What makes a great user experience designer? Having spent many years collaborating with UXers from all walks of life in product and service design, I’d have to say empathy.
Empathy is the ability to see the world from someone else’s point of view and understand their thoughts, feelings and experience.
Great product design starts with empathy. It helps you get great insights from user research. It helps you design stuff that connects with people on an emotional level. It shows you care.
When we asked Team Nomensa to share things that have inspired them or made them better UX practitioners, there was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a common thread.
Their choices were nearly all about finding better ways of connecting with people and making technology more human and more accessible.
From TED talks and Formula 1 to UX tutorials and IA podcasts with a little sprinkling of Tao Te Ching, here are 12 things that inspire us to be better UXers.
Amber Polley, UX Consultant, recommends The danger of a single story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TED 2009
Adichie draws on her own personal experience to highlight the value of going beyond the stereotype to get a better understanding of each other. “Many stories matter,” she says. “Stories empower and humanise.” Amber says Adichie’s really resonated with her. “When we design, we must involve a diverse set of cultures, backgrounds and physical attributes. This way we design to optimise and include everyone’s stories, not just our own.”
Andy Ingle, Head of UX, recommends The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Ries offers a new approach to speed up the product development process and reduce the risk of failure. It’s a methodology based on a continuous learn-build-measure cycle. The book popularised the MVP, the minimal viable product – an oft misunderstood concept. Andy says: “It seems a bit dated now, but this was the book that really opened my eyes to the idea of starting small and growing based on data. I’d recommend everyone read it, if only to understand how grossly misinterpreted the term ‘MVP’ has become.”
Ashley Knowles, Senior UX Consultant, recommends Mixed Methods podcast
A podcast for anyone interested in improving their knowledge and skills in user experience (UX) research. Leading industry experts discuss everything from effective team collaboration to the UX needs of the future. Ashley says: “When I was getting into UX, I found their podcast useful because it helped explain the language of UX in a very human way. The presenters are clearly passionate about research and empathy and they talk about it in a really engaging way.”
Phil Jenkins, Principal UX Consultant, recommends Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge
Moggridge, a pioneer in interaction design, tells the stories of designers who changed the way people use everyday technology, from the founders of Google to the creator of The Sims. Moggridge’s book was nothing short of career changing for Phil. He says: “This book opened my eyes to the opportunities for user-centred designers in technology and services. It helped me start the journey that took me from industrial design to digital UX.”
Manisha Attar, Senior UX Designer, recommends Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) website
NNG has been at the forefront of user experience design for over two decades. Co-founder Don Norman actually coined the phrase “user experience”. NNG regularly updates its website with insightful articles and videos about user experience, interaction design, web usability, user testing, UI/GUI design and more. Manisha says: “I often use the website when undertaking desktop research to get their take on an area, audience group or sector I’m probing.”
Joe Knowles, Principal UX Consultant, recommends TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson
A practical guide to public speaking, including dos and don’ts, from the head of the organisation that has arguably reinvented the art of rhetoric. Joe says: “When I watch TED talks, I can’t help but notice how perfectly they’re put together. Few visual aids. Just a microphone and an idea. Anderson’s book taught me what it takes to deliver talks that are on par with TED talks in terms of quality and storytelling. What you realise is that it’s no fluke the talks are good: speakers work incredibly hard to make them so.”
Emily Trotter, Senior UX Designer, recommends How to draw a start-up podcast
A podcast that explores the history of illustration in the tech industry, from Microsoft’s clippy to Google’s doodles. Featuring interviews with illustrators, designers, creative directors and more, the mini-series discusses the key ingredients in great illustration. Emily says: “It’s so useful to hear real stories of how other teams have used illustration; how they used it to make an emotional connection with their audience, when and when not to include illustration or how to create inclusive illustrations without being bland.”
Joel Strohmeier, Accessibility Consultant, recommends A Dao of Web Design, by John Allsopp
An influential essay published in 2000 that calls on designers to embrace the flexibility of the web to design things that are adaptable to any device and accessible to everyone. Allsopp’s insights are as relevant today as they were back then. Joel says: “The essay led me to think much more in terms of the priority of content and functionality of pages over a specific design or layout and prompted me to think more carefully about when and how I presented wireframes and designs to stakeholders.”
Lauren Ellis, UX writer, recommends GatherContent
As well as being a content management platform, GatherContent has a regularly updated library of free guides, webinars, tutorials and books from experts to help improve content production, management and delivery. Lauren says: “We use GatherContent extensively for both our internal and client projects. Their resources are excellent and I often turn to them when I need a little nudge in the right direction, or to brush up on my content skills.”
Peter Kennaugh, Principal UX Consultant, recommends Total Competition: Lessons in strategy from Formula One by Ross Brawn and Adam Parr
Through their unique insights into F1, Brawn and Parr offer valuable lessons on how to succeed in pressurised environments and forge working relationships with difficult colleagues. Peter says: “A couple of years into my UX career, I was looking to develop my strategic thinking. This book gave some really clear guidance within the context of a sport I’ve been a lifelong fan of, and helped me to apply that advice within similar situations in my work.”
Will Roissetter, Principal UX Consultant, recommends Asking the right questions to frame the problem, by Ben Holiday
Ben spent several formative years working in government and transforming digital services using agile methods. He’s a regular blogger on all things experience design. In his “Asking the right questions” blog, he offers five questions that should be on the lips of every design team starting a project. Will says: “I keep referring back to this blog because it’s a really useful set of questions to start a project. It helps to frame the thing we are working on and ensures the team is focused on the same goals and questions.”
Simon Norris, Founder & CEO, recommends The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett
Garrett explains with great clarity the elements involved in shaping the user experience, starting with user needs and business objectives. Published in 2002, The Elements has made a lasting impact on web design and has become a must read for students and experienced practitioners alike. “This book was influential in the early days of Nomensa,” says Simon. “It’s nearly 20 years old now but it’s still a highly relevant book for organisations who want to understand how people behave online.”