Highlights from my Panel Discussion "User vs. Designer"

I recently sat on a panel of design leaders at the Digital Design & Innovation Summit in San Francisco to discuss "User vs. Designer", a constant debate within UX/Product teams. Our discussion was lively as we are often faced with decisions that sometimes come from the gut, while some are heavily guided by data and research. Below are a few topics I raised to help guide our discussion.

Product Vision

Designers are at the heart of listening to users and better articulating their needs, but to what point? A clear vision for a product needs to balance a shift in consumer expectations and historical behavior with solving problems that continue to evolve due to technological, environmental and social change.

Depending on the type of user, you may need to augment behavior in order to deliver a better user experience.

What are the immediate and long-term strategies of the business?

At any phase of product development you must ask what it is that you can prioritize and optimize to the user for each release, while balancing the long-term business objectives. These can be very dynamic as you introduce a new product to the market

  • What is the target market?
  • Is the product targeting an existing base, or are there other elements involved, like new market segments, goals for changing brand perception, targeted growth?

How stakeholders interpret user research/feedback:

Always a healthy argument: how different stakeholders interpret research and the appropriate language to use when sharing and educating business partners.

  • When is it right to make an assumption vs. analyzing qualitative/quantitative data?
  • What is the correct sample size for valid feedback?
  • Have they been exposed to any biases?
  • Is the feedback from the right user?
  • How was the information gathered?
  • How were the results shared to stakeholders?

Establishing a relationship with users

You can’t just listen to users at the beginning of a project or once a project is shipped. If you want better arguments to guide design decisions, you must involve users throughout the entire journey.

Digital Design & Web Innovation Summit, San Francisco - Sept 25, 2014

Other panelists included:

Michael Forsythe, Senior Product Designer @ Groupon; David Schell, Director, UX & Design @ Pearson; Robert Suarez, Director, Design & Innovation @ Singularity University