For the Shift Graduate Exhibition publication I talked with a variety of New Zealand UX designers about the current focus of their drive. The majority of designers previously spoke or facilitated a workshop at UX Homegrown, a one day conference about Experience Design in New Zealand. It resulted in a collection of personal opinions of what is important in UX today. I outline their key messages below.
Matt Gould and his team is pursuing a more strategic design approach. Concurrent with this ‘seat at the table’ he sees an increase in demand for good fundamentals such as research, usability testing, interaction design, and service design. “We have seen a continuation of organisations investing in in-house UX capability building but also a return to hiring trusted agencies and consultants to support and supplement existing teams” (Gould, 2018). He appreciates the strong demand for humanistic, qualitative, and creative approaches to UX design, despite the promise, and increasingly transformative usefulness, of data driven design. Data driven design alongside empathy driven design has become an integral part in how Joshua Ong designs products and services. “With UX becoming a core part of businesses, it is important that we try to be involved with projects as early on in the process as possible. That way, we ensure that User Centred Design (UCD) is being applied from the very beginning” (Ong, 2018).
Emma Pittar sees “UCD as a belief system to craft delightful meaningful experiences, helping business owners and product owners hit that moment of gestalt clarity around what their customers actually need” (Pittar, 2018). In the past five years Emma has seen a proliferation of Design Thinking focussing on empathy and prototyping. This in combination with digital transformation has pushed UX to the centre of new businesses and sparked innovation for current businesses. “Well designed business solutions will have good business outcomes” (Taulelei, 2018). Sachi Taulelei acknowledges the need for a value measurement framework for design to grow the acceptance and capability within the business as well for the design tribe who need to see the benefits and results of the work. What drives Sachi is making a positive impact on people’s lives through design. “The beauty of UX is that you are in a state of constant learning. So growing myself allows me to collaborate and contribute towards better design decisions, which in the end has a greater impact on outcomes” (Taulelei, 2018). Collaboration and co-creation is at the core of Perrin Rowland’s practice. The ability to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable is key. Collaboration and co-creation seem aspirational and not a plateau state. “Design at scale is the constant orchestration of a thousands details: small things clog the gears, unknown unknowns muck up the lines” (Rowland, 2018).
For Jodine Stodart “UX today is about transforming organisations to a different way of working and becoming more innovative as a business and more responsive to customer needs” (Stodart, 2018). Her team supports organisations “to get over the hump of legacy systems and tech led projects into the ‘green fields’ of customer led design” (Stodart, 2018). It is all about figuring out how to best assist organisations to embed Human Centred Design (HCD) as everyday practice. For Louise Kellerman creating connections between people and ideas is core, so her audience feels part of something bigger than themselves. The main concern for James Star is bridging the gap between design and engineering by taking what is done really well in UX and making that manifest in development. Kah Chan sees UX growing to be all about bringing together technical people, design people, and business people to become people people to create relevant, delightful experiences, not creating more noise. “How can we communicate our intentions to the people on the other side of our products in a respectful, intentional manner?” (Chan, 2018). That question chimes with Yvonne Tse’s opinion, “In a world where technology has woven itself into almost every part of our lives, seemingly innocent decisions within our projects can have unintentionally far-reaching consequences to not just the intended users, but society as a whole” (Tse, 2018).
For Jade Tang-Taylor UX means empathy, “championing the voice of the customer or consumer and shift in mindsets of how you approach problem solving and design for change” (Tang-Taylor, 2018). Design (in all its forms) should contribute to social change for a fairer, more diverse, more inclusive future. For Jonny Lim designing the right thing becomes more about morals and ethics rather than simply meeting business and technical objectives. “UX folk talk about empathy and seem to want to do good so it only seems fitting that we think clearly about the outcomes of our work for the wider society and not just our portfolios” (Lim, 2018). The main point in UX for Sarvnaz Taherian is accessibility. Pivotal to her work is enabling equal access to communication, regardless of physical abilities. She deals with “the disparity between the tech that we use everyday and take for granted, and the borderline archaic systems that people with disabilities have to put up with” (Taherian, 2018). She aspires to create meaningful tech and hopefully spurs others to do the same. Something that Dyana Jackson values about UX is learning that experience can constitute so much more than just what happens on a screen. “To change lives, solve massive problems in the world, and bring people closer together through technology and understanding/developing how we experience things. I think inclusivity is super important in UX design” (Jackson, 2018).
According to Nick Bowmast design in general is all about understanding people and using this understanding to help design teams point in the right direction. He recognises the dangers of going too fast and missing important insights through reflection. “Some of these sprint based time-boxed approaches to design need an injection of rigour to balance the speed and constraint” (Bowmast, 2018). For Phil Cockrell knowing your audience intimately is key. It is the only way to connect with them meaningfully, to make things that have a lasting impact on their lives. “UX Design gives me a way to make products that people love because our creation process is grounded in the human experience rather than my own opinion.” (Cockrell, 2018). Walter Kim enjoys helping users live better lives, by making technology as convenient and unobtrusive as possible. The little things help. “If we can solve a problem for a single person, you can usually scale it up to lots of people with the same problem” (Kim, 2018). Romain Perin appreciates a product that simply works. “It’s better to have something out there helping people now, even if it’s half-baked, than to still be trying to make it perfect in two years time” (Perin, 2018).
Erick Mohr believes that more and more designers need to get out of their ‘design bubble’ and be able to apply their HCD knowledge in other domains like business models to help companies with complex problems like organisational change and digital transformation. “Designers need to be able to help companies figure out how to become more efficient, lean, customer centric, and design led” (Mohr, 2018). Celia Ryan acknowledges the challenge of working with teams of experts who have not previously been given a voice in software or hardware. Richard Shed would like to see a stronger emphasis on defining tasks and processes driven by intent, by utility and usefulness. As such strategic design — before the execution phase of design — helps businesses figuring out what to do (and why) before figuring out how to do it. He sees his main task to develop tools, artefacts, frameworks, and facilitating sessions to help businesses in decision making. Philip Fierlinger’s main concern is making UX Design a core function of New Zealand businesses. “Despite the efforts of Better by Design, the Value of Design report, and massive design-led successes like Xero, most NZ startups don’t have a designer on the team, let alone having a designer on the founding team” (Fierlinger, 2018). UX is structure, according to Brani Mead. A good structure helps the rest of the design come together with some grace and a little more clarity and speed. He points out he is always on the lookout for finding ways to create less UI. The best design is hardly noticeable. His main concern is developing their team and culture. “Our clients become our heroes and we have earned their trust enough that they want to do it all over again” (Mead, 2018).
I would like to thank the following people for their generosity and support: Nick Bowmast (Bowmast), Kah Chan (Flick Electric), Phil Cockrell (Serato), Philip Fierlinger (Skyrize), Matt Gould (Lushai), Dayna Jackson (Vend), Walter Kim (Qrious), Louise Kellerman (Design Assembly), Jonny Lim (Jonny UX), Brani Mead (UI Revolution), Erick Mohr (PWC), Joshua Ong (Air New Zealand), Romain Perin (DNA), Emma Pittar (Emma Pittar), Perrin Rowland (Spark), Celia Ryan (The Catalysers), Richard Shed (Richard Shed), James Star (James Star Development), Jodine Stodart (Digital Arts Network), Sachi Taulelei (ANZ), Sarvnaz Taherian (Thought Wired), Jade Tang-Taylor (Tang-Taylor), Yvonne Tse (Assurity).
N. Bowmast (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
K. Chan (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
P. Cockrell (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
P. Fierlinger (personal communication, October 12, 2018).
M. Gould (personal communication, October 4, 2018).
D. Jackson (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
W. Kim (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
L. Kellerman (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
J. Lim (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
B. Mead (personal communication, October 9, 2018).
E. Mohr (personal communication, October 5, 2018)
J. Ong (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
R. Perin (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
E. Pittar (personal communication, October 4, 2018).
P. Rowland (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
C. Ryan (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
R. Shed (personal communication, October 7, 2018).
J. Star (personal communication, October 4, 2018).
J. Stodart (personal communication, October 5, 2018).
S. Taulelei (personal communication, October 9, 2018).
S. Taherian (personal communication, October 8, 2018).
J. Tang-Taylor (personal communication, October 8, 2018).
Y. Tse (personal communication, October 8, 2018).