Upcoming Presentation: The Unicorn Is Dead

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be giving a presentation at the EvolveUX 2016 Conference on June 16 in San Francisco. The talk title is “The Unicorn Is Dead: Soft Skills Trump Coding Skills” and I’m fairly confident it’s going to spark some lively discussion.

Here’s the summary:

Good news everyone! UX salaries are up! Hiring is strong! So why are so many UX’ers still feeling like they have to fight for a seat at the grown-up table?

Is it because we’re not unicorns? That is, we’re not all UX researchers, designers AND front-end developers?

Nope. That’s not the reason.

Here’s why: UX’ers love to explore design and solution spaces. It’s what we do. Some of us even like (or at least don’t hate) to code. It’s never been easier, with frameworks, libraries and so many proven patterns for web and mobile.

But as a community of practice, we’re not so good at critical competencies such as:

  • Articulating an experience vision, aligning it with the business’s product vision, and also subtly influencing the product vision through user research dissemination.
  • Keeping up the slow, steady, often frustrating work of organizational change and alignment around user needs.

So what’s the fix? It’s deceptively simple: UX practitioners need to learn to play better with our neighboring disciplines, learn to “manage up” as well as borrow some techniques from our partners in product management. We need to develop our organizational influence skills, aka soft skills.

That is, we need to:

  • Learn how to develop strategic vision and implementable tactical action plans that align with our organization’s goals.
  • Internalize the fact that at least half of our job is to be change agents, and act accordingly.

Attendees of this talk will learn more about:

  • What specific soft skills UX managers are desperately looking for in their contributors.
  • How practitioners and those who train them can begin to address this need.

I’m really looking forward to this presentation. It’s the culmination of many years of thinking about and exploring the disconnect between what early career UX practitioners /think/ they need to learn and what UX managers and peers in adjacent disciplines actually /need/ UX’ers to know.

Here’s a 15% discount code if you’d like to join me and other great speakers June 14-16 in San Francisco: EVOLVEPS15

Upcoming: The Onboarding UX – Cleveland, June 23

On June 23 I’ll be giving a presentation at UXPA Cleveland on the onboarding user experience. Talk title is “How Not To Suck At Onboarding: Patterns and Anti-Patterns Explored” and I’ll be, well, here’s the blurb from their event calendar:

What’s with the relative lack of love for user onboarding among UX practitioners? So many of us researchers and designers focus on creating great product and service experiences, yet we often give scant attention to one of the most important parts of the user experience: the critical phases between the time when someone first installs or signs up and when they’ve incorporated your offering into some aspect of their life. 

Paul Sherman will provide you with ammunition you can use to sell the value of user onboarding design in your organization, as well as sharing some great, good, and not-so-good examples of user onboarding experience design from around the web and mobile. 

If you’re near Cleveland on June 23, stop by!

Resource: Rapid Contextual Innovation Process Guide

A few months ago I updated and released a process guide for implementing a rapid contextual innovation program. Because I value open culture, I’ve released it under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The guide includes an overview of how organizations can conduct ongoing rapid innovation using UX methods and product management best practices. As you might expect, the process guide incorporates some concepts covered by Lean and Agile UX proponents.

Get it here: Rapid Contextual Innovation: How To Start And Run A Customer Value-Driven New Product Development Program


More On UX And Innovation

Sarah Bloomer, founder of UX Managers Circle, just published my article on using UX research methods to set up and drive rapid contextual innovation programs.

This is basically a continuation and expansion of the topics I covered at the UX Strategies Summit in June. My main point, and I’m quoting myself here, is this:

UX techniques such as contextual inquiry can be adapted and expanded to become the basis for observation-based customer value discovery and innovation development.

Enjoy and feel free to reach out to me with comments.

What’s On My UX Reading List This Week

Over the past few weeks I’ve been saving up some UX-related articles to read later.

On the theory that I’ll actually follow through if I publicly commit to it, here’s what I’m fixin’ to clear off my guilt pile this week:

Good Article On Why We Still Need Personas

While reconnecting with my colleague Jan Moorman, now a UX researcher at Walmart eCommerce, I found an article she and another practitioner wrote about personas. The main points definitely bear repeating:

  • Half-baked and research-free personas can do more harm than good.
  • To be truly useful, personas should be based on actual research and should focus on “goals, motivations, and expectations.”
  • Ground your personas with (relevant) details from real users.
  • Evangalize your personas.

Regarding points 2 and 3: I’ve always felt that personas containing extraneous personal detail (“Dale is a yoga practitioner who likes skeet shooting and extreme chess and dotes on his 3 bichon frise puppies”) can actually be off-putting instead of empathy-generating. And I’ve also strived to annotate my personas with user profiles to connect them to the raw data. So I was pleased to see them advocating for this as well.

As far as evangelizing personas…well, you’re reading the blog of a guy whose UX team at a former company laminated their user personas and distributed them to the executive team. So yeah.

Love, Hate, and Empathy: Why We Still Need Personas  ::  UXmag



The UX Kit Has Been Updated. Get It Now.

I’ve updated the UX Kit with some good stuff. What’s new? How about:

  • Updated all the UX position descriptions.
  • Added two new position descriptons – UX Strategist and Content Strategist / Information Designer.
  • (At long last) Added a section discussing how UX and Agile processes can work together.
  • Updated the salary info per the 2014 UXPA Salary Survey.

I also updated the Creative Commons license to Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Which means all this sweet sweet content is yours to use and modify as you see fit.

Please enjoy and share.