After a grueling Alpha release that left everyone a little battle scarred from shipping on time, I started to reflect on my past experience in technology and recalling why I'm a Designer. This led me to give a quick virtual pep talk to the team to show appreciation for all the hardwork and remind everyone who we do this for. The following is an edited transcript (to protect the innocent)...
Ten years ago I was in so much pain from developing "dotcom" products that I clearly knew were awesome ideas delivered in a horrible fashion that I decided to make a change in my career (I was a UI Engineer at the time). My education in art helped me have deep empathy for the importance of aesthetics but even more important, for the power of the "message" conveyed to the observer. I read this book called "The Elements of User Experience" written by Jesse James Garrett (dude that coined the term "Ajax"). After reading a million books and articles on this "design movement" I decided to clarify something that kept bugging me, so I emailed the author never expecting a response (see screenshots). He was nice enough to respond with a short reply, but it was his short concise response that made it "click".
I realized that the structural areas of the experience (how to build it) doesn't resolve the process of answering what to build and even more important why to build it or who to build it for! Elements where simply how to stack the cake (ingredients, etc). It's not responsible for defining who or what the cake was for. I spent tons of time with startups making chocolate cake for customers that hated chocolate and at best where 'meh' about it. The irony was that I wanted to switch careers but I was still stuck in a "bakers" mode. Since then, I have spent a career delivering products that I am proud of simply because I realized that I need to spend less time designing and more time asking questions.
Take the time to focus on answering who, why and what kind of cake your customers want (need). Quite honestly designing the cake is the easier part, but having the patience, trust, and support from everyone to answer the million questions we need to ask before we put 'batter to bowl' (or mouse to screen), is critical to the result.
Pat Yourself on The Back
I'm extremely impressed by this UX team from leadership to designers! The balance the designers need to "sprint" from customer needs to engineers waiting for something to bake can be maddening! I've been in many design teams, and we have something special here. This is a very long way of thanking the Designers and UI Devs in the thick of helping us take the "Experience" to the next level. Internally, we most definitely need to eat our own dogfood, but our customers should only eat delicious cake :).