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Thoughts on User Experience Intensive 2013

At the beginning of November, I was fortunate to be able to participate in Adaptive Path’s User Experience Intensive (UXI for short). The event consisted of four solid days of workshop-infused learning, where we covered new design principles and tools for design strategy, design research, service design, and interaction design.

Now that I've had a month to let UXI sink in, I wanted to reflect a bit on what I learned, and on the format of the event.

Workshop Learning

Each day during UXI, we worked as teams with whoever was sitting at your table (teams of 5-8). Together, we brainstormed, mapped, and built prototypes. Each day, we had about four exercises to do as a team which helped us solidify our learning experience and internalize some of the concepts we were learning. This tactile, hands-on approach to learning new skills really worked well and was especially well-suited to learning in the design field. Some of these skills are hard to practice, so having pre-devised scenarios that gave us the right information to practice each new skill was really helpful.

The Value of Teams

One of the most valuable things I got out of UXI was the experience of getting to work with designers from around the nation (and world!). By deliberately placing myself in a new group of people each day, I got a chance to experience working with different personalities and backgrounds. For me, this was the first time I’ve really had a chance to work with with groups of other designers. On my team at SWS, I am the solo designer, and although I’ve worked to build my network of colleagues in the design field and had some opportunities for collaboration across units, from a day-to-day perspective, I don’t get to collaborate with other designers as much as I’d like. So UXI gave me a great opportunity to think about how I might fit into a larger team of designers and possibly take on a leadership role.

All that said, I also realized how fortunate I am to have a close-knit team that cares about user experience at every level. From developer to project manager, UX is core on our team and it is a joy to work in that kind of environment. I realized that I don't need to work on a team of designers to get the kind of feedback I need from my team, it's all about how you ask for that feedback and structure your conversations. Working with other designers at UXI helped me see some of the "shortcuts" us designers use to communicate to each other, but there is nothing special there that can't be brought into diverse team situations. It's just about learning new methods for communicating.

Service design workshop example

Example of one of the service design artifacts my team made...

Service Design

The most interesting part of UXI for me was the day on Service Design. As we move to a more cross-platform, multi-channel world, designers are no longer just responsible for the look and feel of one product. Our products are now becoming services, and it is the experience of the whole service that influences our customers. I find myself more and more interested in this approach to design, where the big picture is present and influences the micro-interactions. But to make this work, designers need to take a more active role in the business, engaging in strategic discussions and helping to define the goals of the organization as a whole. We can’t do this in a silo, and sadly as I learned from many of my fellow UXI participants, many companies still approach design in this way, isolating it from development, from marketing and operations. However, it did sound to me that companies are now more and more seeing the value of design at the core of their business. This is a huge mind shift, but it is happening, and as we move towards a more design-focused business model, we have more of a chance to participate in service design.

For me, going forward, I am formulating a plan to apply these new skills I learned from UXI, and particularly a service design approach to my work with Stanford Web Services. The more we can, as designers, understand the business as a whole and tie our strategic design work into business goals, the more opportunities we will have to practice a service design approach.

To conclude, I would highly recommend UXI to any designer looking to build their toolkit, expand their designer network, and move into doing more strategic design work. Learn more at http://ux-intensive.com