Five questions UX employers should be asking

July 23, 2018

If you know me, you know I’m not a big fan of the title UX-Designer. Maybe it’s due to there not being a defined educational path focused in UX Design or simply because the fact that the title itself is so loose it seems anyone can claim to do ‘UX-design’. I was recently talking to a colleague who mentioned that someone else on our team also ‘did UX-design’. I realized that in my new role, I was faced with a new reality that I had never thought about before -- how do I find out if someone on my team has strong UX-skills?

I’ve previously argued that everyone can recognize a great user experience because everyone knows when something feels intuitive, simple, and easy to use. The difference, of course, is it’s one thing to identify one and another thing entirely to create it.

As our project teams grow larger and larger and the projects we build grow in complexity, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand from a portfolio - or even an interview - what someone’s actual role was on the project was. Still when someone labels them as a Designer or an Art Director, we can look at the visual design and see if we like what we see. When someone references themselves as a copywriter or even a UX-writer, we can read the words and see how they fit with our idea of the brand. For UX-peeps, this is much harder. Things like research and interviews are often not open for the public eye and the deliverables - be it wireframes, design, or a strategy - doesn’t really tell you that much about the person’s thinking behind it all.

Doctors who contribute to the academic community, are personable, take a moment to bring emotional labor to their patient, invest in staff and training and put their office in a medical crossroads always do better than doctors who don’t.

And the same thing is true for the web designer who thinks the job is merely typing good code, or the restaurant owner who’s merely focused on the food. That’s important, but there’s more to the work than what’s in the typical job description.

Doing your job is not always the same as doing the work.
Seth Godin - But are you doing your work?

Have we been asking the wrong questions?

As companies value the importance of a good user experiences more, there are more positions opening up in these roles. Articles like The 7 Questions You’ll Be Asked at a UX Design Interview might cover the basics, but I don’t think the answers to those questions would really give me an idea of the quality of a candidate. Instead, what I’d look for is someone who can challenge my way of thinking. Now I’m never going to hire for my own company, but I’ve been part of the hiring process — at both ends of the table — on many occasions.

The questions below are ones that I believe would yield much more information about a potential co-worker and what they think about the work we’ll be doing together. As there are no right or wrong answers to any of these, it would be an opportunity to have honest discussion. Sharing my own thoughts would allow me to see if they would just agree with everything I say or if they will challenge me to make a better product. An interview should be an opportunity for both parties to determine a potential fit.

I’ve answered these honestly as if an interviewer had asked me them, but I welcome you to answer them for yourself and see how awesomely different we think:

What do you think is the most overlooked feature of a product?

Personally, I think it’s speed. I believe HOW a feature functions for the user is just as important as WHAT it does. Speed is the one feature that we value so highly that it can break our entire experience with a product. It can keep us from making a purchase, navigating through a website, or can even harm our view of a brand. The reason most people upgrade their phones? They think they’ve become sluggish. Turns out, iPhone users worldwide all seem to think their phones have become slower when there’s a new model on the market 🤔.

Where do you see a great opportunity to delight the user?

I’m a big fan of all products that take the time to craft a unique voice. I’ll take a fun corporate personality over a beautiful design any day of the week. Slack, as a product, might work well, but without its witty words and communications, I wouldn’t be a fan. Stripe and Dropbox are good examples of products that have their own unique voice while still staying professional and Mailchimp continues to delight with micro moments throughout the experience.

To what extent do you take accessibility into account when designing?

An estimated 15% of people worldwide have a wide spectrum of permanent or temporary visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments. Yet so many products use low-contrast typography, missing alt-captions for images or make tap targets too small. I’m proud of the work we did for the Municipality of Falkenberg - a beautiful website that’s still accessible to everyone.

This is a question that’s interesting to get people’s thoughts on what accessibility even is and if they understand the importance of it (most people will say it’s important, that doesn’t mean they’ll act by it).

Tell me about a product you really like the user experience of?

There are tools that offer a great user experience because they do one thing and they do that flawlessly.

I love how Dropbox stays out of my way while I work yet still does it job — keeping all of my files safe. It’s accessible from anywhere, from almost any device (computer, iPad, mobile), and it’s fast. Similarly, 1Password creates and stores super secure passwords for all the websites and services I sign up for and keeps them synced across my devices. If a device breaks or gets stolen, everything stays safe because it is backed up. It has my 2FA credentials, my contact information, and even credit cards! It’s basically a super secure digital wallet. It’s never in my way, but it’s always there when I need it.

What do you think is the most interesting area for the future of UX-designers?

Definitely voice input. Once the AI is good enough there will be a clear technological and social shift for sure. We’ve been used to using our fingers and hands since we started using tools and now we’re heading into a new era.

Between touchscreens and voice, most people in the future won’t even know how to touch-type, and typing will go back to being a specialist practitioner’s skill, limited to long-form authors, programmers, and (perhaps) antiquarian hipsters who also own fixies and roast their own coffee. My 2-year-old daughter will likely never learn how to drive (and every pedal-to-the-metal, “flooring it” driving analogy will be lost on her), instead issuing voice commands to her self-driving car. And she’ll also not know what QWERTY is, or have her left pinkie wired to the mental notion of the letter “Q,” as I do so subconsciously I reach for it without even thinking. Instead, she’ll speak into an empty room and expect the global hive-mind, along with its AI handmaidens, to answer.
How Podcasts and Voice Technology are Changing How We Navigate the World

Open for Everyone

These aren’t questions that should just be discussed within a UX-team or between designers. I think these questions are generic enough to understand everyone’s viewpoint. The only way to create a great user experience is to have everyone realize the importance of the experience. You might be the one responsible for making sure that it’s being carried through, but it’s up to everyone on your team to make it work.

Doberman, a highly successful product design agency in Sweden lets employees rotate into the management committee and lets all employees weigh in on the company budget.

We felt that the business world was kind of awkward, fitting people into roles but not really recognizing the capacity that talent has. So we said to ourselves what if real quality comes out of investing in your people?
From the Drawing Board to the Board Room

So why not spend the next lunch session or Monday morning meeting discussing these topics? People love to be included in the process and I think you’ll be amazed at some of the answers you’ll get!

It’s honest, authentic, and accessible.

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