Thoughts of a UX mentor (part 2)


This post is a continuation to my previous post Thoughts from a UX mentor (part 1). This will list will likely grow.

Critique: Give and accept

Critique is a integral part of the design process. As a UX designer you will need to effectively and receive critique. This can be tough, especially if you are on the receiving end of things. When I was in Architecture school the ‘unofficial’ objective of students in the class was to deliver such harsh critique that other students would eventually drop out. The logic was this led to less competition that way. Yeah, we were young. Looking back this was all wrong and we really didn't understand the role of critique in design. Today, I view Critique as a type of critical thinking. It is a way of determining the direction of a design and how well the design meets the goals. Critique is tricky to do well and there are a bunch of things we should keep in mind to make it effective: Focus on the design goal Highlight strengths and weaknesses People will take it personally (including you) Remember that this should lead to a discussion Be constructive. Resource Tips: Discussing Design, Structured UX Design Critique (Lane Halley),  How to run a design critique

It is never going to be perfect - get used to it.

As much as you want, many of your designs wont be perfect. There wont be enough time, or budget, or the stakeholders are difficult and want it their way. This is hard for someone that has invested a lot of time in solving a problem, only for the solution to not be fully appreciated. The navy seal Adm. William H. McRaven sums this well when he describes the ‘sugar cookie’ part of Navy SEAL training.

For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand.

The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.

There were many a students who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right it never happened—it was unappreciated.'

Sometimes your designs will be a ‘sugar cookie’ .

Resource Tips: 10 Life Lessons from Basic Seal Training

Pass on the knowledge - the best way to learn is by teaching others

For me mentoring has been a great way to see things from a new (and younger) perspective and reflect over what I have learned in my career. Mentoring allows me, through the explanation of concepts to another person, discover gaps in my own knowledge (which turns out to be many) and a way of filling them.

Some years ago I discovered the work of Richard Feynman. Feynman had a gift for explaining science that was extremely effective. Feynman also developed a way of teaching yourself new concepts the I have found myself coming back to during mentoring.

Feynman's method has 4 basic steps :

Step 1. Choose the concept you want to understand. In the case of mentoring this is usually a question from an adept

Step 2. Pretend you’re teaching the idea to someone else. To do this, I need to take the perspective of teaching a new adept.  When you explain the idea this way you get a better idea of what you understand and where you might have some gaps.

Step 3. If you get stuck, go back to the book or source. Whenever you get stuck, go back to the source material and re-learn that part of the material until you get it enough that you can explain in a way an adept would understand. Often times this a book but frequently this also includes conversations with other UX persons.

Step 4. Simplify your language. The goal is to use your words, not the words of the source material. Generally if I find myself using large words I probably dont know it well enough and need to go back  - simple language is the key . By encouraging adepts to pass on what the know they are are developing themselves and helping others on their on UX journey.

Resource Tips: A great demo for the Feynman technique. Finally, I would like to thank my three adepts. I have learned a lot from you all. CMc