UX Deliverables with Anna Dahlström

A transcript of Episode 67 of UX Podcast. James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom talk to Anna Dahlström about UX deliverables. What should you deliver and why?

Photo by Marc Thiele. Cropped. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Anna was interviewed on UX Podcast in February 2014. Anna is a UX designer and founder at byflock.


Per: Hello.

James: Hello.

Per: You’re listening to UX Podcast.

James: With strange voices.

Per: I’m Per Axbom.

James: And I’m James Royal-Lawson and this is UX Podcast, balancing business, technology and users every other Friday from Stockholm, Sweden. Oh, we did this backwards. This is where we say I’m James Royal-Lawson.

Per: That’s OK. It doesn’t matter.

James: OK. No, it doesn’t.

Per: No.

James: But I think they’ve got the message.

Per: I think so.

James: Yeah.

Per: They know what they’re listening to.

James: Yeah. I will jump straight in to say that today’s episode is sponsored by RevRise. RevRise is Google Analytics but for web forms and tells you where the users are having difficulties or dropouts. I can’t say “difficulties” very well. I know I said last week when I said the sponsors — go to RevRise.com.

Per: I will edit it.

James: Slash UX Podcast to find out more.

Per: You may have to read that again actually.

James: Do you reckon? Do you think they won’t want to sponsor us anymore if we leave this kind of poor level quality? You’re right. Let’s do this again.

Today’s episode is sponsored by RevRise. RevRise is Google Analytics but for web forms and tells you where the users are having difficulties or dropouts. Go to RevRise.com slash — no, I can’t. That’s twice now. Oh, it’s going to be a 10-minute start to this show, sponsored by RevRise. You can find them at RevRise.com/UXPodcast.

Per: OK. We’re about to interview someone.

James: And I hope we compose ourselves before we actually do it.

Per: Yes. We’re going to be calling out Anna Dahlström.

James: Yeah.

Per: Who is Swedish. I think …

James: Well, we think she is. We will check. We will ask her and check but it looks like she is from her LinkedIn profile. We’re going to talk to her about UX deliverables. I stumbled upon her presentation on SlideShare about this topic, UX deliverables, where she busted a few myths about what it is and gives a whole heap load of advice about how you can improve or you work your deliverables to get where you want to go.

Per: And I am always curious as to how I’ve met people on Twitter. So actually, read through my history in Twitter and found my first tweet to her. So I have the story about that.

James: Oh, cool, yeah. I never tweeted to her before. So it was one of those kind of suddenly find something, look at the — who did the presentation and then realized oh, well, there’s people in common here. I probably should have talked to her before but I hadn’t. But this should be fun.

Per: Cool.

James: Should we ring her?

Per: Yes.


Anna: Hello.

Per: Hello Anna.

Anna: Hello.

Per: How are you doing?

Anna: Good, good. How are you?

Per: Oh, we’re fine.

James: Yeah, we’re fine.

Per: We just realized that we’re not going to be arguing a lot with you because we’ve been reading on this stuff that you do and we basically agree with everything you’re saying.

Anna: That’s quite nice to begin it that way at least. But otherwise, I’m ready for a fight.

Per: Excellent. And we were also trying to figure out what nationality are you really. But you see, you are Swedish, aren’t you?

Anna: I am Swedish, yes. I moved to London about eight years ago actually, almost on the day eight years ago. I lived in Denmark for six years before that.

Per: Right.

Anna: Just to confuse things.

Per: Exactly. That’s what confused us at first.

Anna: Yeah.

James: And you come from Southern Sweden.

Anna: Yeah, from Lund.

Per: Yeah. I think James you were the one who found Anna’s presentation about UX deliverables.

James: Yeah.

Per: And then I realized who you were Anna because actually I just searched Twitter to find the first conversation I had with you which I’m betting you won’t remember because it was me commenting in August 28th, 2012, on another conversation you were having with Andrea Resmini.

Anna: Right.

Per: And it was about — you were preparing slides with a grumpy kid and a praying otter.

Anna: Oh, yes. Those slides, yes.

Per: And he suggested a wombat.

Anna: That is true. I haven’t yet found a wombat but I still have the praying otter in sometimes.

Per: OK, excellent.

Anna: It’s working quite well.

James: The praying otter is working quite well. There you go.

Per: That’s fantastic. I do love the slides that you put out. I know you usually make a point of it to — actually in the presentation that initiated this talk is you actually have a slide that looks really, really bad in the beginning.

Anna: Yes.

Per: Then you make an example of why that is bad.

Anna: Yeah, that’s quite a funny actually way of starting it.

James: This is the UX deliverables and presentation.

Anna: Yeah.

James: You’ve been going around giving this talk a little bit now this last half year maybe.

Anna: I was giving that twice now. I’m giving it again in March. It’s for an organization called Event Handler here in London and those go down quite well actually. There’s a lot of scepticism always in the beginning if I’m just going to talk about how to make pretty documents but people leave incredibly happy with what we’re actually covering as well and why the presentation of deliverables actually matter.

Per: Yeah.

James: So what led you to be inspired to do this presentation about UX deliverables?

Anna: It comes from my own experience actually. When I started — when I moved to London, my first job was in a company that was doing tax applications for HMRC. That company had quite a set process and templates in terms of how to do flows and wireframes and everything. So in terms of my creativity, I didn’t develop that much in that company. I was doing lots of very analytical or functional things but in terms of presenting my work, the templates for all those things have kind of been set in stone already.

Then I moved in to work on the agency side and as you know, working at the agency side is incredibly fast-paced and I was working on multiple projects and with multiple clients at any given point in time and all of a sudden, I have to put a lot of work into how I actually presented my work as well. So both on paper but also kind of verbally as well and actually summing in why doing — presenting a piece of work in a certain way actually mattered and made sense. So that’s kind of where it came from and then also from getting feedback from other people before in terms of how I’ve noticed over the years, how clients respond to the way you present your work and how internal people respond to how you present your work as well. So that’s the kind of basis for it really.

James: Yeah. I mean it’s — well, the original job, the work you were doing there is production, in-house production following templates and so on.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Which a lot of people — I mean that’s where a lot of people spend their time doing on the agency side as well.

Anna: Yeah.

James: That’s what they are producing and a lot of people find that a very comfortable role.

Anna: Yes, absolutely.

James: But you obviously didn’t.

Anna: No, not initially. I mean doing — developing my skills in terms of how to do wireframes and working of course different kinds of brands and different types of solutions as well. That came quite easily but it was the more strategic, more experienced planning pieces that were a bit more kind of difficult to do where you need to incorporate a lot of thinking, something visually and something that’s actually going to sell the work into the clients as well. So that’s the part that came a little bit — it took me a little bit longer to find my way and that was mainly because everyone I was working with were so amazing. So I kind of looked at their work and looked at my work and went, “Hmm, I’ve got a bit to improve here.”

Per: You should never compare yourself with others.

Anna: No, I know. But you do.

Per: But then you’ve been in the business quite a while then. When did you actually start calling yourself a UX person?

Anna: Calling myself a UX person I first did when I moved to London. When I was studying in Denmark, so my background is computer science in business administration from Copenhagen Business School. Back then I didn’t know all the terminology, information architect and UX design. I’m not even sure that existed back then.

But it was first when I moved to London that I kind of became familiar with those actual terms. I’ve been doing UX-related works in various forms beforehand but this was really when I started becoming the UX designer or information architect as we initially call ourselves.

Per: Right.

James: It’s actually interesting. We talked about that last week — last two weeks ago in the last episode of UX podcast about UX and IA and we had a discussion based on an article about whether UX had stunted information architecture or it kind of smothered it out. Both mine and Per’s experiences is that information architecture was something that the client bought until around 2005, 2006 time. Then they kind of became more interested in buying UX.

Anna: Yes.

James: It was like a shift there. It was the same stuff, all from the same stuff they were buying, from the same people. Just the sales process changed.

Anna: Yeah, just the different terminology really.

Per: Right.

Anna: And a broader terminology.

Per: So in your presentation, you are talking a lot about — well, that’s the basis of the presentation about UX deliverables and there is — of course there’s always a discussion about what is UX and what does it mean. Can you really have that role? Can you really be a UXer? Are you an information architect interaction designer or researcher or usability engineer? Really, and just calling yourself a UXer. Why do you need that umbrella term really if you have the specialist roles.

Some of us would argue then that UX is not about deliverables. Well, the ultimate delivery is the happy user or the content user or the bottom line that you actually make a profit out of your site. But the way I’m interpreting it is that you’re making a case for not doing it in the same way at all times. But having different deliverables based on what you’re trying to accomplish and based on what stakeholders really need based on what their goals are. But I know a lot of people have — in their toolbox, this is what I do.

Anna: Right I see. so I guess that’s one element of it but the point I’m making more in the presentation is around kind of simple ways and simple course of actually adapting the way that you present your work to the reader. So it’s about both the presentation in terms of how it actually looks on paper and also what you do verbally. What I’ve seen — so in the last three years, I’ve been freelancing at quite a lot of different places and you see different ways of doing things at different places and you come across a lot of different UX teams, approaching things in a different way as well.

Per: Exactly.

Anna: With that, you can often find some things that would just help you speed up the process because I completely agree and that’s part of the point I’m making in the presentation as well that it’s not about producing pretty deliverables. That’s not the end goal and it’s not about spending an enormous amount of time on your deliverables. But the simple things we can do in terms of how we do these deliverables not only make them kind of easy and more pleasing to the eye for the reader, but also makes it easy to selling that kind of work and reuse that work for multiple projects going forward.

So a lot of the time actually I come across agencies and companies where they don’t necessarily have set templates in place and they start from scratch on every single project.

That obviously means that you are spending a lot of time setting up documents that could be set up over a day from the beginning and saving you a bit of time and there’s also about finding your way of doing things and finding your way of communicating your thinking and making sure that clients know to some degree what to expect. But also that you yourself go through a certain kind of process when it comes to doing your work.

Per: Great.

James: Well, what we’ve seen in recent years is of course the move towards the more agile way of working and you working project teams that are cross-functional and cross the boundary between agency and client.

Anna: Yes.

James: For example, both me and Per at the moment, the main projects we sat in are agile-like projects where we spent a lot of time, sat in the room with everyone else in the project and that’s pretty much — you agree with us. That’s the most effective way of working and you sat in a room where you can have a conversation together and iterations or ideas or deliverables are produced and reworked and scrapped and moved forward or parked multiple times maybe in the same little session during the morning as opposed to the — it used to be more when you get a — you have an agreement. You’ve signed off on this is what we’re going to order, the client says, and then you set up other meetings internally in your agency trying to work out what’s going to work best and what they’re expecting and then you package it prettily and send it away.

Per: You almost have these agreements back then and we want three personas and we want seven pages of interaction design and whatever number you can think of something else that you want to deliver. It was very specific whereas now I’m moving into, well, really producing whatever is going to help the developer today to do the best work that he can do.

Anna: Completely.

Per: Yeah.

Anna: Completely and the way that you guys are working now is definitely the way I think we should ideally work but we will know not every single place has the opportunity to work in such an ideal way and sometimes it is the more kind of approach where you for one reason or another need to hand over a set of wireframes to developers who are going to be based in a different country. So it’s about making sure that you are kind of delivering that piece of work done in the way that it’s going to work the best with those developers and that can be anything from sketches that are made into a prototype of sketches going into documents that are annotated, whatever the format is.

There’s always things that we can do to make sure that we do kind of the — not the minimum amount of work but the amount of work to achieve the right outcome for the project and team in question.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

James: Yes, because what you’re providing is always going to be helping someone take the next step.

Anna: Exactly.

James: So if you’re doing a wireframe, then the goal of that is to help whoever you’re handing the wireframe to, whatever that’s at. It’s helping them understand and go forward. So we can then all move forward and …

Anna: Completely.

James: Yeah.

Anna: I mean if we’re handing every document that we present to a client, they then need to kind of review it internally. So it’s making sure that we make the best use of the client’s time and we focus our attention on what’s actually the most important thing. So that’s part of what I cover in this workshop as well, how can we pull out certain things initially by for example using in bold typography in a different colour to draw the attention of the eye of the reader to certain points in a document. So it’s just those tiny, little delight details that can help us kind of produce our work and get it across in the best and most effective ways to people.

James: I mean we — all three of us have an advantage in that we’re freelancers or self-employed. People who are working in there as you say are employed in agencies. You’ve got the thing there where you can’t always choose your clients. You mean we can’t always choose our clients but theoretically yes we can and some clients are a lot more ready and prepared to work a bit more openly and a bit more agile or sprint based or whatever you want to call it; but others who due to their own internal organizations, they just can’t deal with that. They need to have something they can then show off or run onwards.

Per: Sometimes actually even the customer understands the dilemma I’m having. So one of the projects I’m working with right now actually, I had to offer sort of in the way I described earlier. We have two usability tests. We have seven wireframes, these types of pages. But we sort of agreed under the table that yeah, these hours but whatever works best, do it that way. So he just needed that to show to his bosses basically.

James: Yeah.

Anna: Yeah, exactly.

James: I think this is what we — I mentioned to Per in our little feature about maybe we’re talking here more — maybe we’re talking more about UX tactics rather than UX deliverables and I was actually reflecting on the — so the projects I’m working on just now where I’ve made — I’ve allowed the team to work — I encourage the team to work in a certain way in order to get buy-in in the team for my concept because I need our project team to basically be in agreement about the concept and to understand the concept. So they can then go off and sell it to their organization because me as a consultant in this group, I’ve not got the mandate or the ability or the time to go off and get buy-in from everywhere else. So I need them to be part of that.

So I’ve kind of cut some corners on the long journey because tactically, I need them all to really, really like this and really, really think it’s a good idea to go forward. Then I will change track a little bit later to include some other aspects and maybe to kind of challenge them a bit in their thinking once they’ve already bought into my idea.

Per: Exactly.

Anna: Yeah.

James: World domination.

Anna: Absolutely.

James: Reveal too much, no! Well, when we move away from the pure deliverables area, the producing the wireframes or the running a user test or whatever it is, we are UX tacticians. It is what we become.

Anna: Exactly. I think that’s the kind of main message between — or of my workshop as well is that whatever we do in one way or another, we are selling it to whoever is going to pick up the document in whatever format it is and I’ve had a point in time so that we can’t — sometimes we’re kind of working with clients where certain things don’t go in a lot of the way when we have problems with clients. There’s often something we can do to accommodate those, to kind of go past them and I’ve had situations before when I’ve been told that the client is not used to seeing a wireframe.

They don’t really understand them and to that, I always kind of respond whether it depends on how we do it. It’s just about finding the way to make sure that they really understand the work. So in this particular case, we printed everything out and laid it out on the table and on walkthroughs, we could actually be there in person and point to certain places and they absolutely loved it. So everything can be accomplished with the right approach. It’s just about understanding those little things that you can do to make your work better as well.

James: I included a presentation the other week. I actually included photographs of the whiteboard.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Because we agreed that what we’ve scribbled up on the whiteboard communicated what we needed and it actually didn’t need to be more complicated than that or more prettier than that.

Anna: No, exactly.

James: That’s kind of a very free — sense of freedom you get when you come to that conclusion and you do the presentation. You realized, no, that did work. I can talk around that and people have understood.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Instead of getting to the arguments about being the wrong shade of green or you’ve not got enough purple or whatever.

Anna: No, exactly.

Per: Yeah. I love the point you guys are making here which is really it’s not the wireframe. It’s how you communicate the wireframe. It’s how you talk around it and I think that’s a competency that UX people need to have that we don’t always talk about, the ability to be — how do you say it? Pedagogical.

James: Educational.

Per: Educational, being able to actually explain stuff to other people so that they understand it.

Anna: Very much so.

Per: I guess that’s what you’re saying Anna is the way that you actually then make your deliverables so that the other people understand it.

Anna: Yes, completely, and I worked in a lovely agency last year where they do a lot of their work on boards and they present those boards to the client and then when they need to send out the document, you can have a board to review. That goes into a presentation but it’s just free to grasp off those boards, going into presentation with some accompanying notes. So whatever the medium is, it can be completely lightweight in a very lean and agile kind of approach there but there’s always a way that we can make sure that we are just a bit more conscious of who we’re actually presenting our work for and making sure it works for them. So it’s essentially UX of our deliverables.

Per: Exactly. It’s UX on two levels. You’re explaining it to the client and so that you can actually get to the user.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Yeah.

Per: Sometimes it’s even — I mean I’ve been currently doing a persona and usually the way people see personas is that the developers are going to use that or the designers are going to use it to develop something and understand how they’re going to design it. The way I’m using it right now is to make the client feel confident that I’ve understood their target group.

Anna: Yeah.

Per: So maybe the developers won’t even see it, which is a little interesting.

Anna: Yes.

James: I think talking about or reflecting on the whole prototype movement and that we’re — I mean you Per even on the show, we spend a fair bit of time encouraging people to get quickly to prototypes and to not waste too much time doing the other stuff, which is fair enough. But it doesn’t always work. You’re getting back to communication reflecting on what we’re talking about that sometimes the HTML prototype is a step too far because it’s too real for some. They get a bit scared maybe that oh my god, this is the funniest thing.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Whereas a pencil sketch and some paper wouldn’t scare them as much because they understand that we’ve not gone too far yet. We’ve not wasted money. We’re still at a point where you can influence and change direction.

Anna: Yeah, yeah, completely.

James: We are reassuring.

Per: Yeah.

Anna: That’s the whole point of the kind of deliverables talk as well. I’m completely against the deliverables kind of business but there’s ways that we need to communicate our thinking and definition of insights and knowledge and the kind of products and services that we’re defining. Just as we kind of say that we shouldn’t always go straight into design because then we — kind of clients can hook up on kind of the colours and the typography use and the images used and all those kinds of things in the same way.

There can be some benefit in doing some early sketching and mocking those up into something that clients can review and sit down with them in that approach, absolutely.

James: I was wondering now, Anna, you’ve worked on the — you’ve worked with some pretty big projects, the Olympics. It was the BBC Olympics site and you worked with The Guardian and Sony Ericsson and so on. What’s your take on the differences between when you’re working with small clients to when you’re working with big clients and big projects?

Anna: The main difference is probably that a lot of the larger clients, they have sets — they have a UX team and they have set processes in place and everyone internally understands what UX is and what it means and when he needs to do certain things. In the smaller places, you don’t always have that so you might have one UX person or you might have no UX people at all. So it’s a completely different game in terms of coming in and doing the work. It’s as much about you actually explaining and educating people about how to work with UX and less about the actual work that you do.

I’ve worked in agencies before where the designers haven’t really been using wireframes at all. They’ve had people coming in and doing the work but they haven’t actually used them. So in that case, there’s no point in me kind of hammering down and going, well, I’m definitely going to do wireframe and you’re going to work with me on that on a non kind of visual design. So it’s more about looking at how can I then help the designers do their work in a way that supports that process, in the way they’re used to working and slowly then introducing the benefit to kind of wireframes, kind of sell that in for future projects.

James: Yeah, exactly. I think it’s like a sliding scale where when you’re on the bigger companies, then it tends to be a more — a little bit more defined UX role and then as you slide down the size of the company, you move into more of a coaching role. Like you talked about, where sitting down with the programmers that you kind of worked — you pair up and you work together and you coach.

Per: Actually Whitney Hess has a blog post about exactly what you’re saying.

James: Oh, right. I haven’t read that. You have to send me that. When you go into the smallest sized company, you’re basically a business adviser.

Anna: Yeah.

Per: Exactly. So you work with business development. You won’t even use the word “UX”.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Yeah. Well, when you get down to the real small companies, then yeah, you’re a business consultant with a digital mind.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Yeah.

Anna: It quite a nice labority. In your toolkit.

Per: So in my head, I’m hearing all these people getting into the UX field and they haven’t worked a lot of years and they learn a lot of stuff in school and they know how to use Balsamiq and they know how to conduct an interview and they hear us talking about now being flexible and doing hand done sketches on paper and showing that to the client. What are they thinking? Are they thinking that what I learned in school is wrong or how do you actually approach a project if you’re not — you’re pretty unsure on what tool set is actually going to work. How do you actually choose the right tool to communicate with the client? Is that something that you learn as you go with the job or is there like a quick way to ascertain what the client is going to like? I’m thinking aloud here so there’s basically probably not a straight answer there.

Anna: I think most of it probably comes with actually doing the job and learning from others and see how they’ve approached things before. So one of the things that helped me the most when I moved to the agency side was actually my weekly one-on-ones when I sat down with my manager and my kind of mentor and we were talking through work. So I would talk through the project I was working on and kind of go, “This is what we’re doing. This is where we’re kind of up to. These are some of the challenges I have. This is the kind of next steps and this is what I’ve done so far and this is what I’ve been thinking of doing.”

Then we get that kind of — have feedback on those kinds of things and similarly too will talk me through her work and kind of relate that. So we would discuss the various situations we were in and discuss the appropriate tool, deliverable, methodology, whatever it might be for the project in question. So I think this definitely if you look at kind of basic UX process, stuff and things, you can kind of go and say these are what would form at different kind of stages. But then it’s looking at what’s actually the value of doing that and what’s actually the best use of time, budget and everyone’s resources to get to where you need to go.

Per: Right. The more I work in this field, the more I realize how — if you really want to call yourself a UXer, you need to understand business and business value and I’m not sure that’s what people think about when they actually think about wanting to do UX. A lot of people think about yeah, it’s interaction design and you deliver it to someone else who could probably be the UXer. But I find it difficult. We come back to this a lot that what the hell is UX.

James: UX researchers or UX designers.

Per: Yeah.

James: One is doing wireframes. One is doing user testing or …

Per: And how will clients be able to know what they’re ordering if they just want UX?

Anna: Yeah.

James: So you just say yes and then you tactically guide them to actually what they need.

Per: That of course is always the answer. Just say yes to whatever they want and then you — yeah. Then you do it your way anyway.

Anna: Guide them down. Yeah.

James: So given the importance of these mentor sessions for you Anna when you were working for agencies, do you do any mentoring now as a freelancer or do you kind of like help maintain that — give someone else that chance now that you’re a freelancer or what do you do?

Anna: I do, yes. When I left my permanent job about three years ago, I was line managing part of a UX team and I absolutely loved it. So I continue doing mentoring both kind of regularly and occasionally. just kind of one-off things for people that need some help.

But it’s something that I think has given me a lot. I’m really enjoying being able to give back and actually guide a lot of other people into ways that they can progress accurately and look after both their own interests but also understanding the kind of broader picture of what doing UX actually means and what doing good UX actually means.

James: Sounds great. Do you do that kind of formally through another organization or do you just basically pick people off as you go? That sounds awful.

Anna: I think the first person I actually mentored was someone who found me on my blog and wrote me an email and we met up for coffee and I really liked her. We continued to meet and now we kind of formalized, but it happens radically sometimes. I have people coming up to me after I’ve done one of my workshops and saying they want some input or some help on some things. It’s very much — my best advice when it comes to a mentor is finding someone that you have a good chemistry with because it’s all about the kind of personal relationship that you have with that person as well. So it’s not just about giving you insights into the area that you’re working in. It’s also about actually connecting with that person and then really understanding you and you understanding them, so having that kind of fit.

James: That’s a good tip although I can instantly kind of think, “Oh, but how do you go about interviewing people that you’re possibly going to mentor?” It feels like an awkward task.

Anna: Being Swedish, a lot of my little fika meeting up for coffee or something.

Per: Oh yeah, tell us about that, UX fika.

Anna: Yeah. Yes.

James: I didn’t actually — when I saw that, I didn’t react.

Per: Yeah.

James: But I’m broken. Like we’re all broken because I speak Swedish and English. So it’s like — I was watching the Olympics yesterday — this morning I think it was and there was a Swedish skier — a female skier was going to do a downhill event and there was a pause because someone had been injured and the Swedish skier, she was babbling away in Swedish to her coach. It was her way of relaxing, kind of coming down from the mental preparation of what she needed to do the risk and then backing down a level to be more laidback. She started kind of doing this babbling, funny kind of commentary almost about doing the ski run.

The BBC commentators, they couldn’t speak Swedish. So they were just kind of making up what she was saying. It was only then I realized that somebody was speaking Swedish and someone else was trying to understand it and didn’t understand it. You have that kind of moment of oh yeah, not everyone can understand all these things being said. So that’s it with the UX fika. I didn’t respond at first. I thought oh, that’s a good idea.

Per: But not all listeners will understand what fika is.

James: No. So what Anna is fika?

Anna: Fika for me is taking a break from the kind of everyday aspect of things. It can be just meeting up in the cafeteria at work or meeting up away from your desk at work and chatting about something; but having something to drink, maybe something nice to eat to go along with it. But very much kind of meeting up socially and chatting.

So normally when I come to kind of go back to the point of so to speak interviewing people for mentorship, I always suggest that we meet for coffee or for a formal kind of fika and actually have a chat before to see if we’re right for each other because this is much about I need to make sure that I’m able to give the right support and the right level of time and dedication that’s needed as well. It can actually help that particular person. So it’s very much about making sure I understand where they want to go and the challenges, what kind of situation they’re in at the moment.

James: Yeah. That’s a good idea.

Per: And for those who aren’t in the know, the word “fika” is actually a Swedish word that I know that a lot of people come from abroad love because everybody says we’re going to have a fika which basically means let’s go have a coffee.

James: Have a tea break, have a coffee break.

Anna: Yeah.

Per: So it’s a great word and I love that you snatched it for UX, UX fika.

Anna: Yes.

James: How fika enough …

Anna: More fika to the people.

James: Yeah, especially this time of year when it’s semla season.

Anna: Yes.

James: To throwing more Swedish things into the show.

Per: We will put up a link to your semla page on Facebook.

James: Yay! Yeah, do that.

Per: So people see that as …

James: I thought — what I could ask you maybe as a summing up question was — in the presentation, one of the slide says that people can take away three things from an hour long presentation. OK. We’ve been talking half an hour, so 1.5, but maybe that’s a bit unfair to say 1.5. So if we say that three things you can take away from the presentation or the podcast, what three things should we take away from today’s chat?

Anna: That UX deliverables is not about doing deliverables for deliverables’ sake but it’s about doing the right kind of work and present it in a way both on paper and verbally. That makes sense for the audience and also with the project in question. The point of the UX of UX deliverables is — that’s the second one by the way is very much about finding a way that works both for you and for the reader of your documents or the viewer, however you do it, to communicate your thinking in a way that kind of is appropriate for that kind of person as well.

It’s about finding those easy ways that you can reuse and communicate your thinking without spending a lot of time for the kind of sake of it to make something pretty because that should never, ever be a kind of end goal at some point where we need to be doing a bit more to make sure it looks pretty. But generally it’s about making sure that we’re communicating things in an appropriate way. That was a very long number two. Number three, my mind is going blank.

James: It was always going to be a little unfair throwing that question at you. The end there is like three things to take on. I did joke we have one and a half. So we can leave it on two.

Per: What did we think? What did we learn today James?

James: Oh, you see, you’re getting quicker than me. I was thinking I was going to ask you that so you would have to answer. I think, well, one of my take-homes is my own little comment there about well, UX deliverables are often UX tacticals and that we’re — yeah, it’s — they’re a vehicle that we use to get somewhere else. It’s kind of the same as well, one of the ones that Anna says there. But I think we spent too much time thinking about specifics that we need to do as opposed to where we’re going to go. It’s kind of the same thing again.

Anna: Yeah.

James: Reworded.

Per: Yeah.

Anna: But short and concise though.

James: You think? A bit unusual for me.

Per: I loved the point you were making Anna when you were saying that wireframes or people hate — or the client hates wireframes? Your response to that was that then we just present them in a different way so that they will love them. I like that approach. You challenge the way that you present the deliverable. You don’t just disregard the deliverable.

James: Yeah. That’s nice. I think all those four points …

Anna: I think that actually leads on to — yeah, just realized one last point as well. So I didn’t know how to do kind of good deliverables when I moved to the agency side. But I learned and I had a great — I looked at what other people were doing and I chatted to other people who had more experience than me.

Everyone can learn how to present their work in a way that not only communicates the thinking but does in a really good and delightful way as well. So that’s really the third one that there’s something — it’s a skill that you can learn and using some of those dos and don’ts that I go through in the deck really can help you in getting to that level of where they do add some delight and does a great job themselves as well.

James: Yeah.

Per: I think that’s perfect advice for our listeners actually because that’s why — thinking that a lot of people are thinking how do I approach this. How do I learn this and just — and I think there is a slide in your presentation there about copying, learning from others, copy others.

Anna: Yeah.

Per: And how they do it.

James: Yeah.

Per: Just go out and do it. Try it.

Anna: Yeah, have fun with it as well.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

Anna: There are loads if you look on Pinterest and just Google things. You can see lots of ways of how people are being creative in their work and I think that’s for one year. When I started working on the agency side, I was working on one client. The projects weren’t very creative but — and I still wanted to be kind of creative and learn new things. So I found ways of instilling a bit of kind of creativity to meet my own personal needs as well, kind of my own goals and made sure I kind of developed even if the projects were quite similar for a whole year.

James: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I think just reflecting on the — don’t spend like unnecessary time tweaking small details. The times when I maybe do do some of that is when I’ve realized or learned over the years that certain things — best to set right in the beginning. We talked about that with templates already. I mean you go in to start the projects. You know full well that if we do this kind of — I don’t know. If we create maybe some kind of sketch template, I will throw that one out, that’s specifically tailored for this project. That might save us lots and lots of times in subsequent rounds when we do subsequent features and so on.

So it’s worth putting a little extra time in that in the beginning maybe. So that kind of extra time I think maybe is useful sometimes when you’ve learned through your experience that doing a good job with something in the beginning means that it’s going to save you — or going to make it easier to communicate, easier to produce things later on.

Anna: Yes, and that’s what I’ve — it has been amazing to see when I’m on this workshop because I’ve had them do — I believe it’s four exercises and quite extensive exercises but the amount of work they’ve done in just two hours of kind of exercises has been amazing and the work they delivered even if it hasn’t been fully completed, wireframes and presentations and so forth.

It has been a really good start and completely to your point, if you set things up and spend a tiny bit of time upfront just making sure you’ve got your elements in order and the basis of every kind of page template in place of using layers, et cetera. Then you can accomplish really great things with very little time and it kind of helps you throughout the actual process of defining your documents, whatever that document is.

Per: Yeah.

James: Excellent. We got a lot of little tips there at the end, so the three became five I think it was. That was great.

Per: So when are you coming to Stockholm for the UX fika?

Anna: Oh, I don’t know. It’s on the — I’m planning out when I’m going to do my little UX fika and really kick it off. But I haven’t been in Stockholm for a year so I should definitely come quite soon.

James: I haven’t been in London for a year, so we could swap.

Anna: Yes!

Per: That would be pretty stupid now if you go …

James: No, I don’t mean at the same time.

Anna: That would be …

James: We will wave at the airport.

Anna: Yeah, from there.

James: Yeah.

Per: Excellent advice today. Thank you so much Anna for joining us.

James: Yeah, thank you very much.

Anna: Thank you for having me.

James: And we will — well, we hope to meet you on the UX fika and we will put up some details and some links on the show notes. Thank you.

Anna: Thank you.

Per: Thanks so much.


James: That was fun.

Per: Yes.

James: As always, it’s always fun talking to people. That’s why we do this.

Per: Yes. I think I gave away that — there are 167 slides in Anna’s presentation and I did not have time to go through them all actually beforehand. But I had some idea of what she — I think I managed to get to slide 50 or 60 or something before because I was going through them before lunch. It’s afternoon now and we’re recording.

James: It’s an hour long presentation and all the slides of course with many pictures.

Per: Exactly. Anyone will try and understand what she’s saying in each picture as well.

James: But it looks like it would be a good presentation to listen to.

Per: A good workshop.

James: Yeah.

Per: I always love these workshops and I’ve attended a few where there’s — it’s really intense and you produce a lot of stuff and that’s what she was talking about in the end of it. A lot of people really get into it and if you’re a lot of people, you can also produce so much that you didn’t realize that you can produce in that amount of time.

James: This kind of ad hoc teams that you produce during these workshops are really quite good fun. But how interesting was that? Again, we’ve got another UX thing here which isn’t really what it is because the UX deliverables, it seems like UX itself — what is UX? What is UX deliverables? Well, UX deliverable isn’t actually a wireframe.

Per: Exactly.

James: Naturally it’s a result of user survey or whatever.

Per: I’m trying to figure out — because I mean neither of us has gone to a UX school but nowadays, I guess there is UX school basically, well in some sense. I haven’t seen formally a UX education but information architecture, there is. The usability there is at university level.

James: Interaction design of course.

Per: Right, and people graduate from those and they call themselves UXers and they go out and know exactly what UX deliverables are. Then that’s going to conflict with our view of what UX deliverables are, but we were first.

James: We were first.

Per: Oh, I’m only kidding of course.

James: Really? That’s the thing. You’re only half kidding.

Per: Of course I’m only half kidding. That’s what — I need to debate.

James: Yeah.

Per: But in a sense, what I’m worried about is the — of course the results. If I see my results as a UX designer, the result is that I produce the deliverable. Then I’m not doing a good enough job because my results would be something else. It’s something beyond the deliverable. It’s something that is the end goal for the client or for the user or a combination of those.

I’m not sure that — probably that is taught in school as well but I’m just worried that there’s so much technical stuff around how you produce your wireframe and the specifics of usability and what’s right and what’s wrong that I don’t like.

James: This is why I hinted that or talked about the beginning of the chat to Anna that some people are basically built to produce. Now there are people who are very comfortable with producing deliverables or physical deliverable like a wireframe or sketch or an icon or whatever it is. Some people — you need both of these sides and I don’t think we should try — it’s a bit like the kind of Pegasus and unicorn thing that we talked about a while back there. I don’t think you can force everyone to be of one particular vanilla flavour of UXer.

Per: Yeah.

James: We can’t all be UX strategists or UX tacticians or interaction designers or whatever the thing is. We can’t force everyone to be the one ultimate role. What we’ve been talking about today, the need for someone who is the UX designer kind of — the mentor role or the UX guardian role. It’s more towards the UX strategist that we’ve had debates about and talks about before. That is needed but it’s not the sole role.

Per: True.

James: And that’s what we said about it as well. We have developers and developers do the whole job, prototyping and design and the rest of it.

Per: Well, that’s another thing I realize that in any team and I’m guessing — I haven’t even asked you about the team that you’re with that you’re sitting with, but it’s like there’s one UXer and there’s seven developers. That’s always the way it is. So if there’s one person who does interaction design, that’s the UXer in that project.

Now if we could spread it out a bit and realize that maybe we need four UXers to every five developers, then maybe we could get — I mean probably that’s sort of the my end goal of it. Actually making people realize how important these roles are together with the other ones of course. I’m not trying to make the other ones less worthy but I’m just trying to get across the notion that if we get more UXers into the project, and I’m actually bringing this in for certain sprints. Then that helps us reach our goals faster.

James: Yeah.

Per: Because it helps us communicate better to all stakeholders.

James: Yeah. I think it also — I mean to answer your question that you didn’t ask — well, you did. We’re mainly developers. I think it’s five of eight other developers or system-based people and then three of those — there’s two UXers and one AD, art director.

Per: Right.

James: But yeah, the thing — one individual UXer can’t store all of the information a UXer needs. The internet helps and templates or ways of working that you’ve cooked up and used previously in projects helps, but when I need to kind of refresh myself — oh, we need to talk about like icons. I need to check up and look again about all the pros and cons of iconography.

Per: Right.

James: I can’t remember all of it all the time and when you sat there in a workshop like environment or in a sprint, I can’t remember it all and I know there’s an awful lot of pros and cons. Some of them I remember. But if I’m going to deal with it now, then I need to check up on it again and having multiple UXers of course speeds up that way.

Per: Exactly. I think I mentioned actually last year I got into some situations where I was peer designing. I honestly believe in — what I could accomplish in an eight-hour day, we could accomplish two people in two to three hours because we were doing it together and we were like just touching base all the time, bouncing ideas off each other. It was fantastic. So, so much faster being two than being one. So you actually save time being with more people. It sounds wrong but it’s right.

James: Well, at the same time, you can be so much faster being two rather than eight.

Per: Ah, very good point, yes.

James: I’ve seen others who are doing in this project where they’re spending a fair bit of time as a team of eight but then we’re having a day where it’s just me and the AD.

Per: Right. We have that as well.

James: We play catch-up effectively with reflection on the work we’ve done, the workshop format. We’ve get into producing a bit of extra material or researching things a bit deeper so that we can then take that to the next workshop-like session.

Per: It’s funny how similar we work right now.

James: Interesting.

Per: Those meetings we actually call design mys. How would you translate mys to English?

James: Oh, god. Mys is kind of cosy, is the verb, to cosy up.

Per: Yeah, almost snuggle. So …

James: Oh, design snuggle. Oh!

Per: That’s nice.

James: You’re going to be buying domains after this podcast. I can tell.

Per: You’re probably right. That’s the first thing because Anna already has UX fika but I could get design snuggle.

James: Yeah. Now we’ve lost him, listeners. We’re not going to get Per back now because I can see on his face. He has gone into his domain buying mode and there’s going to be another WordPress site open before we finish recording.

Per: Oh, god. I think we’re actually …

James: I think we’ve got to wrap up now before we end up boring the listeners to death with your personal quirks. So thank you again to RevRise for sponsoring today’s show. You can check out their form analytics tool at RevRise.com/UXPodcast and shall I do the outro?

Per: You do the outro because I have nothing …

James: You’re busy buying domains.

Per: I have nothing on my screen.

James: You’re buying domains, aren’t you?

Per: Leave me alone.

James: We would love to hear from you. You can find us pretty much everywhere as UX Podcast including UXPodcast.com and on that website, you will find all the links and resources that we’ve mentioned in this show plus there’s an archive of every single episode of UX podcast that we’ve done. If you’ve enjoyed UX podcast, then please don’t tell anyone. Let’s keep it our little secret.

Per: Remember to keep moving.

James: And see you on the other side.


[End of transcript]

This is a transcript of a conversation between James Royal-Lawson, Per Axbom and Anna Dahlström recorded for UX Podcast in February 2014. To hear more episodes visit uxpodcast.com or search for UX Podcast in your favourite podcast client.