A couple of years back I half-yawned my way through a UXWeek breakout session on digital strategy led by Henning Fischer from Adaptive Path. Root cause analysis featured. The group also went through a couple of mock spending exercises. Then I remember a Venn Diagram that had me saying, “I have to remember this,” before I skipped out early for some San Fran Chinese.
The yawns weren’t Fischer’s fault – I was just in a time and place that made it hard for me to take the 30,000-foot view. But the Venn stirred in me a sense of recognition. It showed the overlap of teams involved in designing and making online products. If the groups weren’t labeled as they are above they were pretty close, and the spot in the middle, Fischer stressed, was where the tension of concerns was equal and the product was informed by its user advocates, and business and technical stakeholders.
Part of the reason perspective can be difficult, especially for members of in-house teams, is because we often subscribe to a sort of jingoistic world view that frames the pursuit of user/business/technical interests as a zero-sum competition. In effect, the Venn is subject to expansive, outward pressures as teams pursue their goals over the others.’ And in environments where one group has a disproportionate amount of power or control, this view ensures that that group’s concerns are disproportionately represented in the final product. Google’s products smell of engineering. Most others leave us wondering why registration is required before we’re offered content, or why they simply aren’t better…
If we’re able to do a 180 and turn from nationalists into globalists, the focus for all teams becomes maximization of the Venn overlap. Priorities continue to differ but they’re no longer at odds by definition. Business stakeholders recognize that UX, though notoriously difficult to quantify, is integral to the bottom line and the UX guys in turn seek counsel from their backend counterparts. Each region of the Venn is informed by the other two as UX goals become Business goals become Development goals. “What could be a four-step process has turned in to nine… Are we sure that the business value in users who complete these offsets the implied technical challenges and user inconvenience and fallout?” Constructive debate on that kind of question puts us on our way to the right balance of business and customer needs.
I’ve personally fallen into the trap of thinking I needed to defend UI/UX territory as part of my job. What I’ve later come to recognize-through experience, reading, conferences, and UCD course audits-is that even in environments that don’t invest heavily in user studies or research, that UI/UX region doesn’t belong to us but rather to the user. Acknowledgement of this reality can free today’s UI/UX designer to advocate on behalf of the user, but with unique insight into business and technical concerns-in other words, to take the 30,000-foot view. And in fact, as the designers of today’s digital products, this is our obligation. It’s up to us to be first into the overlap.comments powered by Disqus