For the past 10 weeks I've met with Magnus every other week to talk about design and UX. Magnus' situation isn't that different from what I assume many of your situations may be like; he's the only designer in a fairly large organization. The organization completely agrees and understands the value of focusing on the user... but then life happens. You know the dance - sprint plans, features that need to ship, and, of course, KPI's that need to be met.
What we've worked for the past weeks is to setup up his organization for success by focusing on the user experience. As I've mentioned in previous articles, the user experience is always a joint effort. While you might have a UX designer, a UX lead, or someone else responsible for certain areas, it's impossible to create a great user experience without full team alignment and commitment.
So we've setup a plan to get alignment on what they believe defines a great user experience and what they think is important (and similarly, what's not important). We've designed small exercises that can be done in pairs for basic user research and ways to sketch out possible solutions. This is something that everyone on their team must do - not just designers.
We had our final session this Friday and one of the things Magnus mentioned in his feedback really stuck with me. He said that outside of the help in getting alignment internally, he had really enjoyed just having someone to talk to about these things. While I think this would have been the case in a more normal scenario, I can't help but think that the feeling of "having someone to talk to" is even more important now. Designer or not, this year is different for everyone compared to what most of us ever experienced before.
As Tim Cook recently said:
Work can’t solve for all the things we’re missing right now, but a shared sense of purpose goes a long way. A belief that we can do more together than we can alone, that people of good will, driven by creativity and passion and that certain itch of a big idea, can still do things that help other people in our own small way to teach, to learn, to create, or just to relax at a time like this. Even as the things we make require us to operate at the very cutting edge of technology, in materials, products, and ideas that didn’t exist just a few years ago, this year has forced us to face plainly the things that make us human — disease, resilience, and hope.Tim Cook
Some weeks ago I shared some personal news on Twitter. This year has been challenging on so many levels; COVID, the loss of my long trusted dog, and a divorce. Through all of this, I've been receiving a ton of emotional support from friends and family and it has made me realize how much we need the support of one another.
We spend hours, days, weeks, and months discussing and refining the perfect user experience for an app, yet we're not that great in designing the experiences of our own lives? One thing COVID has proven is that we need our physical connections and the emotional support of one another.
So do me one favor, reach out to someone you haven't talked to in a while and ask them how they're doing. Tell them that you value them. And here's my offer: if you ever want to talk, you can always email me... I will answer.