10 Instant Hacks that’ll make you a better UX-er

Actionable-now tips learned from the UX Bootcamp at General Assembly in London, led by the awesome twosome Amit Patel and Daniel Kemery.

Always challenge the brief. The client is an expert at their problems, but they are not the problem solvers – you are.

Remember UX is about designing within restraints. Prioritisation and trade-offs are necessary.

Publish your case studies on Medium to expand your reach and show relevant audiences what you’re doing. It’s also great way to learn from the pros and stay on top of the industry on the go, whether you have 20 minutes a week or just 5 minutes a day.

UX is more than a mantra. It is happening everywhere, right now, so there’s no excuses not to immerse yourself – tackle books, watch videos, follow heroes on social media, subscribe to newsletters (I recommend Mark Jenkins’ UX Essentials), join Slack groups, attend Meetups, try an online course, blog about it, visit places (the new Design Museum is a must), test new apps and have a go at prototyping.

Be proactive – don’t sit around waiting for ideas. Existing problems are everywhere. Describe a day in the life and find out what can be improved with user centred design.

The subtle but importance difference between ‘user journeys’ and ‘user flows’: User journeys/journey mapping involves detailing the ‘as is’ process and are done in the early stages of research before ideation. They are handy for having an overview of the existing journey and spotting where UX improvements can be made.

User flows are done after research – they’re the exact steps in a path from A to B (e.g. making a one-off online purchase on an app) the user must complete when using a product, service or experience you’re designing. There are no interior monologue described. It is useful to put the user story (their goal) next to this while you create the flow.

Proto-personas are your allies when you’re short on time, money and want to get stakeholders aligned on starting user research. Proto-personas (‘proto’ means primitive) are a slight variation on traditional, research-heavy personas. They are instead based on design hypotheses and assumptions generated from brainstorming workshops involving stakeholders. Another way of doing quick proto-personas is developing them based on a single interview of your target user – a more accurate persona would require 3-5 interviews. I highly recommend Jeff Gothelf’s UX Mag article on why you should use proto-personas.

Experience maps are awesome. The amped-up sister of user journeys, these clearly illustrate the thinking, feeling and actions of the user, before during and after an experience. They can take time to create but are compelling visual tools for persuading stakeholder buy-in and allowing everyone to understand the problem. Other benefits include the ability to pinpoint frustration in the journey and giving a benchmarking means of before and after comparison when a prototype is made. Here’s an example and a blank template from Pinterest.

Update your UX tools and design software regularly. Watch out for game-changing plugins and features that’ll save you time, enable easy changes and reduce rework hassle. Work smart and be kind to the future you – Sketch templates, symbols and integration plug-ins, Auto-layout for responsive design are your friends.