As a User Experience practitioner, you learn about UX in school (even if it wasn't called UX), you improve your skills in practice by being part of project teams, and you update your knowledge at a UX conference or training. But what about the people around you? Where do Project Managers, Product Managers, Developers, Sales, QA, Strategists, and Managers learn about User Experience?
If only because of our position in the business process and our need for input by other roles, we need to learn the basic elements of other fields, such as business modeling, project management, coding, QA, and selling our projects. This is why, at several recent conferences, I've been talking about these so-called “More Elements of UX”.
Likewise, I think the people around us in our organizations should learn the basics of our field. They need to know for example why we insist on performing user research when we don't know what motivates potential users, why we create conceptual models of a system before diving into the details of its interactions, why sketches work for the initial phases of design, when visual designers needs to be brought into play, and how to best evaluate a design at different stages of design and implementation.
Why do they need to know? Well, how else can they help us plan the research, scope iterations, put together the right team, and track our progress? People in roles surrounding UX need to know about UX because their work influences how well User Experience practitioners can do their work.
Here are some examples of the influences that the people around us have on our work, and how we can contribute to the decisions that they need to make:
- A Project Manager's estimate codifies which aspects of your work get measured (“did you produce each of the estimated 15 wireframes?”). UX team members must indicate how they want their progress to be measured and also which aspects of a design influence its complexity.
- A Product Manager's vision statement determines what kinds of experiences you are asked to design (“Product X will feature branded experiences” versus “Product X uses well-known patterns”). UX team members can supply user research results and trend information to help shape the vision.
- A Developer can make or break a crucial interaction by influencing the responsiveness (““), but also determine the degree of openness of the entire system (“beautiful seams”). UX designers must indicate the priority of design principles, and have a feeling for the technical “umfeld” of the application.
- Sales has the power to create expectations about the solution (“We'll make you a state-of-the-art, Web 2.0 Banking Portal”), and about where you will spend your budget (“using stunning, award-winning photography”). UX practitioners should help in determining the most suitable offering and forumulate the associated end-user value, and should assist in writing the story that goes into the Sales presentation.
- Managers might determine how much progress you or your team need to make (“5% increase in quarter-on-quarter conversion”), which tools you have available (“we have licences for iRise and Visio”), and what process you should follow (“RUP” versus “Scrum”). The UX team must do regular self-inspections to determine its capabilities and needs, and negotiate the right resources.
Hopefully, you and your UX team will have some influence on most or even all of these “More Elements of UX” that also determine the User Experience.
But, to come back to the question in the title of this post, given that I want to share these thoughts with your Project Manager, your Product Manager, your Sales colleague, your Developer and QA teams, as well as your team's Manager, where should I go to meet them? What conferences do they attend? Which magazines do they read? What type of training do they sign up for? Have you been able to bring these colleagues to UX events? How did you convince them to come along? Have they invited you to their events?
Some examples of organizations and their events that I could go to, are:
- Project Management Institute – http://pmi.org
- Design Management Institute – http://dmi.org
- Forrester – http://www.forrester.com/
- MIT Sloan Sales conference – http://www.sloansalesconference.com/
- JavaOne - http://www.oracle.com/javaone
- QATest – http://www.qatest.org/
- and of course our own MX: Managing Experiences - http://mxconference.com/
But I could use some more pointers. I would love to hear how you think that, together, we can educate the people around the UX team about the influence we have on each other's work. Suggestions in the comments section are appreciated!