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UX Conversations with Jeff Gothelf

24 Nov

– In many companies UX designers are seen as ‘the people who make the wireframes’, says UX designer extraordinaire and bestselling author Jeff Gothelf. This is the eleventh in a series of interviews with UX experts, practitioners and leaders.

You claim that UX designers often are measured by the depth and breadth of their deliverables, instead of the quality and success of the experiences they design. Why is that do you think? 

– Although this is definitely starting to change towards a more positive view of UX design, in many companies still, UX designers are seen as “the people who make the wireframes.” Their contribution and therefore their value is reduced to the delivery of the artifact as opposed to the actual success of the product experience. This is often due to deep organizational silos that don’t collaborate well.

Lean UX is one way of changing this mindset. Could you explain Lean UX briefly for those who have never heard of it? 

– Lean UX is a cross-functional approach to product development that seeks to establish a shared understanding between designers, engineers and product managers about the business problem being solved, the customers targeted and the value of the service being provided. The team works closely together to determine the needs of their audience and discovers which product to build and how best to optimize an design it together. The incentive for the team is to achieve an outcome - a measurable change in customer behavior (e.g., buy more stuff) - as opposed to an output - shipping features.

Some designers may fear that Lean UX will encroach on their creative process, that they will lose control over the design process and become less valuable to the team. How do you sell Lean UX to them? 

– Lean UX enhances the value of design and designers and increases their role in the product discovery process. Designers often act as facilitators for many team meetings and are then tasked with taking the broad set of inputs and distilling them into a usable, delightful product workflow that the team and customers can react to. The design process, by its nature is iterative. In other words, the best solution is rarely the first one. We design, we test and we learn. The Lean UX process mimics this approach but at a team level.

In many companies UX designers are seen as ‘the people who make the wireframes’. - Jeff Gothelf 

When it comes to executives, UX methods have higher status in boardrooms today than just a few years ago. But at the same time, studies show that the decision-makers still tend to hold back investments when it comes to UX. What’s missing here, and can Lean UX do something to change it? 

– What’s missing here is strong use of business language to quantify the benefits of great design. All too often designers who are lucky enough to find themselves in the boardroom resort to “design-y” language to get their point across. UX 101 teaches us to “know your audience”. The same holds true when presenting our work. If we’re presenting to the CFO, what’s most important to her? How do we use language and terminology that resonates with that audience? The same holds true for CEO’s, COO’s and all other executives. By engaging in a business conversation - especially one based on market data and insights as provided by Lean UX - we can make a much more effective case for investment in design.

By Christian Dahlström