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UX-Giving: The Tools, Techniques and Processes We're Most Thankful For

Our team is inspired this holiday season to share the customer experience and user experience techniques and tools we’re most thankful for.

As a team of designers, developers and strategists, we leverage our different backgrounds to design meaningful projects. Our ideation tools, tricks, and processes are just as diverse as we are.

Jessie Marman

In the Zone Music: Electronic music and jazz. No lyrics.
Thankful For: Candid feedback in the research process.
Ideation: Write it out on paper.

Jessie’s first step in building a new project is to write. Using a rough combination of empathy mapping and customer journey mapping, she gets as many ideas on paper as possible before moving on to Sketch. The writing process helps her conceptualize the exact UX challenge that a client is having, while also revealing the root challenges underlying a user flow or design.

Once planned on paper, Jessie relies on direct feedback from users to help her refine the experience she is building.

“It’s so important to get candid feedback to ensure my vision as a designer is the same as what the end-user envisions. I love it when an end-user isn’t afraid to give honest feedback on something I have designed.”

The best feedback comes from rapid prototyping and a research process that makes end-users feel at ease when testing a user experience.

“It’s important to let subjects know that we aren’t testing them, we are testing the design.”

Michael Sidler

In the Zone Music: None. Usually on client calls or meetings.
Thankful For: IPEVO Camera.
Ideation: Plan it on a big canvas.

Michael’s design projects are performed on a much larger canvas than Jessie’s—literally. Our early-stage affinity mapping exercises use paper rolls that cover entire walls of client conference rooms, and Michael often finds himself ideating with entire rooms of information.

“I have a whiteboard in my home office specifically to help me think through the workshops we do with clients. Sometimes I use painter’s tape to hang our maps, or I’ll just use a dry erase marker to draw everything out…on a big scale.”

From there, Michael communicates the workshop findings and conveys next steps to internal and external teams, using his strategy drawings to translate needs and problems into actionable direction for remote designers and developers.

Typically, Michael’s real-time collaboration with clients and internal partners happens with an IPEVO camera. This allows him to sketch different UI solutions with the design team and ideate over designs and concepts in real-time with internal partners or with clients.

Jordan Hunke

In the Zone Music: Music in the morning, silence midday, podcasting in the afternoon.
Thankful For: Zeplin.
Ideation: Explore while designing.

Like Michael, Jordan has customized his space to fit his day to day tasks. He even built a 7-foot desk so that he would have plenty of space to Sketch, with room for two computer monitors. Sketch is the #1 tool he uses, but he also uses Zeplin constantly since he needs to share his Mac-created designs with developers or clients that use PC.

“Zeplin is perfect for clients that don’t have a Mac or don’t have Sketch. I can upload everything I’m working on, and then the client can add comments and highlight specific areas of the design for feedback, seamlessly.”

Jordan’s ideation process involves exploration rather than planning or asking a lot of questions upfront. It’s that exploration that helps him build the proper solution for a client. It’s important for him to get straight into the design when he begins a new project, especially when designing for user experience.

“It’s harder for me to think of any and all questions until I’m actually in the design. I have to get in there first. How do these elements interact? Sometimes it’s the very process of exploring that helps me ask the right questions.”

Sean Coleman

In the Zone Music: None.
Thankful For: GitHub.
Ideation: Tackle a specific problem first.

Sean also likes to dive straight into a challenge. He likes to tackle something “very specific” when fixing or building code, which helps him avoid wasting time or struggling with the complicated underlying logic.

“Usually, the solution to a code problem is simple. That’s why I try to identify something very specific to work on. Context is great, but that first, specific solution is usually the best.”

Half of Sean’s day is spent in meetings, with the rest in GitHub code reviews or tackling client strategy. As for ideation, Sean keeps projects focused on the end-user, and ensures that technology is being used in the right way. He counsels his customers on how to collect user feedback while reminding them that technology is a tool to serve design and the product, not the other way around.

“Sometimes the product vision and the current technology our clients are working with are in opposition. We help them fix that by talking more with end users. It’s absolutely critical when putting together the right technology solution.”

In the absence of customer feedback, Sean believes that overcommunicating the strategy, vision, and goals of the new design can make up for the gap.

Chester Schendel

In the Zone Music: Music is always on, but not usually with lyrics.
Thankful For: Uni-ball pen and Drawbackwards sketch book.
Ideation: Visualization from experience.

Understanding the client’s business goals and providing a meaningful experience to the end user is core to how Chester ideates on a new project. Chester can visualize designs in incredible detail—a sixth sense that comes in handy when confronting UX and CX challenges. He’s had this skill ever since he can remember, and it has been honed over 20 years of UX experience.
Chester relies on his intuition and experience to unpack potential solutions for clients, then couples that with knowledge gained during research.

“I can build mental sketches while I’m listening to a client’s challenges. I visualize the experience in my head, which makes it easier for me to ask specific questions about the goal of the design.”

Once he’s clear on key objectives, Chester puts pen to paper and jots out physical sketches before the ideas fade. He chooses to design on paper first because designing on the computer slows the process, and ideation and execution of the initial prototypes require both speed and focus. This is also the reason he avoids music with lyrics in it and usually finds himself immersed in Lo-fi Hip Hop or Groove Salad.

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