UX team of one

UX role tension

UX role tension

Over the last three months I’ve been working on a very exciting (and challenging) project as the sole UX person. The start-up product we’re designing targets a niche market sector. Our product team is made up of a representative from marketing, operations, development (3), management (and the product owner) and user experience design (me). And while our full time developers meticulously sew the pieces together I find myself running around fulfilling various other non-factored roles as well as assisting our team’s roles too. Don’t get me wrong it’s pretty exciting and fun with huge rewards, but there are times when I feel I’m straying off the UX track and neglecting my core responsibility. I’ve noticed this especially when I stumble on elements of the design I’ve not been party to. And, it’s no one to blame, we all have tight deadlines and need to get on with our tasks, certainly during this phase of rapid development.

Whilst most functions are covered by our team roles my UX role is spread too thin. I’m being pulled in many different directions and in equal strengths of importance. Prioritising is extremely difficult. For those who have worked in a fast-paced start-up environment know it’s chaotic, but we do our best, and just get on with it… the product needs to get to the market, right? Everything seems to be important and everything needs to be done now (yesterday actually).

So in the last three months I’ve learn’t a few things, which I think is worth sharing:

1. Don’t focus too much on UX documentation – just communicate intention as quickly as possible, that may mean a lot of sketching,
2. Don’t get too pixel precious during the early stages, there are bound to will be changes after the testing is done,
3. Test early, even if you test it within the team – paper prototypes work well,
4. Budget wisely – if you manage a budget don’t use it up too soon. Keep enough for post beta release updates,
5. Work closely with development and business teams, keep the conversation flowing, and finally,
6. Use role blurring to learn how business and developer folk think and ask tons of questions.

Mobile device switching, for improved productivity

Use Flow: User to submit press release from mobile device

Many of us working in the corporate world operate two mobile devices. In many instances the reason is primarily because the company has a corporate deal which involves an email exchange server and an associated Blackberry device policy. At the same time people have an additional smart phone for private use, like an iPhone. I know I do.

It’s widely accepted that certain functions work on some mobile phones but not on others and that operating those functions, like text documents, on different devices culminates in a better user experience. For example, trying to create and edit a document using an iPhone is seemingly easier than say the Blackberry (that does not include the manual operators, it’s the applications functioning).

During a recent usability test (testing a news wire iPhone app) I discovered that the participant did exactly as I do. When I asked how they would edit and send a document (press release) from their device they said they’d email the document from their work mobile device (the Blackberry) to their private mobile device (the iPhone) first, then edit the document on their iPhone before sending.

What contextualised findings have I learnt from the empirical usability test? Well, other than the specific functional insights originally set out, a) the only way to access work files is through the work device and therefore only good for emailing out* and b) workers are very good at finding alternative ways, albeit unconventional or perhaps inefficient, to complete tasks.

* phoning too of course

Corporate observations – times of change for climate change

Climate Change

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

I don’t often talk (blog) about personal opinions on global matters like Climate Change, but in the spirit of Blog Action Day and climate change on the agenda I thought I ought to.

As the topic of climate change edges rapidly higher on everyone’s agenda it seems we can no longer avoid it or push the environmental snooze button.

With marked increase in media attention, hype and all to frequent evidence of climatic catastrophes, the full consequence of our man-made actions are forcing conscientious people to pay attention.

Focus and attention is no more obvious than right at our company – UBM. This is not an sucking up exercise to gain brownie points (or Wiki points for that matter), it’s merely something I’ve observed over the course of ~12 months. I love observing people, habits, cultures and adaptation from influence. I guess I can self-confess to being obsessive about observation and working out behavioural impacts and reasononings. Anyway, over the last two years I’ve noticed many changes in my immediate work space vacinity. Some of the changes are subtle some profound but overall I believe it’s making an impact albeit minuscule in the grand scheme of things. And its impact is not just at work but home too.

I want to dedicate this Blog Action Day post to three sets of people:

  1. The company ‘environmentalists’ – for commissioning the company initiatives and enforcing them and irrespective of their own personal agendas,
  2. My colleagues – who’ve adapted really well to the cultural changes and partcipated unreservedly and finally
  3. Me – for committing time to write this post and present my obbservations (see below).

So on with my obsessive observations then. At my work (UBM Live) here are 10 areas where I’ve observed changes (environment and economical): see a few snaps below

  1. Lift antrums – automated light on/off switches
  2. Toilets – automatic on/off lights switches and manual time sensitive bathroom water faucets
  3. Fewer paper waste bins as well as dedicated paper-only waste bins
  4. Waste separation buckets for better recycling (plastics, cups)
  5. Sugar sachets replaced with dispensers (less waste) in our canteen
  6. Email signatures discouraging pointless printing of emails
  7. Better optimised websites for print versions aimed at reducing uneccessary paper wastage.
  8. Facilitiy provision to encourage commuting by bicycle and ride-to-work schemes to encourage cycle commuting
  9. Centralised ‘Climate Day’ initiatives aimed at making employees more aware of its waste production and its effects on the environment
  10. First exhibition to be awareded carbon neutral status in Europe.

Naturally there is always room for improvement. So whilst we’re making fantastic in-roads into reducing our waste and there is more room for improvement:

  1. Continue to make improvement to cycling to work culture perhaps by offering incentives for employees
  2. More senior management encouragement of healthy social events aimed at Corporate Social Responsibility
  3. Lift cancel button (LOL) – just had to say that
  4. Environment awareness campaigns and better disposal monitoring.

With our company’s collective effort we’ve managed to save a huge amount on wastage (tonnage) in 2009. These initiatives stand testiment to UBM’s committment to its corporate responsibility at protecting the environment in the fight against climate change.

As part of the company-wide initiative our bloggers are supporting Blog Action Day (on Climate Change) so why not check out my colleagues’ post too.

If you would like to read similar posts on this subject from some of my colleagues, please click on any of the links below:
FSE fire’s Weblog
These Digital Times
TheSecurityLion

If you would like to read similar posts on this subject from some of my colleagues, please click on any of the links below:

Blog Action Day: bike facilities

Blog Action Day: bike facilities

Blog Action Day: waste bins

Blog Action Day: waste bins

Blog Action Day: automatic stopping faucet

Blog Action Day: automatic stopping faucet

Blog Action Day: light sensor

Blog Action Day: light sensor

Blog Action Day: sugar dispensers

Blog Action Day: sugar dispensers

Blog Action Day: waste sort

Blog Action Day: waste sort