Solving wicked problems with panache.

Panel 1

Empathize

My training as an anthropologist enhances my ability to empathize with the user. I utilize methods such as ethnography, participant observation and contextual inquiry to get as close to experiencing the world through their eyes as possible. In doing so, I go on an inner journey from an etic (outsider) to an emic (insider) perspective, pausing for moments of self-reflection to better understand where my experience ends and the user’s begins.

Panel 2

Define

The user

We can’t accurately design a solution before correctly diagnosing the problem. And we can’t fully understand user needs without properly defining the user. Being able to accurately define the user is incumbent upon strong research to adequately “walk a mile in their shoes” so to speak. I achieve this understanding through a synthesis of both high and low level research techniques, like contextual interviews and lit reviews. From personas to empathy and journey mapping, to affinity boards and flowcharts.

User needs

Through research and experiential empathizing, I go on a needfinding mission to determine the greatest problem that the constraints of the project will allow me to build support for through my solution.

The problem statement

When you can accurately depict the user, and understand their needs, you can use that knowledge to craft a clear and concise problem statement to serve as the vision with which your team can organize around.

Panel 3

Ideate

Now comes the fun part. I employ a variety of lone and collaborative ideation techniques with the goal of enumerating a wide array of divergent potential ideas. From brainstorming with my team or key stakeholders, to braindumping/writing before bed, I sketch and storyboard ideas.

Ultimately, I’m a storyteller, and I constantly use analogies to illustrate my ideas in compelling ways. In this respect, I view divergent ideation as Michelangelo viewed the block of marble: the design solution is hidden, waiting to be revealed by the designer much as the sculpture is waiting for the sculptor to chisel away at the superfluous material.

Panel 4

Prototype | Testing

Prototyping is crucial for any design. The earlier a prototype can constructed and used to get feedback from the user, the sooner the biggest course corrections can be implemented into the design solution. Good prototyping is a skilled craft unto itself. I utilize mixed methods to generate the best results for the project. These methods range from low to high fidelity can come in the form of rapid paper prototyping to fully interactive digital prototypes using tools like XD.

User testing is imperative to good UX design and the ROI for UX as a whole. Testing prototypes with actual users produces products that require less tinkering after release. It’s far cheaper and easier to tweak sketches, wireframes and prototypes than it is to tweak a product after launch. Utilizing UX, a design team can learn what doesn’t work and abandon it before the development phase rather than after. Some of my preferred methods are contextual inquiry, card-sorting, guerilla testing, phone interviews and session recording.