UX IRL - 8 Lessons Learned

Our senior UX strategist Lucy Valentinova presented at a UX Crunch event covering the fundamentals of UX. Here we get the lowdown of her 8 lessons learnt from working in the world of UX designers.
I joined Tangent back in 2016 when I moved from a Project Manager role into UX. In this time, I’ve experienced the roller coaster that UX can be and so, I put together 8 lessons for UX IRL (in real life). I presented these a couple of months back at a UX Crunch event and felt I needed to finally release these into the wild, to give UX newbies a taste of what it’s like to be an integral part of a UX environment and understand the commercial reality of it too!
In this first (of two) posts, I give you lesson 1 to 4…
Lesson 1- The brief is never good enough
We’ve all seen that brief where the primary objective is ‘make the UX better’, which usually isn’t enough to go with…. So, what to do? Ask questions, lots of them.
Here are my 5 go-to to get to the bottom of what the client is trying to say.
• Ask: why? You need to understand what the underlying problem is so you can help find a solution. Keep asking ‘why’ until you’ve got a clear understanding of the objective.
• Ask: who is it for? Find out who is affected by the problem you’ve identified. High level personas will be heavily informing the solution you’ll be developing.
• Ask: What are the business & customer needs? If you want to improve the experience, be sure you know what needs your new product is trying to fulfil.
• Ask: How will you measure success? It’s important to understand how the business is currently measuring success and if they have any existing KPIs in place.
• Ask: What are the risks & threats? Jump into your project with your eyes wide open (rather than wishful thinking), so identify early on if there are any potential risks, like strict limitations of CMS systems or what may seem like impossible deadlines.
Lesson 2 – Be friends with stakeholders
Stakeholders can be your best allies. If they’ve been in the business long enough, they’ll provide you with insight they didn’t even know they had!
Here’s how I go about getting stakeholders on board:
• Complete individual interviews with key project stakeholders. This gives them the opportunity to voice their concerns, challenges and what they expect as a project outcome.
• When it comes to understanding the customers and the challenges they face, it’s key to speak to customer service and sales team members. You can document findings in customer journey maps and play them back to the business.
• Using problem & business goals framing workshops with all your stakeholders will help you get a better understanding of who you’re designing for, agree on goals and ensure your project team is aligned.
Lesson 3 – Distinguish valid feedback from personal opinions
Getting negative feedback or ‘constructive criticism’ is never easy. Although stakeholders can be your biggest allies, they can also be your biggest judges and sometimes they can throw the most surprising and frustrating curveballs.
Rather than panicking, always be ready to take criticism and really listen to understand the comments. Accept the fact that you could have missed something crucial that, in fact has an impact on the goals you’ve outlined in the beginning of the project. In some instances, you will receive criticism that is purely based on your stakeholders’ preferences and personal opinion. If you’re confronted with a situation like this and disagree strongly, go back to some of the research findings to rationalise your approach. See more below…
Lesson 4 - Data
By using data, you can get supporting evidence to help you push back on some of those assumptions, as well as likes & dislikes.
I’ve recently be working on an app and desktop site for an organisation that offers co-working spaces. At the first wireframe presentation, the client dismissed my solution and requested for it to be changed as they were convinced that users were only going to the app to check transactions and pay invoices. I took notes and went back to Google Analytics. What the data told me was that more than 70% of the app visitors were using the app to make bookings, whereas less than 10% were using it to see their statement. On desktop, however, more than half of the users were going straight to the billing section and less than 20% were making bookings. So yes, in a way my client was right, but my reliable data source highlighted the need to put more emphasis on the booking journey in the app and give more prominence to billing on desktop.
So, there you have it, my first 4 lessons in a nutshell. Look out for my next post and in the meanwhile, reach out to let me know what other tips or advice you’d like to see added to the list.