AMA with Hugo Froes, UX designer and co-creator of UX Discuss
Last week on our UX community Slack channel, we hosted a live AMA with Hugo Froes, UX designer/strategist and UX evangelist. He’s also the co-creator of the popular UX Discuss, which is live on Twitter every Thursday at 1pm.
For this hour-long chat, Hugo fielded questions covering absolutely anything on the subject of UX, from how to showcase a UX portfolio, to promoting the value of UX in-house to stakeholders, to balancing user needs with business goals.
You’re in safe hands with Hugo. His mantra is simple, “If I’m helping to make the world better for people, I’m doing my job.”
Here are some of the highlights from Hugo’s AMA. (Please note, some edits have been made for spelling and clarity)…
What inspired you to transition to UX? [OJ Quevedo]
I feel like it was almost a logical transition. When I first started in digital, I loved being able to see analytics and data of how my work influenced users. As the years went by, I invested more and more in the information. When I found out about UX, I was like “I already do most of that!” And so I invested in learning the rest that I didn’t do. Overall I love solving problems and UX gives me that opportunity constantly!
How do you showcase a UX portfolio, particularly if you’re transitioning from graphic design to UX/UI? [Erlina Husada]
It depends in what direction you want to take your career or the position you’re going for. For me, when I’m hiring, I don’t worry about the person’s portfolio, but more about their articles, their process and their way of looking at things, but generally I try and get them in front of me, where I can ask them questions and understand what UX means to them and how they approach it. But some recruiters will want to see UI work, because of the mixup of UX and UI.
How do you decide who you want to interview, if you don’t look at their portfolio? [Suzanne Hillman]
Does the person have a blog? Do they at least have a page that explains who they are and what they want to do? Do they publish on Medium or LinkedIn? Are they active in the UX community? How do they relate with peers on social media. All of this can give me much more insight. Portfolios can be beautiful, but they don’t tell me if the person can solve the correct problem.
If you do want to have a portfolio, at least show the backbone of the project and not just the UI – that doesn’t tell me enough.
I’ve also had situations during interviews where phrases that the interviewee shoots out at me are almost word for word from articles online or UX books, and although it shows they do their research, it sometimes feels like they haven’t understood the concept enough where they can “own” what they’re saying.
How do you get people on board at the research stage when people think what you’re building isn’t something that they will directly use. i.e. various stakeholders who aren’t used to UX at the enterprise level? [Niki Shu]
That’s one of the hardest things to answer. I’ll be honest, there’s no fully correct way. We’ve sometimes had stakeholders setup a one hour meeting and when we arrive they inform us that they only have 30 minute, but after 10 minutes they’re cancelling appointments because they’ve seen the value.
I guess the best answer I can give is find a way to show the value, whether it’s setting up a workshop with stakeholders or just stipulating it as a condition when the contract is signed.
When analysing a client’s site analytics e.g. Google Analytics, what should I be looking out for apart from the points of drop off? [Mary Eusse]
I hate to answer like this, but… it depends.
It depends on what KPIs and objectives were established. For example, just because your site has less visitors or your bounce rate goes up, that doesn’t mean you did a bad job, because maybe your pageviews or your average time on site goes up, which means you have more valid users, or the information is easier to find.
It all depends on what’s important for the business and what goals they’ve set for that iteration. That being said, clients often just focus on the growth of sessions.
If you read the book Sense & Respond by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, there’s a great example, but they have a system of using different metrics depending at what stage the product is – whether still just a concept, or something starting to make money, or a full blown product.
In enterprise environments I find it quite a political environment. How do you balance this? I find myself hearing “ignore the stakeholders they are behind the times”? [Niki Shu]
In most cases it’s completely true, but unless we have total freedom to do what we want, unfortunately we’re going to need them…
I’ve found that using a bit of psychology works. Convince them it’s there idea. How? Sit down with them and ‘start a discussion’. Not easy, that’s why I’ve found that if we start asking them steering questions as if we’re just trying to understand their business, they then start talking about ideas and sometimes they even get excited.
What can be done to promote UX accessibility in-house and to clients? [Mary Eusse]
Nowadays, any project you work on you usually don’t need to discuss whether it’s going to be responsive or not, it just has to be. The same should be with accessibility. At the end of the day, good accessibility is good SEO, which means they can reach even more clients, once again, it makes the stakeholders want to invest because it will make even more money.
What advice would you give to people with a large project on how to break it down into manageable chunks and enable them to actually get it done in a decent way? [Jessica Lovegood]
I think it’s about being practical. First understand the scope of what you’re building. Just an overall scope. Then go into details.
An example of a recent enterprise platform I worked on. We first decided on the areas of structure/heirarchy, an overall view. Then we broke down each of those sections into parts.
From there it was completely scalable to the point where any content wouldn’t break the platform and we were then able to break it into working parts that made sense logically.
As a UX researcher, how do you define the line between what users need and business goals? [Erlina Husada]
Basically I always try and keep it on the spectrum that if we give this to users, we can expect more interaction or more money etc. We’re showing the reasoning behind the focus with business strategy.
Ultimately though, we do sometimes have to understand where something is just great for the user, but stops being profitable for the business, because that will influence the existence of the business. If it’s small, we can usually squeeze it in, but if it’s going to have a large negative effect on the business, we might have to adapt it or scrap it completely.
I have also been known to argue with a client until I got them to adjust the strategy to not be a negative experience for the user.
Do you think having a UX course certificate give candidates an advantage when applying for a UX position? [Graha Pramudita]
I think it depends on the course, I know some great UX courses that have a great UX teacher, but as the course moves along it focuses more and more on UI, so the students come out being better UI designers. The truth is that most people who say they want to do UX, aren’t up for long classes on business strategy, analytics, research, ideation and very little in visuals.
It also depends on what I feel the candidate has been able to get out of the course. I’ve seen two people who had the same course, but with a huge difference between them.
I do personally prefer that the person has invested in some kind of education, even if informal, so that I understand how invested they are and they’re willing to learn and evolve.
Here are a few final inspiring words from Hugo, which he believes can apply to all of the above questions…
“At the end of the day, what’s important is that you start doing UX. Implementing it, learning, evolving and experimenting. Very often people have lots of theory, but don’t understand the application. You learn by doing and it will also give you more weapons when trying to convince stakeholders.
If I talk about UX to a stakeholder, it seems like I’m trying to sell a new religion, but if I can show them with actual content that it’s valuab;e to them and their business, that’s where I win. I can tell you that you’ll loose quite a few of these battles before you feel like you’re actually winning them, that doesn’t change.
But it’s a fight worth fighting.”
Main image by William White
Christopher Ratcliff — Content Marketing Manager
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager for EMEA, which basically means the skipper of the good ship ‘UserZoom blog’. So far his requests for changing its name to the ‘USS-erzoom Blog’ have been rightfully denied. In his spare time, Christopher is a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy, editor of Search Engine Watch, staff writer for ClickZ and features editor of CMO.com.
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