Critical Thinking for UX Designers (or Anyone really!) @stephenanderson & @russu #w2e

Critical Thinking for UX Designers (or Anyone really!)
Stephen P. Anderson @stephenanderson
Russ Unger @russu

It’s not about the tools but the thinking process

Activity: It’s five years in the future. Your big idea failed. Write the obituary for your big idea.
Instead of idea the challenge in this workshops is to imagine UX is dead in 2017. What happened?
Ideas from the audience:
Focus on flashy stuff
Template death
Too much time defining the role
Users learn how to do learn workarounds(design their own experiences)
A/B testing goes crazy and data driven results render UX pointless (data informed vs. data driven decisions)

Critical Thinking Skills
Houses, Wall, Windows – Observe the information in front of you
Users don’t necessary know what they want but know where the problems are
Brains are wired in 2D the limbic systems fight/flight/orgasms
Example: four plants that need to be planted equal distance, square won’t work needs to be pyramid

Is not: Biased, Partial, Uniformed, Prejudiced
It is: Self-Directed, Self-Monitored, Self-Corrected

‘Z’ Shaped Thinkers
“When everyone zigs, zag.”
At points where the line changes you can keep going but with diminished returns
Examples: Nicholas Negropante, George Lucas, Dean Kamen, Buckminster Fuller (geodesic dome housing)
Z shape thinkers approach problems in different ways

Six Characteristics
1. Reframe the problem – exercise design a vase, now design a better way to enjoy flowers in their home
Reframe in terms of the experience to be created
What the current problem and what is the outcome
Exercise – “Find the Center” start with list of features, values, ideas what goes in the center
Exercise – “Strategy Canvas” list differentiators then create a value curve, compare competitive experience not product
What’s the value of what I’m delivering?

2. Explore many perspectives
The Cotton Bowl – 30 years of focusing on the business rather than looking at competitors
Exercise – “role play the browser” person acts as browser and can only respond with page content. Other person acts as a user and attempts to interact with page. The second portion is to have a conversation.
Exercise – Ask yourself, “Can a five year old understand this?
Exercise – “Wear a different hat” How would a different brand respond to the same design challenge? (Virgin, Facebook, 37 Signals, Apple, etc.
Exercise – “Classical Invention” Definition, Comparison, Relationship, Circumstance, Testimony
Exercise – “Peaks & Valleys” Draw the emotional peaks and valleys in your customer journey. Where does the experience start/end?
Exercise – “Reverse the problem” What the opposite of what you are trying to do? How would you design something with the opposite goal?
Design for deviance and considering what people want to do differently than you want.
Train your mind differently – “Keep Your Brain Alive” by
Habit to develop: Change your work context every 18 months. (new job, new project, new role, etc)

3. Synthesize Information
Newspaper Industry compared to Music with MP3 players and cassette tapes. Or even Kindle and book publishing
Could the NYT subsidize content delivery to users and save on production costs
Fog Gun Shower – significant reduction in use of water for showers
Alton Brown – Good camera techniques, science and cooking to create Good Eats
William Blake – Engraving and Poet
Kevin Chang – Comics and Usability – OK Cancel
Habit to develop: Expose yourself, learn from other disciplines (film, restaurants, gardening, etc.)
Exercise – Forced Connections card deck (Psychology and Interaction Design)
Habit to develop: Expose yourself, to other kinds of UI’s from games, car dashboard, etc)
Issue: Separate disciplines and serialized workflows
Issue: UX certifications
“Broad and Deep Generalist” people who are passionate, curious, “synthesizers”  vs. siloed disciplines
Exercise – Estimate billable hours/roles for building a website for a non-profit organization. Next step is to do the same amount of work in x hours.

4. Embrace Constraints
Constraints should be embraced since they push and challenge to think about the solutions
Wireframes are abstractions for design (tool: keynote kungfu)
No wireframes works great for getting things done quickly, doesn’t work in all situations however
Exercise – Design for Mobile First. It introduces constraints  and forces you to focus on the essential. Especially good for web applications.
Exercise – Design studio – introduces constraints and forces you to do things differently.
Exercise – Design the box – use 3D (cereal)box to imagine the website
Exercise – “What can you build and launch in a weekend?” Minimum Viable Product via Eric Reis

5. Challenge Assumptions
Fast food: Good or bad? You have to analyze the situation. What are the components?
Clients: Build a tricycle with wings! Who is the person asking why is this valuable? Who will this benefit?
Exercise – “Ladders of abstraction” asking “why” usually about five times
Exercise – “What if…”
“We’ve tried that…” challenge the how it was implemented from the what

6. Appreciate the Details
Things not broken like modal messages
Habit to develop: Take up a hobby where subtle appreciate of details is required (wine, cheese, tea, chocolate, etc.)


Exercise – It’s 5 years in the future. Write the press release for UX.


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