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The limits of our world are the limits of our language

So many disciplines, so many processes… yet so similar

The term “User Experience” is used as a verb, which confuses things. When people say, “I do UX” it doesn’t help much to define it properly. Think of it this way instead, UX is an outcome of a UCD process…It’s a science to optimise or enable an unforgettable, useful or beautiful experience— basically, using the scientific method of evaluation and lending from other research techniques and disciplines such as psychology in order to better understand what people want and need.

scientific method of evaluation: (Observation, Hypothesis, Assumptions, Experiment, Results, Conclusion/Learnings — repeat)

Think of user-driven development (UDD) or user centered design (UCD) approach …which encompasses, “Analysis, Design, Evaluation, Implementation” ….(But it’s basically still the scientific method) — UX Designers, use a UCD approach. Just as Visual Designers use a process of Design Thinking (but it’s basically the same thing)…It’s another tool for your toolbox. A systematic way of problem solving.

UCD approach:

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Design Thinking approach:

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Let’s be exact, and use the definition from wiki:

User-centered design (UCD) or user-driven development (UDD) is a framework of processes (not restricted to interfaces or technologies) in which usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks and workflow of a product, service or process are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process. User-centered design can be characterized as a multi-stage problem-solving process that not only requires designers to analyze and envision the way users are likely to consume a product, but also to validate their assumptions with regard to the user behavior in real world tests.

The chief difference from other product design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the product around how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate the product. The users thus stands at the center of two concentric circles. The inner circle includes the context of the product, objectives of developing it and the environment it would run in. The outer circle involves more granular details of task detail, task organization, and task flow…

To put it simply, User Centered Design approach : taking user needs into account, at every stage of the product/service life cycle.

Human Centered Design process, same as design thinking & UCD process above…

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Understanding a person’s emotions, motivations, needs, desires & pain points, communicate to reach their hearts, in the right manner (correct medium) at the right time. (Ok, not their hearts…but their 3 part brain of instinct, emotion & rational thinking). But this view of HCD/UCD, is purely my understanding based on how I view my work, I can’t know everything…obviously. (You don’t “have” to know everything, but I want to). Another person with a different background will give you a different definition for UX.

UX Designers are specialists in various areas, from (Visual Designers, Information Architects, Usability Specialists, User Interface Designers….and more — All of these peeps, you guessed it, are UX Designers or UX Analysts, UX Architects…same thing ) — Each part of the process — Each a different aspect which contribute to creating better experiences.

They set the stage for positive encounters through products, (physical or digital), services, spaces and events. Design isn’t limited to customers or users, but within organisations for employees too. And society on the whole. There are so many opportunities to take the common, the mediocre and make it unforgettable.

Business terms : Lean product process — very much the same as design thinking process & UCD & HCD process. (Just “leaner”…)

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GV Sprint process: same as the other processes, only quicker:

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GV Sprint is only quicker if used correctly, namely, getting all the relevant stakeholders, decision makers and technical team in one room over a 4/5 of the days. (Which is the only real challenge). — Ok it’s virtually impossible.

A prototype is still worth 1000 meetings…Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or hasn’t tested for themselves.

Can you see the overlaps with these various processes?

They’re all driving towards the same goal. Each follows a process of defining user, or knowing user or (assuming who the user would be if it’s a new product), taking all the research into consideration to create a problem statement. Creating hypothesis, finding a way to test hypothesis, and evaluate and learn from it, to develop something which aligns underserved needs with value proposition (to achieve product-market fit).

Each process requires divergent and convergent thinking…Expanding, and simplifying. Each process requires analytical & creative thinking techniques. Each process requires a team of specialists…( yet is possible with 1-2 people of diverse skills & experience for startup/new products).

Main goal of all the above processes: To gain empathy for the user first and foremost.

In service design terms, to discover, define, design, develop & deliver value. (still the same thing). Research/test to ensure you don’t waste time/ resources & money developing the wrong thing. (wrong = something no one wants or needs, solving the wrong problem).

Each time period brings new insights, with it, new words, ( in some cases, words, which are actually just remixed old terms ). In other cases innovation creates new disciplines entirely, which require new terms/languages to be created around these new endevours.

In reality, each person who comes into this field, will have had a different background/training/experience in different areas.

You’ll have developers who think in </ >, your business analysts who think in ROI or depending on what’s the latest “must read” business book, your Lean Startup or Blue Ocean Strategy peeps, your visual designers who think (about…well, let’s face it, we think of everything — and at times, we can see the big picture and still get lost in the details), your psychologists who think in influence and behaviour, data scientists, who think in statistics…(ok, I’m generalising about each skillset…The truth is, everyone has the ability to think creatively + analytically— it just depends on what kind of questions you ask about the world around you).

Ultimately, how you view, describe and understand something, will be influenced by your background.

Thus someone with a creative background will define how to improve user experience using the language they use more frequently, ie. in design terms based on research, usability & aesthetics generally this will be the designers talking points. How to improve based on how the user will perceive and interact …ie. colour psychology, visuals, tone, typographic hierarchy translated into user interfaces or packaging, interior design…etc …While someone with a business background will perceive other problems & opportunities eg. how meeting user needs in new ways will add new revenue streams, which areas are a risk vs reward etc… Each will be looking at it from different angles and it will be filtered in various ways through each persons’ rose-tinted or cynical glasses of experience & knowledge.

Likewise, when it comes to the solution phase, suggestions will be based on past experiences & current research. But If you’re only thinking of what you did before, how can you solve for what might be? The “what if” …

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. — Einstein

Each view isn’t wrong on it’s own. It’s merely incomplete in isolation. But combined, is a more authentic holistic view. The point is for each to start listening to each other. To get each on the same page in order to create the best possible outcome for users.

You don’t know what you don’t know…Let’s learn together…& expand our vocabulary…advance our knowledge, and be better equipped to meet the needs of the people we create for, (our users).

In any endevour, innovation & creativity requires collaboration…you can’t change the world in a silo…

I have a creative background and I’ve always been part of different parts of different processes. So my ideas may differ from others. However, I do believe that designers are naturally UCD practitioners. I also do believe, that can be a natural progression for any other discipline too.

Ultimately, UCD is all about the “Who”…Who are we making this for?

What do they love, what do they hate, what do they need? Then asking, Why are are we making it, (should we make this), and most importantly, How will it make their lives better? Then we can further investigate, how they’ll use your product/service, where & when they’ll use it. And how can we make it even better for them? (Think of it as “everything” that could affect the users’ experience of that specific product/service). On the other hand, UCD is also about meeting business needs. It’s the intersection of user needs + business needs +technological limitations (or rather in most cases the limitations of your user)- Hence why many hands make light work.

Regardless of your background, understanding various disciplines which contribute to creating better experiences, is to your benefit. And sharing with the group, will enlighten us all. Join the Interaction Design Foundation Johannesburg Chapter. We will view various disciplines from different angles at each event.

Moral of the story:

Throw away all the titles, and we can all collaborate easier in plain terms of helping people… not users, but people.

If you’re in Johannesburg…

Next meetup :

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 | 18:30–20:00

For those who want to learn, grow & share. This event is for those who are willing to adapt thinking and learn from others. Develop business creativity & drive innovation.

Design Lessons from the Frontline by Mohammed Jogie & Group exercises in “Perfect Product Pitch” + “Creative Strategy techniques”… The group can only share with you, but it’s up to you how you’ll use the information.

Speakers always welcome! ( live or virtual for webinars )

For our next few meetups, I’m looking for anyone who specialises in any of the following areas: Industrial Design, Strategy, Service Design, Software Development (specifically game development), Instructional Design, Sociology, Psychology. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested. ( local or international speakers for webinars are welcome)



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Chesway Theway

Chesway Theway


Dreamer | Thinker | Thing-maker (Futurist & Sci-Fi reader…Fascinated by perception/process/products/principles)