The UX of UX in Teams

I often hear fellow UX people complaining that they’re misunderstood on their team, or at the company they work for. But it’s hard for me to feel any pity. After all, your entire job is about making things easy to use. So make yourself and your work easy to use, too.

Here are some ways I make UX easy to use on my team:

  1. Use UX-speak, but explain terminology

    UX is so academically-driven. It’s no wonder there are tons of terms that people don’t readily understand, like cognitive load, mental models, affordance and information architecture. Even worse are the acronyms flying about; IA, UI, UX/D, IX and so on. It’s crazy to expect people to know this stuff. I can barely keep track of them myself.

    So what I do is simple: explain what the hell I’m talking about. If I use some crazy UX term, I just talk a little bit about what it means to me, and what I mean when I use it. Usually, colleagues and others enjoy learning something, and then use it themselves (which makes my job easier).

  2. Limit creations that require explanation

    Stop designing wireframes that show half real content and half mock content; that would be confusing for anyone. Don’t polish your wireframes so much that they’d be nice enough to use as the actual design. Writing a User Test Plan? Speak like a normal human, and assume your readers have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about (#protip: they don’t).

    Instead, make your wireframes look like they’re a fleeting (but brilliant) thought that just had to be captured on a napkin while you were in line at Starbucks. Abstract mediums. When I say “abstract”, I mean it as the verb, not the adjective. Disassociate the final medium of your planning deliverable from the final medium of the actual product. So if you’re planning the UI of a website, no one’s going to mistake a napkin sketch for the actual design because it’s not even digital. People understand that.

  3. Explain your thinking (to yourself) first

    Before heading into a meeting or making a presentation, organize your UX thoughts in a way that makes them linear and easy to understand. I know, obvious right? Yep. It should be. But don’t even get me started.

    If you can’t even explain your UX thing to yourself, how the heck is anyone else supposed to understand it? Even UX heads have trouble traversing this academia. Before presenting anything, make sure an 8-year-old can grasp it’s meaning.

  4. Keep it short / TL;DR / Organize

    I’m the worst offender with this one, but it’s true. People don’t read long shit. They just don’t. If they do, they read like they read Macbeth in 30 minutes before the 8am test the next day of High School… which is to say, they “technically” read it, but probably came out with less comprehension than when they started.

    Keep it short. But also organize your shit. Use titles, headings, lists, nested lists, tables, graphs, charts. Okay, I got a little carried away. Don’t actually use graphs and charts. Only use tables if you’re feeling sentimental. But really, we’ve had lists and headings for a LONG time. Learn how to properly use them. If you use them well to organize content in a document, the whole thing will be easier to scan and read.

  5. Make yourself usable

    In general, your brilliant UX work is only as good as how well you’re able to communicate it. And not just to the marketing department, but to design and development as well. Be mindful of where colleagues have misunderstood you, get to the bottom of it, and address it specifically.