7 ‘Oldie Goldie’ UX resources that still help me in my career today

7 Oldie goldies: resources that helped me in UXR and facilitation

Without having any UX experience, I was appointed as “UX and Research manager” in 2007 (a long story, which I won’t bore you with). It was the start of a career in human-centred design that has very much been about learning-by-doing. And about (frantically) looking for practical resources.  

Over the years I collected articles and links to videos and presentations in my ‘resources folder’. I hadn’t looked at its contents for a while and decided it was time for a clean-up. Funny how going through it brought back all kinds of memories. I realised some of these articles, videos or presentations really helped me at a certain point in my career. I have more or less internalised them. So I wanted to share them with you, along with a few thoughts. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but hey, so is my career.

Here are seven resources that stayed with me, in order of (approximate) year of publication:

1. Prioritizing usability issues in a way that everyone understands (2009)

A go or no-go decision. Back in 2015 my co-worker and I were running a usability test on a newly designed iPad app. We were to present the results to senior management, who would then decide whether or not to delay the launch. We found plenty of usability issues. How we rated the severity of these issues would have a big impact, and therefore and might be questioned.

Hence, I was delighted to find this article with a ‘severity level decision tree’. As the author states: “Having a standard process for defining severity means that you can be consistent in the way you assign severity and means that you provide the transparency needed for people to check your work.” We used the decision tree and included it in our presentation to explain our process. It worked a treat. If you’re wondering: the launch got delayed. www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/prioritise.html

2. Persona categories and prioritization (2009)

There seem to be persona-lovers and persona-sceptics. I personally feel personas can have real value, if created and used correctly. This handy little article, based on About Face 2.0 by Alan Cooper, showed me two things. One is that you should distinguish between primary and secondary personas. Your primary personas are the ones your design will focus on. Depending on the size of your project you should have no more than 1 to 3 primary personas. That way, personas can really bring focus and be used as a prioritization tool in the design process.

The other is the useful concept of ‘negative personas’. Cooper defines negative personas as those who are not the target of the design. But you could also employ this label for those who use a product or service with bad intent. This helps you see if your design could do harm. Such as Messenger’s Live Location tracking being used by a stalker.

3. What matters in Journey Mapping (2000 something)

Journey maps used to daunt me. I associated them with beautifully designed, complicated, posters. I was trying to get more comfortable with journey mapping when I found this workshop presentation. It showed me how you could create an effective journey map with sticky notes. I realised that it did not require InDesign skills and that journey maps could be co-created with non-designers.

Equally valuable for me was that the presentation made me understand why we map journeys. How they fit into the design process. It taught me about identifying ‘critical moments’ and digging deeper into these to find better solutions. As Marc Stickdorn has so eloquently stated: “a journey map is not a ****ing deliverable.”
The link that I had saved now unfortunately throws up a 404. I can only find abbreviated versions of that original workshop presentation. Here is one of them (see slides 8-17):

4. A great example of reframing (2012)

During one of the talks at UX Australia the presenter showed this video to explain the concept of ‘reframing’. I never forgot it. When faced with the design challenge of making it easier for elderly people to use mobile phones, most ideas centre on changing the phone. Bigger buttons, less functionality, those sorts of things. This video shows an idea that won Best Concept at the 2012 Interaction Awards. You can change the design of the phone, or you can do this:

5. Strategize, execute, assess (2014)

I was creating a work portfolio and struggling to find a logical way to group my projects. Then I remembered this article, which is actually about when to use which research method. It includes an overview of methods mapped to the phase of product development and its associated objectives: determining a direction (strategize), optimising designs (execute) or measuring performance (assess).

Strategize, execute, assess – it provided a great structure to showcase my experience. I’ve found it is also a good way to explain the purpose of different types of research to non-researchers.


6. Practical Service Blueprinting Guides (2015)

I had started a new job and was asked to facilitate my first service blueprinting workshop. It was going to be with 12 engineers (all male) and no co-facilitator. Needless to say, I wanted to be well prepared. I was very grateful to come across the practical service design website. It let me download a Practical Service Blueprinting Guide and even a Blueprinting Facilitator guide.

I now often use a simpler template in my workshops (and add how much time a step takes) but I still refer to this website for inspiration.
www.practicalservicedesign.com and www.practicalservicedesign.com/the-guide

7. Empathy: Doug Dietz’s emotional TEDx talk (2012)

OK, chronologically this shouldn’t be listed last, but it is a bit of an odd one out. It’s not a practical resource but an emotional one. It makes me love human-centred design. If you have a spare 20 minutes and want to feel inspired, watch Doug Dietz talk about transforming healthcare for children and their families. To me, this is what design thinking is about. Warning to empaths: you might need tissues.

To stay with the oldie goldie theme: That’s all folks! I really enjoyed putting this together, I hope reading it brought you something too.

miXture: a blog that shares insights from different human-centred design disciplines

Maaike Mintjes

Maaike is a Design Researcher and Co-creation Facilitator. She also provides training and coaching. She has worked in the field of human-centred design since 2007, both in Australia and The Netherlands. She loves using design thinking to build bridges between research insights and design outcomes.

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