Team Building And Diversity

Issue 11

Adventures in UX Design is a newsletter helping you navigate UX roadblocks.

Diversity is one of those topics you “rarely” hear about in the news these days. As a culture, we have grown to “understand” the value of building communities and teams with diverse opinions, skills, and backgrounds. We “recognize” that our individual experiences do not define all experiences. We are “aware” of the internal biases we all carry, and “understand” the way confirmation bias can create an echo chamber that crowds out information that would otherwise challenge the opinions we’ve formed.

Sarcasm aside, diversity is serious business if you are in the business of designing for other humans. It’s easy to get caught up defining the culture of the teams we build. Who is the right fit for our culture? Another rock star, perhaps? Two ninjas and a badass with a cool-maker on ice? When the criteria for team building should be: who is the right talent, the right voice? Who provides balance to the skills and perspectives we want to grow and represent on our team?

Without diversity, your team might design a pool float that looks like a massive sanitary pad. Or develop film that captures a range of light modeled after white skin. Apple’s Healthkit, when it first launched, failed to include features that allowed women to track fertility and menstrual cycles — a surprising oversight given that many of the top health apps in the iTunes store track both. And more recently, Winn Dixie lost a legal battle because its website, which integrates features and services offered in brick and mortar locations, was inaccessible to customers with disabilities.

1. Question Your World View

Diversity spans age, sex, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, intelligence, abilities, and experiences. Teams that are composed of a monolithic block of people around the same age, of the same skin color, sex, hoody, and skill set, don’t reflect the vast experiences for which we design and create. Though we concede that there might be a hoody out there that does.

Diverse teams recognize their differences and challenge each other’s assumptions. They are less likely to fall into a groupthink mentality. But lack of diversity is not necessarily a conscious choice, says UX Designer Caio Braga. The marketplace is competitive. Hiring managers and teams often look within their own networks to find job candidates, and by default those networks look the same.

“If you only hire like-minded people, you are just sending a message that this is the only way to work at your company. And that impacts your team’s work, their performance, and innovation,” writes Caio.

A diverse company culture recognizes differences between members of the team, and creates space for those differences to express themselves. Diverse teams bring diverse opinions and ideas to the table. Ideas are still explored, picked apart, and tested, but it’s the environment that allows those ideas to flourish.

To create a company of inclusion, writes Caio, hiring managers must attract the best talents across a spectrum of people and career paths. The world is not homogenous. We design for a global, diverse audience, and as such, we should reflect and understand its various needs as much as we can.

READ: “The Benefits of a Diverse Team by Caio Braga

2. Develop A Diverse Set of Skills

It used to be that we would see a job posting that required a wide range of skills and think it was impossible to fill. And yet, more design and user experience professionals are broadening their skills on the job well beyond what they were hired to do.

More often than not, people learn on the job, but rarely have opportunities to work outside of their immediate skill set. Most professionals have to push the boundaries a little to find an opportunity to learn something new. When teams are allowed to spread their wings and develop new skills, they bring with them a wealth of experience from a related discipline. This experience enriches their understanding of the work and the contribution they make. We see professionals who develop skills by finding side projects on their own time that allow them to focus on something different. Others focus on professional development through webinars, online courses, reading books, and practicing what they learned.

Teams and individuals who want to expand their skills can learn through deconstructing and analyzing examples of other people’s work. They can actively look for feedback and mentors in the workplace. And best of all, they can exercise a generosity of spirit by teaching others what they’ve learned. We all learn best by teaching.

Here’s a summary of the five steps for learning a new skill:

  1. Learn Everything You Can
  2. Practice, Practice, Practice
  3. Deconstruct What Others Have Done
  4. Solicit Feedback (And Listen To It)
  5. Teach The Skill To Someone Else

READ: “Becoming a UX Unicorn in 5 Easy Steps by Jared Spool

3. Incorporate A Wider Range Of People In Your Testing

Research provides us with information about our audience: their interests, needs, and goals. We can’t build useful products without this knowledge. We raise the bar on the quality of our work when we incorporate what we’ve learned about users into the experience. Design can introduce small pleasures that provide a nod to this understanding of the diversity of audience needs. Research can tell you when you’re gonna need a bigger boat.

UX researcher and author Whitney Quesenbery reminds us that great designs are by default accessible to broad audiences with a wide range of capabilities. Accessibility is an extension of a good user experience. We can transform a fine experience into a great one when we exceed the expectations of our customers, and we can do this by understanding them better.

How do we learn about audiences who have habits, capabilities, and interests that are different from our own? We go out and find them, says Whitney:

“In our work and civic design, we sometimes bring people into some sort of lab or a conference room that’s serving as a lab, but we also go out to places like an LGBT center library where we were there on glamour bingo night and sat up in the market to talk to people, or farmer’s markets, or to libraries. Places where people who might not answer an ad for market research show up, or might not be in your customer list, but they are great places to find everyday ordinary people who might be your next customers. And, indeed, a way to find people who have the average run of the mill disabilities that exist everywhere, because people with disabilities of some form or another make up 20% of the global population.”

Whitney will be discussing how teams can translate user research into compelling stories that drive design and inhabit the mindset of our users in her upcoming workshop at UI22. Read more about it here.

WATCH: “Getting From Barrier-Free to Delightful” with Whitney Quesenbery

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