While it's not uncommon for a Graphic Designer to move into the UX field, I realised that UX principles weren't just expanding my skillset but also influencing my mindset. Here are the three UX approaches that have proven the most valuable to my general work life.
During my BA in Visual Communication I majored in Graphic Design. Although we dealt with web- and app design, the concept of UX was like a black hole to me. Then, 8 months into my first job, I was thrown in the deep end: From designing landing pages for marketing experiments to interviewing customers - OfferZen is a service-based startup, so not only does everyone have to do everything, but our users' experience is incredibly important. This kickstarted my UX learning journey.
After reading some books that my team recommended, signing up to newsletters and listening to podcasts, I started to see changes in the way that I approached my everyday work tasks. I found myself questioning my traditional processes, trying best to optimise my tasks. I soon realised that I was, indirectly, applying UX principles in my everyday work life, namely these three:
- Give guidance instead of making things self-evident
- User involvement is key
- Know where you are in the process
Give guidance instead of making things self-evident
The first time I ended up using UX-thinking was at one of the creative sessions for our marketing campaigns. As session lead, I had to bring out the best in the team: we needed new creative ideas for funny adverts.
My inspiration came from the book Don’t make me think. It introduces the principle of not making everything self-evident: In a UX scenario, the usability of a web page should be obvious, but also helpful “so that just by looking at it, the average user will know what it is and how to use it”.
I used this principle to encourage interactions in the creative session. By asking “What can you do to improve our team mate’s answer?”, the team engaged in in-depth conversations, rather than just showing and telling their own ideas. This approach allowed for more ideas to develop from one concept. Instead of one ad, we ended up with five! Win :)
User involvement is key
Later on, our marketing team had run their usual campaigns, but there was a surprising increase in sign ups to the OfferZen platform. The only problem? We didn’t know what to attribute this to. I wanted to figure out why.
Ask users for feedback
Don’t make me think refers to a book called Interviewing users. Its main focus is on user feedback and asking customers a series of questions to learn more about what they want. I realised that we could leverage feedback from our users to understand what happened to increase our signups.
We wrote personalised emails asking users how they had heard about us. We gave no examples of where they could have found us, as we did not want to sway their response and rather encourage lengthier explanations. This worked like a charm: Suddenly, our users turned into critiques of their own experience of the platform. They provided great feedback, such as dev-language-specific adverts or marketing efforts at events. One user even critiqued our SEO marketing, mentioning that if she hadn't found out about OfferZen from a friend, she would never have found us on Google.
The concept of user involvement links strongly in with the idea of user testing.
I realised that the marketing team hadn’t previously involved the community much. Now that we knew how responsive they are, I decided to extend my user feedback mission and get more insights on our adverts:
Test concepts against users
As a test, I chatted to a few developers at a conference. Surprisingly enough, they were more than happy to chat to a coffee-buzzed designer who incentivised them with a free T-shirt. I asked users questions such as: “Where had they seen our ads? Did they resonate with them? Did the ads make sense?” Instead of relying on graph-metrics and engagement levels, I wanted to get answers from the people we were trying to reach in the first place.
In order to get a variety of insights, I asked lots of questions to as many conference attendees as I could. Turns out, developers really enjoyed our unicorn adverts despite the fact that we were trying to reach designers with them! #goodtoknow
“Know where you are in the process”
After receiving even more feedback from OfferZen’s candidates, we also learned just how collaborative and interactive the design community is. Based on how excited designers seemed about OfferZen, we decided to set up a referral email that would allow them to invite other designers and earn R5k if their friend got placed through us. But there was one problem: I realised I had no clue what other emails the designers on the platform were getting from us and I didn’t want to spam them out of nowhere.
That’s when I remembered the UX principle of understanding your users journey. In UX, it is crucial to understand what your user goes through, say, when visiting a website. I couldn't send them a random email out of the blue if it didn't make sense in the grander scheme of things.
I decided to take a step back, remove myself from the situation and try to get a basic overview to understand our users’ flow. This was difficult to do, so I enlisted the help of a colleague (from a different team) with a fresh perspective to go through the flow with me. This really helped me to get a new perspective and understanding of what our designers experience. As a result, I managed to craft my email in a way that fit into the overall user journey.
Below I have listed a few resources that have helped me start to understand the world of UX and how easily those ways of thinking fit into even the most basic everyday tasks.
- Don't make me think by Steve Krug
- Interviewing users by Steve Portigal
- Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp
Websites and Blogs:
- UI breakfast - Jane portman (sign up to the newsletter, it really helps push you to learn more)
- UX magazine
- Creative Bloq
P.S. These are only a few of many out there, so take some time to figure out what resources work for you and help you achieve your own learning goals.
Alex is a graphic designer and swag-magician at OfferZen. For compliments and/or complaints, catch her on ZATech (@AlexHanson) :P