User Experience as a Culture
More than be sure about what is the best palette of colours or if the call to action button is properly highlighted, I think we should ask ourself if UX Design is part of the product core, if we are indeed putting user's needs and opinion in the building process since the beginning and trough the product's life cycle.
Empathize, empathize and empathize again
When I started as a volunteer for Greenpeace — in 2005 — my main role was to talk to people on streets and spreed the message about environment problems, possible solutions and how people could engage.
I was only 16 years-old and didn’t really know a lot about communication, but I already knew that to engage people we need to understand their deep motivations and what was the best vocabulary to connect with different people. Today I see that those days talking to people on streets, parks and fairs taught me that we need to be open-minded and honestly aim to empathize with people.
Back at that time we didn’t talk a lot about mindset as we talk nowadays. But what is mindset? According to the Cambridge Dictionary it is a person’s way of thinking and their opinions. However, User Experience Design is about to understand those opinions and way of think, but it goes even deeper. UX Design is about solve real problems, understand users’ motivations and how to connect a product or service to an user in a way that seems natural to the user. So it is not about what an UX Designer thinks is the right thing to do, but it is about understand what is needed and what motivate this need or desire to solve the user's pain.
My first conversation about UX Design was about digital products, but for me this was more than digital products, for me I saw the core of UX Design as a culture that should be part of any product/service development process, digital or not. It is truth that the concept of User Experience Design got known and celebrated in the tech companies scenery back in the 90’s, but its history is further longer as Jakob Nielsen wrote in the article A 100-Year View of User Experience and will only growth more, Jakob even predicted that there will be 100 million UX professionals in the world by 2050. This corresponds to 1% of the world’s population.
I believe that this prediction is not only about UX professionals acting in the digital market, although it is growing faster and faster with many different device such as wearables like smart clocks, VR devices, AR devices, VUE (voice user experience ) as Alexia or Siri and the growth of the number of people around the world having access to a smartphone, there is much more necessity of UX professionals to work in other markets that start to perceive the high value of the comprehension of their users motivations and pains.
A great example you can see in the article for Adobe Creative Cloud wrote by Allen Smith about how Electrolux applied UX Design methods to understand better their users in tasks that might look simple as doing the dish. They developed the QuickSelect Eco-Indicator, which is a user interface that prioritises the most environmentally friendly way of doing dishes.
It takes about three hours, that it is fine since they identify in their research that families do the dish at night, and saves a tremendous amount of water and energy in the process. So they created a positive user experience in the process and the consumer’s electricity and water bill will be lower in the end. So this is only one good example that good UX Design can go further than digital products, it is a culture that can reach digital markets, non-digital markets, private sector, public sector, education, health industry, environment initiatives and I can go on and on with the list.
Not to talk about the COVID19 pandemic that hit us as global society and forced us to a social distance and to learn how to live in this new conditions, not only for families locked at home, but for companies that had to run to connect with their users in a more digital way, to keep their teams ”together” even apart and find another business model. This is only the beginning of a transition for a more connected world and as an UX profissional there is a responsibility from an ethic point of view to make it in the best way possible, respecting eight pillars, as Lennart Overkamp wrote in his article Daily Ethical Design, which are usability, accessibility, privacy, user involvement, persuasion, focus, sustainability and society.
Ethical Design as a principle
Not Aral Balkan and Laura Kalbag talk about Ethical Design in they initiative Indeo. I agree with they application of Maslow Hierarchycal Needs to their Ethical Design Manifesto, it is about to conciliate the different needs of a person with technology, building bridges for people to reach technology that will improve their life, not to use people to ear more money just looking for higher profits.
So day by day, observing the world around me, I strongly reinforce the believe that UX Design is a culture and it is taking the world not by force, but because we really need to look at the users and understand them. Always remembering that any tool, technology or initiative can have the good, the bad and the ugly side. It is up to us to choose a path and to take accountability for the consequences (positives or negatives) of our actions and decisions.
Are we any close of a good scenery? I don't think so. Now society is starting to open their eyes to the possible problems and this is happening mainly on developed countries. In countries on development and under developed people are just starting to learn and perceive how technology can make their life easier or even become a problem. We, as a world society, have still a lot to learn.
Let's learn together and build the bests bridges between people and technology!