A Nielsen-Norman award winning Senior UX Designer and Information Architect, Mick has worked in the web industry since 1995 on projects for clients such as NYSE, Citibank, Campbell’s Soup, the US Army, AOL and American Express on B2B and client-facing projects from desktop to mobile.
We’re thrilled that he was able to chat with us about the benefits of great UX and tips for anyone looking to improve the user experience of their site.
What UX project are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on several projects (as are most UX designers), but the one which takes precedence is a concierge service app for iPhone that’s being designed to elevate call center volume.
One condition that makes this app unique is as much as it is being designed to elevate call center volume, in order to work well it needs to anticipate the user situation from both the user’s environment and their history. As with all good UX design, we want to serve the user the content they need exactly when they need it. If we serve too little, the user will be unable to make an informed decision; if we serve too much, they’ll become overwhelmed.
When making recommendations to improve a product or service, how do get management buy-in?
One of the reasons that I went down the UX design path, rather than graphic and visual design one, is that I was drawn to its objectivity. The rationale for UX design decisions are more closely rooted to business needs and ultimately lead to greater user or customer satisfaction.
When you can connect the dots from business needs to customer satisfaction via your design, management buy-in is never far behind.
In your experience, what are the benefits of great UX?
First and foremost, great UX improves efficiency. After you’ve said that, you really can’t stop coming up with the benefits, depending on your product.
Internal business systems benefit from reduced training time and a greater transfer of knowledge; e-commerce systems benefit from ease of purchase and customer retention; information portals benefit from increased volume of queries with less human interaction; it goes on and on.
But again, it all comes down to efficiency which translates to a greater bottom line.
When thinking about mobile, what are you most excited about?
We’re just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do with mobile. One innovation seems to lead to ten more. It’s really an amazing time to be working in this area.
To me one of the most exciting things about mobile is that you already know something about your user: that they’re not bound to the physical limitations of a desktop or laptop, which really gets you thinking about incorporating that into their experience. It’s great to let the mobile experience live in its own space, and not limit it to a watered down version of the desktop experience. It really opens up a whole new world.
Which skill do you admire most in a UX talent?
The greatest skill a UX designer can possess—and the one that is the hardest to train into a designer—is empathy. If a designer can put themselves into the shoes of a user, someone who is coming to the product from a set of experiences, and possibly a culture, that is vastly different from that of themselves, they are gold.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a UX professional?
Not getting involved on a project early enough. As a freelancer I’m often called in to work on projects after the requirements gathering phase is over. Unfortunately this can mean I don’t have all the information I need in order to design the best experience. And if the deadline doesn’t allow for me to go back in and find it, we’ve got a problem. I like to think of UX designers as professional chefs who don’t need to just make the dishes, they need to go shopping for the ingredients as well.
What's your best tip for someone trying to improve the UX of their site?
Objectively define what you want a user to get out of your product, then put yourself in their shoes and try to accomplish that task. It’s much easier said than done.
Again, it really comes down to empathy; a good UX designer is the advocate of the user.
Apart from that, my advice to someone looking to make the quickest impact on usability with the least amount of effort is to simply remember the two oldest adages in the book: keep it simple and less is more.
Thanks again to Mick for all his great answers!
Looking for more tips and tricks in the world of UX? We’ve got you covered!