How Should We Handle UX in the Circle of Innovation?

Next I attended the UX Design track in the Ebony Room. I was lucky this time to get a power socket and plug my laptop. Presenting were ClearLeft’s Cennydd (pronounced Kenneth ) Bowles and James Box who reminded me of the WWE’s Hardy BoyZ. These guys were doing great complementing each others effort in delivering a great presentation. This track was packed with more technical audience. This means that they had to either get their facts right or dictate their not so right facts on us authoritatively to drive the point home. The duo did not disappoint.

They in fact almost made me leave the room when they started taking about the ENIAC and the forefathers of modern computing. I really don’t like the old age stuff and thinks that I can only enjoy watching the talk about such on the History Channel and not a modern cool event. I woke up when they put up that teddy bear and made me understand that we can now hug our computers.

Some take away from the duo were;

  • Commercial success comes from bridging the distance between expectations and experience, between assumption and real life. This is the role of the modern day UX designer.
  • The end-goal in UX thinking and profession is to address the experience, not what the user may have wanted to achieve.
  • UX is not simple. It is not a checkbox to be ticked, it needs to be integrated into every part of the process right from initial product strategy to final delivery.

There are four steps to a great UX Design;

1: Design research

Understand the end-user. Design research should not be about listening to a wish list of features from user focus groups and feedback forms but is about understanding user behaviours, their problems, how they nderstand these problems and last being how UX designers can solve the problems.

Research methods listed by the duo were

–       Interviews (one-on-one, Skype, Online chats and so on)

–       Focus groups – beware of domination by the individual mindset

–       Questionnaires

–       Diary sessions  – where users record their interaction with the system.

–      Watch users experience your solution. How many of us have watched the end user use our products?

The out put of a research should be well documented with all challenges outlined

2: Generate Ideas

Once research has been done, it’s time to generate ideas.

When you have all your facts, don’t jump on the idea. Bowles and Box say “when you see a good move, look for a better one”. Explore better possibilities. Bowles and Box said that Steve Jobs was not such a great designer only that he was good in keeping his failings very private.

The duo recommends two great books, “A Technique For Producing Ideas” by James Young, and Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats”.

The duo sketches their thoughts. They said “sketchbooks are not about being a good artist, they’re about being a good thinker”. Sketches are great in that they invite input because they are never final.

3: Detailed design

Nowadays Content creators, UX designers and visual designers work on a project from the initial stages unlike before when they used to work separately. The duo quoted Frank Lloyd Wright’s thus; “You can fix it on the drawing board with an eraser, or onsite with a sledgehammer”.

4: Testing

You need the feedback desperately so allow for live user testing. They summarised it by saying, “You need to accept that first attempt will not be right.” Bad designer will so much believe in themselves that they wont listen to divergent views.

And mark that usability testing should include all the stakeholders. Don’t depend on analytics alone because “analytics will show you what happens but never why it happens”.

The duo used this function to drive their point home; B=f(P,E ) > Behaviour is a function of a person and his or her environment.


IMG: Web

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Written by Cyrus

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Cyrus is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @Kahawatungu or Facebook page (

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