How we communicate what we do matters as what we’re doing. It’s true in every endeavor, but seems especially relevant to User Experience work, in research and design and in soliciting collaboration.
I often hear developers complain about how “designers just throw things over the wall!” Some variation on “WTF?”, is usually my reply. Why do you have this wall in the middle of your workplace? Do you need a permit from the city to remove it?
As designers, UX-ers, PMs, or on support teams, if we're going to advocate for users, we need to be able to communicate our doings, our findings and their relevance, so that they can be valued and fully considered. It wasn't a surprise to me to hear (via John Maeda’s 2017 annual Design in Tech report) that writing is the newest in-demand UX skill.
Like design, writing and communication are skill sets that you can develop over your lifetime. I think I’m an okay writer and a decent communicator, but I still struggle with it, and try to embrace that struggle, getting help and feedback as often as I can. Last month, I was in Austin, and I ran into my pal George at an opening at ICOSA. “I get the emails, but I don’t really understand what UX Night School is”.
I gulped, and took that feedback. “That’s a good insight”, I replied. “It’s an attempt on my behalf to figure out how to teach UX skills outside of the university system, but I guess that’s not great branding.”
This last week, we kicked off the Spring Workshop series in Portland with two events - “How to Get a Job in UX Design” (with our friend Mary Blalock of Career Camp), and “Planning UX Projects”. Both events sold out, and brought out awesome, engaged groups. (Thank y’all!)
One question keeps coming up: “What is User Experience, exactly?”
Though, as a teacher and an ethnographer, I’m more interested in answering this question by starting a conversation than developing a tagline.
“Well”, I say, “User Experience is a broad, systems-based approach to understanding how to better design products and services based on real data and feedback from the people who use them”.
Or, when someone asks what UX Night School is all about, I'll say, “UX Night School is a community-based professional development company, and right now I’m working on developing a series of workshops that can give anyone an introduction to some fundamental design research and user experience methods and tools.”
Every marketing and branding expert will tell you that messaging is key, but I'd argue that the conversation that happens after someone gives this song and dance matters just as much.
One thing is for certain - the success of whatever we attempt has a strong correlation with how well we communicate it. We need to be able to have these conversations, to make the pitch for working this way.
How we communicate matters, because it directly effects who sees our work and how they value it.