26 June 2015

How designers can earn a seat at the table

Spot on from Marc Hemeon in this AMA on how designers can earn a seat at the table and gain more influence. I thought all of his answers were really good but this stood out to me.

Hello Noam!!! Damn. Excellent question!

For context here folks, Noam is an incredible human, founder who exited to YouTube, where he became the Director of Product for YouTube and was responsible for many consumer facing parts of YouTube.

As you know, I have always struggled with wanting to have more influence in a company as a designer, at YouTube I always felt the PMs had much more power than the designers and I would get frustrated more designers werent mentioned in the press when a redesign would roll out or a new feature would be talked about – I always wanted a list of designers and engineers names attached to these articles as well. For example this Wired article has a photo of you, Kurt, Nundu and AJ only 🙁 http://www.wired.com/2012/08/500-million-youtube-channels/ When that article came out it bruised my ego a bit – I felt I had a ton of influence on the YouTube leanback experience and wanted some accolades. I realize now how immature and wrong my attitude was.

I now have a massive appreciation for the amount of work it takes in an organization to create new products and features, especially at large companies like YouTube and Google. Heck, even at small companies like North (just 5 full time people) – we can’t do anything without each other. There really is no room for entitled credit hogs who are just in it for their own ego and increase in social capital.

Designers can earn and maintain a seat at the table a few ways: 1. Be easy to work with and listen to everyones feedback (no matter how whacky it is). Don’t raise a ton of objections when you listen, take notes and truly listen.

Have an opinion. Never criticize a product or UX feature without at least having an alternative to present and share. No one likes a complainer

Present design ideas in the way your stakeholders need to hear them. Do you need to do a 1:1? through it in a keynote presentation? Get buy in from your UX Director first before sharing with others? Do you need to print everything out? Do you need to make a prototype? Every company culture is a bit different and all humans learn differently – I have seen a ton of good designs get looked over because they were communicated poorly. Take the time to flex your communication style in a way others can understand.

Actually solve the problem – don’t just make it look pretty, solve the darn UX problem! I’ve found everyone can get behind a smart UX solution. Designers tend to try to solve design problems with shiny UI and not UX

Give others credit – No designer creates in a vacuum, they are influenced by everyone on the team – nothing worse than someone standing up saying “I solved our sharing UX with this new feature” – better to say – I’ve been working closely with Kevin, Caleb, Jonathan and Ryan on a better way to share articles”

Always follow up and hit your deadlines – if you tell someone you are going to mock up an idea then mock it up! even forgetting to follow through one time hurts your credibility.

Get behind company style guides and existing heuristics – soooo many designers, when they first get to a company want to just redesign everything – chill the F out and take it all in first and understand why things are the way they are – being careful of course not to fall for group think as expressed with the monkey and banana story (read more here: http://johnstepper.com/2013/10/26/the-five-monkeys-experiment-with-a-new-lesson/)

Drink Water

Not sure if I fully answered the question – hahahhahaha