Designing for humans is tough. We design for millions, but every interaction between our work and a user is personal, and we aren’t taught to take care with those interactions. I created this course because I want everything we design to meet the real needs and wants of real people.
This course draws from my recent book with Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Design for Real Life and is best for learners who are new to design or looking to strengthen their emerging user experience design skillset. And since design is everywhere, a wide range of professionals will benefit from this course.
If you want a set of tools for stress-testing your work to make sure it’s as human-centered, compassionate, and inclusive as possible, this is the course for you.
By the end of the course, you will have gone through practical exercises around how to challenge your vision and design a compassionate user research process; seen how to improve interviews and talk to real people about their user experiences with your product; explored new ways to think outside as well as inside the box; and practiced ways to avoid the tunnel vision we all too often develop about our own work.
A brief personal introduction from your instructor, Eric Meyer, explaining why the material is important to anyone whose work touches on design, including management and development.
There’s a fairly simple test of content and interactions: is this something a human would do, if a human were doing this? If not, what would they do? See how this test can be applied in various ways.
Apply the principle of “What Would a Human Do?” to some real-world material.
This lecture explores the role of the Designated Dissenter, a valuable addition to any project team, and how it can be a major component of strengthening a team’s work—or even an individual’s.
Apply the principle of the Designated Dissenter to some real-world material.
You may have done project postmortems, but there’s a flip side to that: a project premortem, where you try to envision failure modes ahead of time so as to avoid them entirely. Find out how to make this disaster-planning technique work for you.
Practice this principle with a sampling of project premortems.
Although its origins are rooted in improving online forms, the Question Protocol is a useful framework for challenging yourself to pare all manner of design touches and interactions down to their minimum. After all, the best design is not when you have nothing left to add, but when you have nothing left to take away.
Apply the The Question Protocol to some real-world material.
Personas are a common UX tool, giving a human face to user interests and actions. The thing is, most personas aren’t all that human: instead, they’re an anodized approximation of human interests. Learn how and why to add rough edges and raw emotions to your personas.
Practice adding imperfections to personas.
It’s always a good idea to interview actual users of your work, but there are good ways and great ways to go about it. Learn how and why getting out into the field is your best bet for really understanding how your work is used.
Explore examples of how going to your users in the right way can yield extra insights.
When you’re interviewing users, there is a place Steve Portigal calls the tipping point, when the interview goes from being informative to truly illuminating. Learn how to get there in a variety of situations.
Get some practice with ways to reach the tipping point in your user interviews.
User journey maps are a common tool for understanding user actions, giving shape and detail to the path people may take when using your product or service. Learn how user journey maps are structured, how they apply to your work, and how to make them even better.
Practice filling in portions of some sample user journey maps.
It]s important to make sure that our interviews don’t become a source of tunnel vision, narrowly focusing on one or a handful of kinds of users. Learn how to make sure that you’re incorporating a wider, more diverse set of people to interview and test with.
Apply the principle of broadening your vision to some real-world material.
People are emotional, and people use our work. Thus, it’s important to take into consideration the emotional impact our work can have, even (or especially) when we don’t intend it. Doing this kind of vetting can avoid a plethora of negative situations down the road.
Apply the principle of emotional QA to some real-world material.
Most of what we create will be used by people going about the course of their lives, filled with distractions and stresses and draining influences. It therefore behooves us to try to introduce some of those factors to our testing, bringing our testers closer to real-world use conditions than a traditional user test might reach.
Consider ways to add cognitive drains to your testing.
Ah, Bollywood, famous for its larger-than-life productions and over-the-top plots. How does this relate to design? By putting your testers into a Bollywood state of mind, you might get more honest feedback than normal.
Practice applying the Bollywood Method to some user scenarios.
It’s back! The Designated Dissenter makes a return to help you with stress testing of your work.
Reconsider the principle of the Designated Dissenter in light of the material learned in this section.
It’s been argued that there are only three business cases to do anything. We’ll cover all three, with examples of how these play out in the real world and perspectives on how to bring these home to your projects.
A lot of our work, and this course, is about figuring out what pain points our users have when they interact with our work. But to sell internal stakeholders on the changes we want to make, it’s a good idea to find their pain points and work to address them too.
If you’re in search of a formal way of expressing your arguments for making a change, Toulmin’s Argumentation Model is a useful framework. This lecture will explore all the steps of the model and illustrate their use in making the case for a design change.
Reports and emails are standard methods of persuasion, but sometimes you need to break out of the mold and really make a spectacle of your evidence. See how unconventional approaches and human connection can help cement support for your proposals and keep yourself motivated to keep improving.
If you’re pushing to change the overall direction of your work to be more compassionate in an environment that isn’t set up for that sort of thing, it’s all too easy to be seen as a roadblock, as a naysayer. Learn to leverage a common improvisational-comedy technique to transform your ideas from objections to enhancements.
Eric A. Meyer is an internationally-recognized author, speaker, blogger, and sometime teacher and consultant. He is currently technical lead at Rebecca’s Gift (rebeccasgift.org) and co-founder of An Event Apart (aneventapart.com) with Jeffrey Zeldman. In the course of his lengthy career, Eric has written numerous books and articles about CSS, HTML, and web standards. In his most recent book, Design for Real Life, Eric and his co-author Sara Wachter-Boettcher (sarawb.com) teach how to design with not just empathy, but compassion. He’s been working on the Web since 1993 and still finds it deeply compelling.