I answer questions about UX, Information Architecture and other topics on Quora. A selection of these answers will be reposted on Medium with occasional, minor editing for clarity. Following are selected questions I answered in October.
What is the most important thing in UX design?
As an in-house UX designer that is about to change a job, how do you update your portfolio? Do you add your in-house work/findings to it or work on other projects?
Good advice so far on creating a portfolio and getting permission to include materials. And also a reminder that even if you are not considering a change in jobs it is always a good idea to keep up to date on portfolio projects as they are completed so you don’t have to scramble to remember what you did months or years later when you decide to look for something new.
You still need to ask permission to include work in a personal portfolio, but a smart design department will understand the value of keeping a record of quality work performed as an example for future projects, staff, clients or the public. Even better if you can get your manager to let you present your work at an industry conference. Often slide decks are made available publicly via Slidesharre or the conference library, offering an additional record of your (and your company’s) best work.
Why is the term “user” in most IT books a female (at least in the web design related literature)?
One of the ways to develop empathy for your users when designing a product is to introduce stories, scenarios and personas that reflect a broad view of the types of users you are designing for, so that you can be sensitive to their needs within the category of users they represent. In writing, referring to the user with a female pronoun triggers empathy, not necessarily because it’s female but because it’s different, and therefore noticeable. We are rather used to the generic, male pronoun form in writing and even thinking about people in general, so when we see the female pronoun it strikes us as something noticeably different. We start to pay attention to “her” as a person and not just a generic “user.” It’s kind of a neat, and pretty subtle, psychological trick.
It seems weird that the same button initiates “publicly sharing” and ‘privately sending’ something on my phone. Is this a UX flaw?
If what you are referring to is the Share icon, the little box with an arrow pointing up, then think of it more as a “Process This” button instead of Share or Send. What it does is pass information about the item you are starting on to a program that will process it in some way. If you select a social program it will share it, if you select a file drive it will save it, if you select a mail client it will send it, if you select a password manager, it will give you the password, etc. in other words “Take this and do something with it.”
Where can I find great, award winning examples of UI design for responsive websites that are heavy on data (lots of tables, charts, graphs, et cetera)?
First, look at the awards. Here are some big ones:
Best Responsive Design Websites (Awwwards)
Next look at related awards that focus on info graphics, visualization or data science. (These may or may not be websites). Here are a couple:
Then look at “Best of” articles. They may not be Awards but are curated lists to get you inspired. Here’s the first one that came up in my search. There are dozens like this.
As a UX designer, how do you balance what is best for the user and what can realistically be developed? Do you compromise UX and push towards a deadline or do you fight for the user?
We do occasionally have deadlines or budget limitations that force a compromise among a list of needed UX improvements. You can prioritize improvements by applying a severity metric and choosing the ones that will have the most impact, saving others for later sprints. You can also prioritize the easier fixes, particularly those that provide data that support other improvements in a future sprint. If planned well, some of these fixes will improve traffic (or sales or flow) well enough to justify the next set of sprints. Ultimately as the UX designer, your influence may be limited to what you can convince the product team lead to decide. As long as you are advocating for the user, you are doing your job.