The FAQs of UX Agony Aunt

Ashlea McKay

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"What's the question you get asked the most?"

-Bren

It's been almost two years since UX Agony Aunt took her first steps from a random idea I had over the December holidays in 2014 to the respected UX advice column it is today. It started out as a bit of an experiment and there hasn't been a dull moment since. The questions have ranged from challenging and complex to easy fixes with big impact. Sometimes they're just downright inappropriate (more on that later) and I once got asked if I'm a chatbot — I’m not a robot,  I'm a real person!

Here are the top 5 frequently asked questions of UX Agony Aunt:

How do I (insert task here) in the Optimal Workshop suite of tools?

Approximately half of the questions I get asked relate to the Optimal Workshop tools themselves. That's OK, there are no wrong doors here! Most of the time these questions can be answered quite quickly and are often responded to in an email rather than a blog to get you the support you need ASAP so you can get back to being awesome! Sometimes a question that will give me a chance to share something really cool about the tools and add value to the whole UX community finds its way into my inbox and those responses end up on the blog. I've been using these tools for years — long before I met the OW team! I love them (the people are pretty great too!) and I really enjoy sharing ideas and examples of what the Optimal Workshop suite of tools is capable of.

If you do need a hand using the tools, feel free to ask me and if you haven’t already, be sure to check out The Learn Hub for even more useful resources!

How do I get into a career in UX?

I’m quite passionate about mentoring and career development and these type of questions make my day every time. Sometimes it’s a newbie fresh out of school looking to get into UX, other times it’s someone working in a complementary field looking to move across, and there’s been a few people already in the UX space looking to change focus or direction e.g., a front-end developer looking for a change.

Help! My workplace culture needs an overhaul! How do I deal with this?

These questions cover a fairly broad spectrum of issues. From workplaces who are still learning the value of UX and just need a little education, all the way to toxic cultures and multiple tales of ageism — I've heard it all. The tame end of this scale almost always presents an opportunity for positive cultural change while the scary end is something I find incredibly worrying and quite disappointing, especially when other UXers are responsible! Cut the crap and be kind to each other. Don’t make me come over there.

I've got two different designs — how do I choose?

The answer to these questions almost always centres around the need for user research. All the best practices, guesstimates and expert opinions in the world will not help you determine which approach is best for your users. Talk to them. Don’t tell me you can’t afford it/don’t have time/don’t know how/don’t have approval. User research is scalable and it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to do. There are MANY techniques out there to pick and choose from to tailor a research approach that falls within resource constraints. It’s the only way you’re going to know what actually works and if you don’t do it, you’ll find yourself in this exact same position somewhere down the line and that’s expensive!

How do I tell Jane* from Accounts that I have feelings for her?

Yes. You read that correctly. Despite the U and the X at the start of my name, I do occasionally get asked to weigh in on relationship issues just like the Agony Aunts of yore. The first time it happened my first thought was that a good friend of mine clearly needs to find himself a hobby, but it turned out to be totally legit. I'm always happy to help a person solve their office romance conundrums, but I'm so much better at UX!

*Name has been changed

My favourite question?

This one.

What’s your favourite UX Agony Aunt blog so far?

Ashlea McKay
  • Ashlea McKay
  • Ashlea McKay is a user experience designer (UX), researcher and writer with a background in industrial design. Her experience spans both the public and private sectors and she is an internationally respected industry thought leader and conference speaker. Ashlea loves conducting user research because she learns something new every day and enjoys understanding what makes users tick. Ashlea is also passionate about mentoring and is heavily involved in the UX community at large. She regularly writes articles for well-known UX publications and is the co-founder and voice behind UX advice column, UX Agony Aunt. In her spare time, Ashlea enjoys colouring in and adding to her extensive LEGO collection.

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