I don’t know about you but I’m completely over arguing with developers about correctly implementing the company’s branding. This is coming from someone who used to be a creative director and responsible for creating and enforcing the company’s brand standards. Don’t get me wrong, those arguments still need to happen. I just don’t want to be the one having them anymore.
I’m frustrated at trying to fix issues too late in the project. I’ve moved beyond design to a more strategic focus in a software project. So, forget about mythical creatures for a moment. I’ve discovered that the most powerful position in UX is the UX Researcher—or, as I like to refer to it as, the UX Scout.
The UX Scout is the first responder on a new project. The scout first talks to the product owner and/or stakeholders and discusses what problem they’re trying to solve with this new project. You’d be surprised how often the problem is vaguely stated and misunderstood at this stage.
The UX Scout then gets to research the user’s current processes that will be impacted by the project. I do this by having a screen sharing session with each user I interview and have them walk me through their process. This can be accomplished directly in the tool we’ll be enhancing with the project or whatever tools they now use, if the project will result in a brand new tool. With consumers as users, this would usually be a preliminary usability test on an existing product.
In the case of employees as users, I have seen way too many processes that involve macro-ed to the hilt spreadsheets and email templates. I’m continuously awed and amazed at the work some of my past users have managed with something that seems just a couple of steps above a hammer and a chisel!
This is the time to discover any defects in existing software, any user workarounds, and existing pain points in UI and/or process. So often the product owners and stakeholders are unaware of these issues.
Involvement at the beginning of the project offers UX the most strategic advantage in shaping the project to make sure it’s well framed in user experience terms. By raising awareness of discovered problems early in the project, we can collaborate with the decision makers to address them in the project solution.
A good UX Scout, lays the groundwork for the rest of the team to be successful. At the end of the discovery phase, the scout has:
- discovered the real problem(s) to be solved by the project
- identified the user base
- validated the problem with the users
- discovered potential underlying defects, UI problems, and process problems that could derail the project’s success
- usually garnered user support for the project
I’m all grown up now. Forget about mythical unicorns, I’m proud to be a UX Scout!