We don’t design user experiences, we design for user experiences”
We’ve been exploring people, culture and tech here in Australia on our daily blog. If you’re looking for your next dream role with 100+ of Australia’s top companies doing amazing things in tech, check out The Martec.
People nowadays expect smooth, frictionless experiences from their interactions with technology. Clunky, frustrating UX is mostly a thing of the past and the bar for great UX continues to be set higher and higher. Developing great UX is becoming a high priority for agencies and companies alike. But what goes into creating it?
According to Sharni Allen, (the head of UX over at Webling Interactive, a leading web, social and experiential agency in Sydney), it’s a diverse mix of skills.
With over 15 years experience in the digital industry, she has done everything from editing, to design, to coding to project management and production.
With this broad skill set and background, Allen leads the UX at Webling Interactive. We had a chat with Sharni to get her view on what goes into creating good UX.
UX Design in Agencies
In many ways, we are all user experience experts. But UX design itself is a discipline with a range of skills.
Part design, part development and part psychology, user experience design requires proficiency in a number of areas. But according to Allen, one of those areas that are often overlooked, is production/project management.
Her extensive background in production gives her a unique approach to UX, one that is particularly important when working for an agency. As agencies typically work on projects that have tight timings and budgets, the ability to accurately scope and managing a project is key. Where on the company side, UX is part of the ongoing agile development process, agency UX is often for one-time projects under very tight budget and timing pressures.
This is why, in Allen’s opinion, savvy production skills are an extremely valuable asset for a UX team. You could have the greatest vision for UX, but without understanding the time and resources it takes to implement, you may end up with an unrealised plan and wasted time. A UX designer’s ability to scope projects is, therefore, a key skill for agency side UX managers and one that Sharni Allen looks favourably on when hiring UX talent.
But there is far more to UX than production. Another key driver for great UX is an understanding the most important person in the process… the user.
Using User Insights
“The more insight we can get back to the clients the better,more savvy” says Allen. With clients these days savvier, they want to see the thinking that goes into the UX recommendations. They want to understand how agencies got to the outcomes they did. With an enthusiasm for the research process, this suits Allen just fine.
The ability to do the research and gain insights is, in fact, a key driver in developing better UX for clients. The UX process itself is also not something that should be done in isolation. Rather it’s an inclusive team-based process.
This interaction between different teams incorporates a range of specialisations in key development phases. User experience is the outcome of many departments working seamlessly together, which is why UX shouldn’t be done in isolation.
Allen and the team at Webling work collaboratively during the development of the UX planning, even incorporating help from unlikely sources. She shared with us that sometimes her team will involve someone from service or other departments for their insight because “everyone has become a user experience expert because we are all users”.
How Tech May Change UX
Webling is undeniably keeping their eyes on the future. The next wave of technology will drastically change UX and those designing simply for smartphones will eventually be left behind as we enter the next phase of tech development. Whether it’s contact lenses and heads up displays, AR wearables or something completely different, great UX has to embrace the latest technologies. And with Allen leading UX and Darren Clarke leading the tech over at Webling Interactive, they seem to be well positioned to take advantage.
Simple, intuitive experiences are great, but the really memorable ones come from surprising and delighting users. Something that Webling look poised to achieve by creatively mixing technologies and pushing boundaries in their work.