A practitioner's journey
Are you someone who helps deliver value through products or services in an organization? Perhaps you have a title like Product Manager, UX Designer, growth marketer, or “that weirdo who asks all the hard questions”. You don’t have to have one of those titles. Maybe you’ve come to realize that there’s something not right about having to choose a title or job description in the first place.
Perhaps the more time you spend doing and learning, the more you realize how limiting titles and job descriptions can be. A made up construct for a command and control hierarchy – as if we’re all doing routine work on a Ford factory assembly line.
But that’s not you – you’ve focused your time and energy to become a creative problem solver.
Maybe it’s better to have a team of problem solvers. Every problem solver has a few things they’re currently focusing on, for example: Learning more about your customer’s unmet needs, getting customer feedback from usability testing, teaching others how to use web analytics, etc.
Next month you add a whole other set of things to focus on – perhaps even an activity related to an emerging skill. Whatever the organization needs to maximize value.
Or maybe you’re starting to learn about delivering value through products and/or services. People will use what you create and you want the experience to meaningfully kick ass.
The experience and the value it creates is the important part. Don’t worry about the confusion in organizations with sorting out job titles and job descriptions.
Here’s a secret:
Most organizations are guessing right now – just trying to figure out how to adapt to the complexities of the modern world. It’s been happening for decades.
I value continuous learning – always looking to improve my skills and using those skills to create meaningful experiences backed by a sustainable business model. I will share what I’m learning in the hope of increasing the pace of my own understanding and ideally yours as well. Through sharing with a community of practice, I want to understand where I’m wrong or what I’m missing, and continue to move forward.
Still here? Cool.
What currently has my attention?
I’m one person trying to learn about a crap-ton of very deep topics. Topics that cover a breadth of skills – each of which you can spend years trying to master. I’ll do you a solid. Here are the topics I’ve learned about or are currently learning about – along with some excellent resources for expanding your own knowledge and upping your game.
UX Research and Design
The majority of UX design has nothing to do with visual design. Many organizations get this wrong. I see way too many job descriptions focused on visual design. Look to gain insight for design from what the user is trying to accomplish and why they’re trying to accomplish it.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Intro to UX: New to the concept of UX? I’d recommend taking a look at the Interaction Design Foundation blog and consider joining. It’s a reasonable annual fee that gives you access to online courses you can take on usability, how to conduct usability testing,
Flying Solo: While I was a UX mentor at Bloc.io I had a couple students that were trying to figure this stuff out on their own (lone wolf in an organization). I recommended they check out the Lean UX book. It’s a great resource for someone trying to create a better experience on their own.
Task Management: Our digital products exist to help people accomplish tasks. What are those tasks? How does this tie in to UX? Identification of your customer’s top tasks should be at the top of your discovery list. Do this when you want to know what tasks should we simply kick as for our customers. Gerry McGovern has an excellent book on the subject.
Experience Design: With initial data gathered, you want to have a solid understanding of what that experience is like. Map out the journey and pair it with some doing, thinking, feeling data.
My take: Dig in deep and hit hard. Conversion optimization isn’t some sort of tactical crap where you’re shooting from the hip and praying that you hit something. Nope. This a lot of work. It requires research. You need to continuously learn and gain insight. You need to follow a repeatable process.
My take: Take everything I said for my take on conversion optimization and just replace the words “conversion optimization” with “growth hacking”. What is the between growth hacking and conversion optimization? I think this comment sums it up the best: “Conversion optimization is growth hacking minus the focus on acquisition”. That’s a good enough added description.
Here’s to creating better experiences.
Always be curious -- always ask why. That question starts the journey towards insight. Gaining insight will help you craft a more meaningful experience -- without guesswork.
How do you get rid of guesswork? How do you know what people want? What is the process for finding that signal in the noise? Why is it important? User experience is one of those large concept terms that people throw around in a familiar way. Being familiar with something doesn’t make you knowledgeable… so tread lightly – it’s a slippery slope.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in a variety of different industries and in an interesting mix of technical environments. During my career – much of my UX work involved the design of complex web applications – internal to an organization. The primary goal for these apps being user adoption.
I’ve followed a very simple model for many years but as of late I’ve come to see a greater need for understanding complexity in order to continue learning.
Am I a visual designer? Nope.
I know how to use the tools of the trade & I’ll perform heuristic analysis on a website – but I’m not a visual designer. I’m a guy who understands that the bulk of UX is not visual design. The bulk of UX is rooted in the work you put into those initial steps – to better understand the user, her goals, & her experience. I think it’s extremely important to understand this.
Improving the experience – for an organization’s customers or for working in the organization itself – is a fact finding mission. It involves being humble and curious, solving for the problem and not for organizational politics. It’s guided by data and research. It’s not about guessing and it’s most definitely not about opinions.
Understanding this perspective from the beginning will help shape your journey. It will help root your design into a more well rounded, meaningful experience.
I truly love helping people who want to do better – upgrading their skills and creating opportunities for themselves and for others.