Interaction Design, User Experience, and Media Art

Moving towards user experience

Posted on 2012-12-31

Overlapping Venn diagrams showing a path from human-focused to tech-focused

A couple of years ago Malcom Gladwell presented what he dubbed the 10,000 hours rule, which explains that for one to become proficient with a skill, 10,000 hours have to be invested into that skill. Oddly, most tech journalists and bloggers seem to take this for gospel. I’m not going to dissect and argue against Gladwell here, but rather I have a different perception of his argument. I believe that if I invest this much of myself into a certain unique skill, I’m going to grow bored of it and I will need to move on.

I have been developing and coding for approximately this long, it’s time to move in a different direction.

Oftentimes when trying to explain to clients and colleagues that even though I am good at coding, I do not care for it as much as I care for what the user experiences. Even clients, faced with my technical knowledge, wanted to push me towards back-end coding, which has nothing to do with visuals or interfaces, and thus is of no interest to me.

When I stumbled upon the diagram above, it made so much sense to me! It was so clear that I could then illustrate to people, even those who have no technical knowledge, what I do and where I what I am aiming to do. I need to move towards the left side of that diagram, and not the right side!

Don’t let them put you into a box

I have never been a fan of simply being told what to do without seeing the big picture. This is why I always strived to be included in every step of a project, from the brief to the strategy, from the design to the production.

However, not everyone is at ease with that. I once had a manager that was displeased because I wanted to take the time to sketch out storyboards, he thought that our department should only have cared about development, and that storyboarding should only be done by information architects or designers. I think it was short sighted, if I knew the assets I required to build the project and knew how to share the requirements efficiently, why stay confined into the limited description of a job position?

Another time in another place, a director of production had just been hired. He was in charge of the producers/project managers as well as the technical department. From then on, he chose to limit our input to only technical things, we were not to be part of the creative brainstorms. Why would removing the people who build the creative experiences from the creation process be a good idea?

I recently spoke with a friend about expanding or reorienting my service offer, and he suggested that I should choose one specialty, and stick with only this one, rather than many. He thought being technical, creative, strategy- and user-oriented were too many things at once.

A university teacher of mine once said that we should aim to become like the scholars of the Renaissance and try to learn as much as we can from every field. And that is what I want to do, no matter if others feel threatened because they are comfortable with only one specific skill. Too often have we heard stories of specialists, whether they are developers or factory workers, that are rendered useless once a new trend appears.

Updated service offer

Sketches in a notebook

With all that in mind, I reorient my service offer towards user experience rather than front end development. Fabricio Teixeira dubbed the person with a multidisciplinary approach to the field the UX chameleon and I find that image quite apt.

As a user experience consultant, I intend to use my technical knowledge and experience to suggest smart strategies in using technologies to appropriately answer the needs of the user, rather than simply pushing for the latest tech buzzword. I can create documents to help others get a clear understanding of the goals to reach. I aim to work more upstream in the creation process: analyze the client’s brief and then work with the strategy and the creative teams.

I have already been drawing sketches, creating user flows and building information architecture for a while, now I am pushing this side of my aptitudes as my main service offer.

One response to “Moving towards user experience”

  1. […] the visually creative side of my abilities, and concentrated on the more technical ones. I know this contradicts what I once said, but only a fool does not change his mind. Being part of a big team, working on technical things, […]

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