John Maeda – A message on Design and Inclusion

I absolutely agree with this, something that I’ve felt is a required characteristic of a Ux Designer. We have to care about people. How our interfaces effect users. We want to be as inclusive as possible.

Design and Exclusion

Keynote_01-John Maeda

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I sat where they sat

Have you ever met a user that doesn’t want your help? Someone married to their ways. Not all users want all the help that you can offer. They just want you to fix “one problem” and not touch anything else.

They’re like hedgehogs, the closer you get to their operation, the more they stick you with their protective quills.

So what do you do?

Show the love, show that you care, show that you know what you’re talking about. Sit where they sit. Work with them, become a co-laborer.

Why?

Your users may not just have problems or needs, they can be the problem, because of the way they deal with things. Users are people, people are protective of the way that they do things. They honestly won’t admit that the way they go about things are wrong. The possibility of them claiming that something else is better, is greater. Unless you, as a Ux Designer truly care about your users, you can’t help them.

Work with them

I don’t mean compromise. Don’t be blind to their needs, don’t ignore them and don’t use it as an opportunity to promote your intelligence. People don’t want to know what you know, how you do things, until you care to know what they know and to first do things their way.

Purposefully sit down with them and do their job/complete a task the way they do it. Experience their struggle. Talk about it, discuss it, brainstorm on the ways to make it better for the both of you [make it a team thing].

Some people are blind to their needs.

They might not know they need the help of your application. They have been grinding for so long, making it work, that they have ignored it. Their way of life, their way of doing things has been built upon it.

Be as concerned about the user, as you are of the user’s needs.

These opportunities can help you mature your interface. Give you a better understanding of how an expert vs novice user interacts with your interface.

You will have outlier users, “problem users” who don’t fit within targeted user group. You can deny their needs. Yet it is important to acknowledge that you will come across them, so expect them, accept them and give them an opportunity to help open your eyes. Those who give you the most headaches, cause the most problems, don’t understand what to do with your interface or how to use the tools to their benefit, need you the most. Not the users with zero complaints.

One of the best ways to discover needed resources is to need that very resource yourself.

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy vs Sympathy

As I update my portfolio, I have thought on the projects that were ground-breaking, pin-pointing the needs of the user and those that have missed the mark. I know that it isn’t for a lack of empathy; I care about my users and clients.

So what sets these projects apart? My execution of design generally stays the same from project type to project type. It has is the foundation: the research.

Empathy is great but it holds no candle to sympathy. True sympathy comes from understanding another person’s difficulties by suffering the same affliction. The projects in which I not only shadowed a few key users to represent a user group, but also tried out their role for a while, helped me sympathize.

I can not truly design a helpful and graceful experience to my users without paying a price myself. Affliction, seeing difficulties myself, experiencing the tedious nature of an interface and where it falls short is the cost that I pay for the ability to sympathize with my users.

If I truly want to help my users and clients I must understand how they are suffering. It them becomes a rescue mission. To think of immediate steps I can take to alleviate the situation. This is how I can strip my dream concept down, to the MVP. Knowing the suffering my user’s experience first hand allows for a quick ideation to get the ball rolling.

I know I have reached my goal when my users stop suffering.

Companies don’t always need a big budget to do large amounts of testing, surveys, etc. They need one or more Ux Designers who are willing to get dirty and experience what their users are experiencing.