I'm a UX/UI Designer working for a company building online services for large businesses. My background is graphic print design and now for the last 15 years, web design. Acknowledging that I'm only a small part of the UX process, my IT manager has still loaded a UX workshop onto me, believing this is what the company needs to develop our product. But I normally only do front end visuals and prototypes.
How am I going to run a workshop successfully? Does my manager think UI is UX, or that UX is a sticking plaster onto anything failing. I clearly see myself as part of the UX process, somewhere between ideation and implementation, but should I really be defining the whole process? I'm very rule oriented and find this new wild west of UX extremely stressful. There are no rules!!! Where do I even start to pull myself out of this mess?
This is a great question, and this scenario is something that many workplaces experience all around the world. As more and more companies are tuning into the power and benefits of UX, many are scrambling to find the right way to introduce it to the workplace. Who’s responsible? Will there be a UX team? Will the team consist of UX generalists, or individuals who specialize in different facets of UX? Will there be a UI design team in addition to the UX team? These are all questions that need answering when introducing UX to a company. And if everyone isn’t on the same page, there can be lots of confusion (like your scenario right now!).
Looking at your question, I see a few things that need addressing: the understanding of user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design in your workplace; the roles everyone has; and running a workshop in your workplace. Let’s just dive right in!
UI versus UX: what’s the difference?
First, let’s talk about the differences between UI and UX. A lot of people can get them confused, and it doesn’t help that they overlap with one another in many instances.
Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen, founders of the Nielsen Norman Group, define user experience as encompassing “all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” Anything to do with the end-user is under the umbrella of UX; that includes UI!
UX designers can wear many hats. From UX developers, researchers to generalists, there are many different roles and responsibilities that UXers can have — doesn’t help clear up the UI/UX confusion, huh? Many UXers will take charge in areas such as a site or app’s strategy and content, wireframing, prototyping, and scope (see Jesse James Garrett’s Elements of UX Design for more on this). Their main focus is around the user’s experience, especially in these areas.
On the other hand, UI design focuses more on the front-end and customer interactions with an app, product or website. UI designers are those who put into action the paths that UX designers create. It complements UX design. To demonstrate this relationship, picture the following examples: A travel accommodation website that looks great, but is impossible to find information on. Obviously, it’s a great example of good UI, but its UX is pretty poor. Flip this around so that it’s easy to find information but looks horrible, and you’ll get good UX and poor UI. It might be a good idea to have this conversation with your IT manager so he or she will have a clearer picture for what UX is and isn’t.
Introduce the basics and create UX advocates
Now onto the workshop. I know that running a workshop can be a big and terrifying responsibility, but ask yourself this: Do you care about the principles involved with UX? Are you known as “the UX person” at your workplace? If so, you might actually be the best person to host the workshop!
My advice for running your workshop is to introduce the basics of it to the team, and to just generate an awareness of what it is, and what it can do for your workplace.
The user experience honeycomb from Peter Morville outlines some of the basic principles of UX, and has explanations for what each principle means — a good place to start for your workshop. Explain how the principles can fit into existing processes, and depending on who you’re speaking to, how attendees can change what they’re doing to be more mindful of people’s experiences.
This will help you to create UX advocates in your workplace, and ultimately, better experiences for your users in general. In addition to some of the principles, you’ll want to go through some of the processes involved too. Explain what’s involved with user research, how and why you create wireframes, and how you test users and analyze the data to make recommendations.
If you’re not too familiar with the ins and outs of UX, don’t fear. This next section will help you become an expert in no time.
Brush up on your knowledge
You mentioned you’ve found the wild west of UX very stressful, and the only thing to really help with this is to learn — lots. Many people have their own ways of doing it, but it all comes down to what you find works for you and makes sense to you.
To help you get started, here’s a list of quintessential resources:
“Don’t Make Me Think” - Steve Krug
“The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond” - Jesse James Garrett
“A Practical Guide to Information Architecture” - Donna Spencer
“Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services” - Kim Goodwin
If you’ve got a bit of time and budget available, think about taking a few courses to really get familiar with all things UX. Here are a couple you might want to consider:
Nielsen Norman Group (also offers in-house training)
Foundations of UX: Usability testing by Chris Nodder
For a bigger list of fantastic resources, check out this blog post here.
Well, anonymous Agony Aunt questioner, I hope this helps you figure out how to run your workshop and create an understanding of UX in your workplace. Remember, UX shouldn’t just be limited to designing products, websites or apps — it encompasses everything to do with the end-user. This means everyone in your workplace, from product management, design, development, C-Suites and customer success.
I’ll leave you with this video of Don Norman, Co-Founder of Nielsen Norman Group, explaining the original meaning of UX.