume of Offscreen magazine:

1. Jack Cheng ensured me that doing new, unknown stuff (like going to vacation to unknown places) is a good thing. Your brain produces much more activity when learning new things and exploring new areas than when sitting at your office desk.

2. Ashley Metz get me thinking about how your startup can be much more powerful and cause much greater things than was it’s original purpose. Like Twitter resulting in Arab spring. 

3. Dan Cederholm of Simplebits and Dribbble inspired me to learn and do something completely new in 2012. So I have started blogging, something I always wanted to do, but never had started before.

Finally, the single most important idea of the magazine was, no matter what your job is, you have to find other stuff that keeps you busy and happy.

So go ahead and grab your own copy at offscreenmag.com, it will literaly change your life.

Do you read any web related print magazines? Any tips for such inspiring reading?

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08 4 / 2012

Be a better user experience expert

UX covers a lot of areas and to succeed, one must learn and adopt a wide variety of skills. I always strive to enlarge my skill set and you should too.

Understanding disparate discplines, it’s procesess, best practicess and constraints will help you be more empathetic and build a better product.

My current effort is to start blogging and learn more about content creation, publishing and delivery. The other thing I have started is practicing graphic and user interface design (hopefully I will have my custom tumblr template soon).

What do you think? Should user experience experts broaden their skills beyond the basic UX areas? Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on twitter.

The Spectrum of User Experience

The Spectrum of User Experience by iA

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19 11 / 2010

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery