Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

UXPA - The Practice of UX

This month's remote UXPA event looked at the Practice of UX.

If you think about it, UX is not really that old. You only have to go back 25 years or so to really see the beginnings, and we are still very much learning about the impact of UX.

Our first speaker was Joe Knowles looking at Stoicism, Resilience and Design.

Joe explained how in 2016 he was going through a tough time at work and in life, but had no real framework to deal with it. He was given The Daily Stoic Journal as a gift and slowly made his way through the daily passages and gradually started to practice stoicism.

He has also been looking at how resilience can help with day to day life too, and so shared with us how these two practices can help improve our design work along with our daily lives.

First he introduced us to Stoicism. This has been a much longer practice than UX, going right back to the Roman Empire. It is all about making the most of what you have got, living life to the full and embracing the idea that you can not control external events only how you respond to them.

He shared with us 5 key learnings:

  1. Accept what I can not change. Think about the scope of your design work.
  2. Reduce wants. They will never let you build a whole new website, work with what you have.
  3. Get a little better every day. Learning new skills or design programs will not happen overnight. Keep chipping away at them.
  4. What can go wrong...might. Think about possible risks and how you might deal with them.
  5. Practice silence. Do not talk over people with knowledge. If you are not listening you are not learning.

He then talked about resilience - how we overcome setbacks. Again this can be used to help us in our work and our personal lives.

We can develop resilience but it requires self reflection. It is important to have a purpose, to improvise, be adaptable and open minded. But it is also about your capabilities and collaboration.

As he said at the end, both these subjects are huge and there is a lot you can take from them, but you should focus on the things that resonate for you.

Sabrina Duda then spoke about Being a User Researcher in the Past, Present and Future. As this is my field of interest I was fascinated by this talk.

While Sabrina has been working in this area for 20 years or so, it was only much later in her talk that user research became a thing.

She grew up in Germany and was one of the founders of a usability testing company in 1999.

In 2000 they did work on mobile design and testing but it did not go down very well with people saying mobile was dead. However, work on eye tracking went down much better.

In 2004 she was doing usability tests around the world, which meant lots of travel with heavy boxes, compared with today where a lot of it is done remotely.

UPA was created in 1991, although it was renamed in 2012 to UXPA.

2004 saw the first World Usability Day, something we still celebrate today.

Also in 2004 most searches were for the term Usability, while in 2015 this had dropped and the term User Experience had grown massively.

2014 saw interest in the term UX Research start to grow. This was due in part to the success of GDS which started in 2011, and put a lot of emphasis on research.

2017/8 saw the first inclusion of user research in the Zebra salary survey as a distinct discipline.

In the present we are seeing a lot of remote research with a hope to be back in labs soon and the use of digital whiteboards to analyse research in teams.

In the future Sabrina thinks that UX research will only grow. UX featured as one of the top three jobs in 2021.

Of course with more remote working soft skills will be so important and more planning will be needed to make sure we are in the right place at the right time to allow proper team collaboration.

But what she really thinks will happen is the expanding scope and responsibilities for UX and researchers, with more inclusion in management roles as UX maturity rises.

These were both fascinating talks and I learnt some very interesting new things. Even just having a better understanding of the past of UX research helps me to see where my future might be.

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