Once you go UX, you never go back.
Before practicing UX Design, I often felt stupid for asking “Why?”
Now I know it’s stupid not to ask “Why?”
When I was working as a copywriter at advertising agencies, I would receive project briefs from the account manager, project manager or planner. It was rare to have the opportunity to speak directly to the clients or stakeholders of the project. So the brief usually became just a checklist of deliverables.
Here’s how a project briefing might go:
Planner: To introduce this new feature of the app and increase downloads, we have to produce viral videos.
Creative 1: What’s the single-minded proposition?
Planner: You can chat to up to 100 people at the same time!
Creative 1: We could have a celebrity chat with 100 fans and capture the event on video. Maybe they could even sing together like some flash mob thingy.
Creative 2: Or we could do like a chain mail thing. So the first chat group to have 100 people in it can win a prize… and update these through videos.
Creative 3: It’s a viral video right? So people will only share if it’s something really “wow!”. Maybe we can demonstrate how a message or idea can spread throughout the world through a 100-people chat group. I don’t know what it is yet but it should be something heart-warming and fuzzy like those Thai ads that make you cry.
Me: Er… when do we ever get to chat to a 100 people at the same time? Who or what is this feature really for? Why did they come up with this feature? Was it through some research or feedback from users? And why do they think that a viral video is the best way to promote this? And…
Planner: You may not be the target audience but there will be people who will use it. The client thinks this is a good feature and the engineers are really proud of it. Besides, we we’ve already sold the proposal to to the client so we have to deliver it.
Creative 1: It’s a great opportunity for us to show off our creativity.
Creative 2: We’re just brainstorming for ideas now right?
Creative 3: If it goes viral, we can enter it for awards.
And this is how I feel as I go through the project…
“I’m so stupid! We’re creatives so we’re supposed to be creative. The other creatives are so good at coming up with ideas, even from just one keyword. Creativity has no logic. If you’re really creative, you can justify the ideas later in creative ways so that they tie back to the proposition. I’m a fake creative!”
Excuse the over-generalization but…
I’m painting a picture from memory. And we all know how that serves us.
Truthfully, there were times when I had meaningful discussions about the project with the people involved. I got to tap on my journalistic skills to ask the five ‘W’s and the one ‘H’. I understood what needed to be solved, even if the ‘problems’ were self-serving ones like:
- the CEO wants to do a viral video because the competitors have one
- the manager just wants to expend the budget with this campaign
- the client will pay for it if this TVC wins an award
I realized I was seeking that sense of purpose. Jobs to be done, any UXers?
Give me one reason to stay here…
And I’ll turn right back around (quote-unquote Tracy Chapman).
I like that the practice of UX Design is to be purposeful.
I’m not talking about dark patterns or deliberately prolonging a project in the name of UX research.
I’m recalling the satisfaction of uncovering problems and developing solutions that people will actually want, or even… value.
As Jared M. Spool said in one of his many insightful talks, advertising and UX don’t mix because advertising is intended to be disruptive and self-serving while UX is all about the user. You can’t do both at the same time.
I’ve chosen a side. Which even Alibaba’s CEO, Jack Ma, would condone:
After my course in UX Design, I took on some freelance copywriting work for marketing and branding agencies. During the briefing, I was reminded again of why a marketing demographic is not enough for me to wrap a stylistic lexicon around it and call it a re-branding.
I need to start with “Why?” And I need to check assumptions with “So what?”
Now I don’t doubt that market research is important in defining product attributes and pricing. What UX Design has taught me is that companies can differentiate themselves from the competition by focusing on the experience that the product or service delivers. And this requires a better-defined target audience and an understanding of their emotional response to the product or service. After all, UX is defined as a subset of CX (Customer Experience).
Nandini Nayak, managing director of design strategy at Fjord (Accenture) said during Think Tank by Adobe, “Marketing drills down to knowing what the customers need, and respond to them. This is why we should redefine what business is, it is no longer a product-generating business… The customer doesn’t want to buy a product from you, they want an engaging experience from the brand; The sum of the experience is the product.”
Aint’ no stoppin’ me now
Now that I know that I really wasn’t trying to be a smart ass when I asked too many questions during briefing sessions, I feel liberated.
I know that if a brief starts with the ‘solution’ as the deliverable, I’m going to have to say “No”. Because once you go UX, you never go back.
I would like my next iteration to be a ‘UX Researcher/Content Creator’. Let me know if I’m ready for it by taking a look at cheehuat.dunked.com. Thanks.