open
enquiries@dvtsoftware.com | +44 020 3422 3400 | +31 208 905590
enquiries@dvtsoftware.com | +44 020 3422 3400 | +31 208 905590
Media

Insights

Trends and insights making an impact in your digital transformation journey.

The importance of communication as a UX / UI Designer
Jamie Chisholm
Senior UX/UI Designer at DVT

The importance of communication as a UX / UI Designer

Communication is an essential part of being human. The way we express ourselves, which words we choose to use and how we say them are all fundamental when it comes to connecting with others. As a UX designer, I have come to understand how important communication is in all forms of Graphic Design. “But,” I hear you cry, “to communicate sounds simple enough. I mean, you just speak…and someone else listens, right?”


Wrong.


Even in today's ‘advanced’ society, design (user experience design and user interface design) is possibly one of the most misunderstood fields imaginable. Don’t believe me? Speak to someone who has tried to create KPI’s for their design team.


The objective analysis of subjectivity

Subjectivity is one of the largest issues the design field faces. Consider the following scenario:


A random developer is asked to create a green button that, once clicked, links to a website. Once completed, the developer shows the button and, when clicked on, takes you to that website.


Objectively they have completed the task. And who’s to argue?


The button does what it needed to do {


Therefore (“I’m going on lunch”)


}

;


Now let’s look at a random designer, who is tasked with creating a brand new mobile app design.


“Our colours are green and purple and I like cats” are the instructions provided. “Make it world-class” may even appear in the conversation.


So, our intrepid designer sets out into the unknown, in search of ideas and inspiration. They created personas, wireframes, collaborated with team members (and are as happy as they can get within the aesthetics of the design) and come back with a “world-class” design complete with green and purple and even, perhaps, that malodorous cretin of a cat.


Objectively the task has been completed, however, it’s not as simple as that, is it? Invariably, we’re met with the strained response: “Well…it’s not quite what I had in mind”.


There it is. Delivered to your door with all the subtlety of a brick sandwich.


Let me introduce you to Designer-X

Designer-X (names have been withheld to protect the author) was a brilliant UX design expert.


They knew all the ins and outs of the industry - what to ask, what not to ask, user research and psychology, user personas and user needs - you name it - they knew it. But, as you will discover in the next few paragraphs, theory and practice are rarely symbiotic.


Now, Designer-X knew exactly why certain decisions had been made within the design. They knew what the research had shown. They had approved the wireframes, been through the prototype, understood the usability testing results and had even compiled everything into an engaging PowerPoint presentation… but, much like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, there was one thing they didn’t have.


The ability to communicate their thoughts clearly.


Their main downfall while communicating was to use “filler words”, something that has become more prevalent these days, spreading faster than a cold virus at a Bon Jovi concert. A filler word is any meaningless sound, word, or phrase used during speech to fill the silence. Examples include, "Um, ah, like, so, er." Filler words began as Americanisms in 90’s movies like ‘Clueless’ to portray ditziness. However, as time passed they started to worm their way into the global, English speaking lexicon and, in Designer X’s case, it showed.


“Like, you know… it’s like we were thinking, like, you know, that… like… the users, like, you know… didn’t like, like the green.”**

**The author apologises for the brain aneurysm you just suffered while reading this sentence.


I listened and watched as the product owners just switched off. Designer-Xcould have provided a peer reviewed thesis at this point, but whether they knew it or not, they had logged out.


“Yes, that’s nice and all but we really want the product to look more X and less Y.”


These are arguments you wouldn’t have in a less subjective field. As we sit with our years of knowledge and grab-bag full of impressive words and design decisions, what our client is seeing is graphics on a screen. However, this helps to illustrate why clear communication as a designer, in and outside of the tech industry, is an absolute must.


Make a sound decision and commit to it

It’s useful to compare communication to crossing a busy street. You have to commit to it. If you stop halfway and think about turning back, doubting whether you wanted to cross the road at all - you are likely to be putting your own life at risk! Once you decide to cross the road, it's best to just do it.


In much the same way, when we (as designers) communicate to product owners, managers, developers and analysts, we have to commit to and believe in what we are saying. If you sound like you believe it and are confident in your decision, then others are more than likely to believe you. Whereas if you stumble through your words, using fillers and lacking commitment, (whether consciously or not), your words are more than likely to fall on deaf ears.


Why?


Because, while the person you are speaking to may not know what they want in terms of product design, layout or even which mobile devices they should be supporting, they unequivocally know what they do not want. And it’s your job to guide them away from “what they think” is the right approach and toward “what you know” is the right approach.


After all, you are the professional. You have the experience so, you know your topic and it's to your benefit if you sound like one.


The practical approach

Below are a few recommendations to get you started on your way to being a better designer through communication. These tips can help you to improve team collaboration with all stakeholders.


Know the facts

This should go without saying but, as a designer, if blue was chosen over orange, you need to know who made the call, why and what the research showed. It’s that simple. The more facts you have in your back pocket, the stronger your position.


Avoid filler words

While I understand that filler words may be part of your vernacular, try to understand that informal, casual speech and delivering a clear concise message are two different things. When you are a designer, be a designer. Save casual conversation for elsewhere.


Pace yourself

There’s no need to power through everything you have to say in the time it takes Usain Bolt to cross the finish line. Breathe and consider what you need to say and when. Speak slowly and clearly. It’ll all be ok.


Use jargon sparingly

It’s cool to use phrases like Design Thinking, visual design, user flow and CX/UX/Professor X but keep it light. Consider that you are already speaking to people who don’t speak “your language” in the first place - but use these phrases when necessary.


Sometimes you will need to pull out the big guns. If you’re being questioned or feel that you are being doubted as a professional, then, by all means, use jargon to make your point.


Speak with your body and your eyes.


Sometimes you can make a point without saying anything. A good “fixed gaze” can say as much as a few hundred words. Your body language is an article on its own - no crossing of arms or looking down - remaining confident is the way forward.


Of course, with today's work-from-home and remote working situation, most of our meetings are held online. This means that what you say and how you say it, holds so much more weight than your body language.


At the end of the day, everyone is not the same and some of us struggle to communicate. The good news is that there are ways to improve your style of communication, through various courses and online sessions.


Whether you find yourself in the field of UX research, interaction design or you’re just somewhere in the middle of the UI/UX design process, do yourself a favour and add a few of these tools to your portfolio.


You might just surprise yourself.


Tagged under