Deeply empathic and immersive, my design process is informed by classic design thinking methodology and rooted in my experiences in nonprofit development.
–– I have been practicing UX Design professionally for 2+ years. Over this time, I've engaged and educated myself through an UX apprenticeship, professional advancement courses, conferences, meetups, books, and blogs. More recently, as lead designer at Ironpaper, I have been working on developing education on design and design thinking.
It is truly an exciting time to be a UX/UI designer, working amongst well-seasoned information architects, interaction designers, and other UX practitioners. I am humbled by the methodologies established before me and amazed by the technologies that continue to evolve. In particular, a quote by experience design forefather, Jesse James Garrett, resonates with me:
"Experience design is the design of anything, independent of medium, or across media, with human experience as an explicit outcome, and human engagement as an explicit goal."
Bearing this in mind, I have developed my design process that is both tactical as it is a mindset. It keeps users at the center and draws upon my experiences in nonprofit marcomm and in particular, as a volunteer Creative Director for Educate2Envision International (E2E).
Well before I was a "UX/UI designer," I was practicing a type of experience design with E2E. For four years, I helped design education programs for youth in Honduras, in addition to fulfilling my duties as a designer and communications strategist. Aligned with Garrett's thinking, the end goal was always human engagement.
Below, I detail my approach, deliver a recap of a trip to Honduras, and demonstrate how my years as CD continues to inform my work today.
Inspired by IDEO's approach to design thinking, I define strategic innovation as the intersection of user needs, business needs, and technical capacity. While constraints certainly exist, I've found success in the use of the following tools and techniques:
Objective: Identify a design challenge and understand perspectives involved
–– Competitive research
–– Data analysis (marketing insights)
–– User stories
–– User flows
–– Mental models
Objective: Generate ideas and produce user-centered MVP
–– Information Architecture
–– Content Design (language)
–– UI/Visual Design
Objective: Continue making informed refinements based on user feedback
–– User testing
–– KPI Setup
–– A/B Testing
–– is user-centered
Empathizing with the user is crucial to understand their perspective and solve for their specific needs.
–– is experimental and flexible
We must be able to adapt to constraints of any given design challenge such as time, stakeholder pushback, or access to users.
––is highly collaborative
Differing backgrounds and experiences can lead to stronger and more creative problem-solving.
–– requires humility
We must be able to question assumptions, even our own biases. We do not always know the "right" answer and can benefit from listening to users and collaborators.
A design sprint in action
A team comprised of designers, project managers, developers, and content writers actively partcipate in a persona brainstorming session. After learning about the design challenge and its target users, each person creates a round persona and 1-2 user flows. In another excercise, the team conducts an open or closed card sort to construct an IA.
At the end of the exercise, each team member shares their work. Together, the team analyzes the learnings, positions them with business goals, and explores technical capabilities to approach the challenge.
Reflecting on my time with E2E, my work absolutely required all four components of this mindset. Without a user-centered mentality, my team would have naively and unsuccessfully enforced institutional change within a community we knew nothing about.
Our work required deep ethnographic work to understand the people and their needs, and to align them with E2E’s goals to establish sustainable educational programming. We had to work closely with students, educators, community leaders, and government officials in Honduras, as well as board members, donors, and volunteers in the US. This work called for flexibility and humility, to experiment and to try again when efforts may have fallen short of our mission and vision.
While my time with E2E has since concluded, I am forever grateful to have worked alongside such innovators in the field of education and community development. In this model, strategic innovation may arise from the intersection of user needs, business needs, and programming capacity. Still, the mindset is fundamentally the same and the lessons learned here can no doubt be applied to my UX profession today.