UX Principle: Anyone can be a UX Professional

“The user experience is more than just a theory, but the life we ​​live every day” — Anggi

image by Anggita Prameswara Putri

A simple way to describe the user experience is just a life that we live every day. You get out of bed, go showering, then you get your soft towel from the bathroom’s cabinet, then wearing your comfy clothes. So many different ways for the steps of taking a bath. It’s called user journey. But when you choose a soft towel and comfy clothes, that’s the user experience. You will choose the softer towel from your cabinets and wear the comfy clothes because you need it. The majority and needs are the key to the best user experience.

UX Professional

Okay, let’s jump to the principles of UX. The first principle is “Anyone can be a User Experience (UX) Professional”. Anyone can build the best journey for the taking bath steps that we talk about in the first paragraph. “Anyone” is just a simple word that refers to a human being. Whoever you are and whatever your job, user experience is always something that we face every day. So anyone can be a UX Professional. But how? Let’s talk about it.

How do we start to be a UX Professional? The first 2 things you need to keen is Empathy and Objectivity. Empathy and Objectivity are the primary skill set you must have to be good at UX.

Empathy vs Sympathy

What is empathy? Is it like sympathy? Empathy is the ability to fully understand, mirror, then share another person’s expressions such as frustration, pain, needs, goal and motivations. You put yourself in their shoes and feel their pain or annoyance. You must gain an empathic to understand the problem you’re trying to solve. Empathy is the first stage of design thinking process. If you build a product, of course you know how the product works. But how about the user? Does the user also know how it works? You are not a user, so you must be empathic to build the product based on their needs and experiences, not yours.

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image by Anggita Prameswara Putri

How to be Empathetic? You must be a good listener. Do the research, the more listen the more understanding. But remember, when you do the research, you have to do it casually and not be rigid. It’s better not to show that you are doing research. Because sometimes, it will be more natural and minimal bias. Let me give you an example of scenario:

In a supermarket, you are assigned to rearrange the shopping flow for buyers due to covid-19 conditions. Supermarkets must ensure that customers can still shop safely. You already have the hypothesis such as the buyer must use the mask, have body temperature checked and then the customer’s hand must be kept clean by maybe using a plastic gloves or supermarket should provide the hand sanitizer. You also have to set the buyer entry flow, until the buyer has finished shopping. How do you prove your hypothesis? and how do you rearrange the new shopping flow due to covid-19? This is where you can apply empathy, but how?

To be empathetic, you can do qualitative research (interview) with the open-ended questions. Open-ended question is a method of research that doesn’t have the answer like ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’, ‘sometimes’ or something like that. The answer should be more specific or like a story. So please make sure you have the right questions for your research. Example for your research questions based on the scenario, such as:

  1. When did you decide to shop for daily necessities during covid? instead of Do you decide to shop for groceries when your supply runs out?
  2. Where do you usually shop for your daily needs during covid? instead of Do you like shopping at ‘supermarkets name’?
  3. What do you expect from a supermarket to provide security for you to shop safely during covid? instead of Will it help you if the supermarkets provide plastic gloves for you to shop safely?
  4. What equipment do you carry to protect you when shopping due to covid-19? instead of Did you bring the hand sanitizer when you go shopping?
  5. What do you need to make you comfortable and safely shopping due to covid-19? instead of Do you need plastic gloves to make you comfortable and safe when do the shopping due to covid-19?
  6. Tell me how you shop at the supermarket, from the entrance to the exit. instead of Do you always take the trolly before you start shopping?
  7. etc..

Don’t forget to take notes or record it when you do the interview

Let me give you some tips. You can use the ‘5 Why’ method to gather more insight, define problems, needs and solutions from your user. For example, when you ask your user the question number 5, then their answer: “I need to wear a mask and maybe a face shield too. I also need to keep a distance from other people for 2 meters. Beside that, I need to wear gloves on my hand”. You can implement the ‘5 why’ method from the user’s answer. You can ask, “Why do you need to keep a distance from other people min 2 meters instead of 1?” or something like that. From the answer, you can provide a solution through your supermarket, such as marking a sign on the floor with a distance of 2 meters per sign to keep the distance between people when shopping.

Image from https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/07/coronavirus-how-to-shop-safely-at-the-supermarket/

So, the ‘5 why’ method is to gather more deep insight from your user based on your main questions when you do the interview. So, what’s next? After you finish the qualitative research, you have your notes in which there is a problems, needs, solutions, and insight from your users to help you to provide something that your user’s need when they’re going shopping to the supermarket due to covid-19. Then how do you compile the notes so that they become recommendations? You can make an empathy map from your notes. Example of empathy map:

Image by Anggita Prameswara Putri

From empathy map, you can make a list of problems, needs and solutions that you should provide, example:

image by Anggita Prameswara Putri

You can also make the customer flow based on your output of empathize. This is the example:

So, everything we have done above is an implementation of empathy.

What about sympathy? Sympathy is the acknowledgement of the suffering of others, but cannot fully understand your user’s pain. The simple word to differentiate between empathy and sympathy is “for” and “with”. “I feel for you” it’s a sympathy, and “I feel with you” it’s an empathy. When your friend lost 1 of their family, you can be sympathetic to them by giving them condolences. But empathy is more deep than that. Empathy is that you know how pain it is, because you’re in her/his shoes.

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Image by Anggita Prameswara Putri

Objectivity

After you have empathy, you must have objectivity. Objectivity is the primary skill that you need to have to be more natural and look at your product with fresh eyes, spot the flaws and fix them. Objectivity helps balance human needs by considering real-world circumstances and the limitations of practical, usable, and functional solutions. If we relate it to the scenario of empathy (safely shopping in the supermarket due to covid-19), we know that the user needs a face shield to make them safely shop. But, you can’t just provide the free face shield in the entrance of your supermarket. Why? because you should consider the cost that you’ll need, to provide that. You can replace the face shield with a spare mask that is only given to customers who do not wear masks. And not given out publicly. That’s the objectivity that you should have.

Remember that empathy and objectivity are skills that cannot be separate. You must have both.

Conclusion

Anyone can be UX Professional as long as they have empathy to understand your users’ needs, goals and frustrations. Also the objectivity to look at your product with fresh eyes, spot the flaws, make decisions and fix them. Learning points:

  • UX isn’t a talent you’re born with — you can learn how to be good in this field
  • Objectivity and empathy are the two key personality traits you need to display

Thanks for reading!

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Leading Design @Lion Parcel & Lecturer @Telkom University. Previously @Grab @Telkom. “User experience is more than just a theory, but the life we live everyday”

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