Read an Excerpt
Design and Research in a Connected World
By WHITNEY QUESENBERY, DANIEL SZUC
Elsevier Science Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE START OF THE JOURNEY
IN THIS CHAPTER
This Book Is about People 3
Charting the Territory 4
A Passion for User Experience 4
A Global UX Toolkit 5
Global UX Perspectives 6
Innovation from Everywhere 6
Moving Into the Future 7
A Map of the Journey 8
It's 7 AM in California. Jim is on his second call of the morning planning a usability test in Israel. In the United Kingdom, Ian is in the middle of his day, which will include checking in with project teams in Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Argentina. In India, Deepa is getting ready to go out for some food before an evening call with colleagues in the United States.
Those are just a few snippets based on stories we gathered in interviews about working in global UX (user experience) with more than 65 UX practitioners, who have lived or worked in almost as many countries.
The important thing is that these events can and do happen anywhere. Travel used to be exotic. International travel for business was unusual. Even with the rise of multinational companies, most products and certainly most services were local.
Then the Internet happened, and it now it's hard to find anyone whose work isn't global in some way. Global teams collaborate around the world, among many countries, and in many configurations. And companies making digital products from e-commerce to games and social media do business across the world as easily as across the street. Even start-ups have global strategies.
Do we really think this is a new, more connected world? Actually, we do. For one thing, global work and travel are becoming routine. Here's what we heard from one person after another. "When I started working, the idea of working with a team in another country was sort of exotic and now it's just part of everyday practice." Think about how fast this has happened.
We're pretty lucky to be working at a time when you can routinely work with people all around the world, with projects and customers that are spread across many locations in a virtual network.
All this global-ness doesn't happen by accident, however. We talked to the people who make it happen. Our goal in this book is to show how good UX work is changing products around the world for the better. We have tried to look forward to what we can learn about tomorrow's UX practice from the leading trends today. You may find these glimpses into global practice are a mirror, reflecting your own work. You may find they are a beacon, showing a path ahead. Either way, we hope this book will inspire you and your own practice.
Before we get too far, let's define what we mean by "global work." Some people asked who or what had to be "global" to qualify and suggested choices that include:
A group of (for example) Americans who work on a project for or in another country
A group of people from many countries who work on a project for users in a single country, such as India
Partners from several different countries who work together
A global company that has people from all over the world
Work on products or services used in more than one country
Our answer was, "Yes, all of those." We are interested in how people think about their work and all the global aspects of it.
This Book Is about People
As we started this book, our focus was on stories of successful projects. As we talked to many people in the field (and used up packs of sticky notes sorting out what we heard), the most compelling insights were not the case studies, the details of their methodology, or a specific business success. The interesting stories were about how they experienced the practice itself.
We listened to the data. As a result this book is about how user experience practice is changing and how practitioners and teams around the world are creating great user experiences for a global context. It's about the how more than the what.
This book is based on interviews with practitioners from many different countries, who work on many different types of projects. We looked behind the scenes at what it takes to create a user experience that works across borders, cultures, and languages.
We got input from a diverse group. We selected people for the interviews through a mix of planning, convenience, and snowball referrals. We looked for people who worked in different places, different industries, in a range of roles and UX disciplines, and with a variety of personal backgrounds.
We were especially interested in people who have worked in more than one country and people who have reached across cultures in their personal and professional lives. Some have lived in several countries for extended periods of time or have moved permanently to a new place. Some have jobs and projects that take them around the globe on a regular basis, while others travel more virtually.
The list of people who contributed to this book is just after the preface, and short biographies for each person are at the end of the book. In addition to many informal conversations, we recorded over 70 hours of interviews. Their thoughts on the challenges of the day-to-day work, as well as the larger issues of global UX, give this book a richer texture and more viewpoints than just those of two authors.
Like any ethnography or work of journalism, people are pictured in this book through their stories, their quotes, and what we learned by talking to them. But these portraits represent more than just the individuals. They are, we hope, enough of a collective voice that each of you reading this will see some part of yourself in them.
Charting the Territory
A few big themes emerged from these interviews. You will hear them reflected throughout the book, but they are important enough to mention right up front.
A Passion for User Experience
Even more than wanting diversity in the interviews, we wanted to talk to people with a passion for their work. And that passion came through over and over. We heard the same level of engaged innovation applied to work on a 25-year-old software product as to cutting edge start-ups.
In The Power of Pull, John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison examined the shift to a networked knowledge economy and the "disposition"—the attitudes, world views, and behaviors—that make people successful in this shifting environment. In their view, workers who are passionate are inspired by unexpected challenges and energized by new problems to solve. These are the people who use their connections to explore ideas that lead to large and small innovations.
In our interviews, that passion came through clearly. For Jenna Date, the Director of the Masters in Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, it sounded like this:
I love doing work in different cultures just because it feels like it tests my edges and broadens my horizons as a human being as well as a researcher, and it gives me all of those experiences that I'm looking for in such a way that it tests me.
Or like this from Steve Baty, a principal at Meld Studios in Australia:
When you start designing outside of your own cultural foundation, you have to really pay attention. If you are not open to those insights, you will just miss the opportunity to connect with the person you are designing for. Our design work is about creating a deep-seated emotional connection with people.
Steve (Doc) Baty
There were dozens of different ways in which UX is focused on building bridges to connect cultures in large and small ways. We were also struck by how passionate people are about what their work means for our products, companies, and the world.
A Global UX Toolkit
We also learned that the toolkit of UX techniques is very consistent in practice around the world. This broad UX practice informs and is informed by the challenges of global UX.
Whether the story was about early user or design research to create a better understanding of the context, the challenges of bringing that cultural knowledge home, or insights into innovative design processes the basic techniquesweheard about were similar. From ethnographic research to design ideation to usability testing, they all focused on similar ways to listen, observe, and learn.
We've taken a broad approach to the words that describe the activities of UX. To describe their work, people talked about
User research, design research, and customer studies
Field work, site visits, and research studies
Interviews, sessions, and meetings, visits
Customers, users, audience, participants, and people
Countries, regions, and markets
Sometimes the words are an indication of their background or the kind of work they do, but it could also simply be the word they chose for that moment. English is not the first language for many of the people we spoke to, so there is that variable as well.
Rather than enforce our own definitions, we have tried to preserve each person's choices in both direct quotations and our descriptions. We hope that the variations in words add texture, not confusion.
This is also not a book about how to conduct international user research. Robert Schumacher's The Handbook of Global User Research is an excellent resource if you are looking for help with the details of running a user research project in several countries.
Global UX Perspectives
Any collaboration takes work and being a global team takes even more work. But that is the challenge of global UX. Time zones, different languages, communication styles, and problems in gaining access to users don't go away because we wish them to. When work is distributed across teams with different cultures, economic conditions, and time zones it is that much more difficult to stay focused on user needs and carry out high-quality design and design validation. But it isn't impossible.
UX starts with understanding the users, but it's not enough to just do a quick usability test or a few interviews, ticking off an item on a list by rote. We learned that doing user research right means putting your assumptions on the table and doing the work to either support or debunk them. It means taking the time to be open, to listen for the nuances of cultural perspectives. And it means helping all team members understand the messages of the research.
But even after the research sessions and feedback meetings are over, you need the diverse perspectives that bringing together a global team gives you, and ways to make sure that those voices are heard. It takes a long time, perhaps a whole lifetime, to really understand a culture, so teams need local voices to contribute to global projects.
Innovation from Everywhere
We also heard a lot of stories that suggest a fundamental change within some large corporations. Instead of all decisions coming from central headquarters, people and offices around the world are starting to have more influence.
When we removed the specific details and looked at the underlying pattern, that story went something like this:
When he was first hired as a regional manager, the headquarters in the United States decided what he would sell in the region, and how he would sell it.
Time passed, and now he was still told what to sell, but now asked to help decide how to sell it.
More time passed. Now HQ asked what products would be successful in their market, and the regions built their own portfolios to meet local needs.
Recently, there has been another shift. Now the company is looking to the region to find ideas for new products that will meet local needs (and also be good for people in other parts of the world).
This change in the relationship can't come soon enough for people working in the regions. Everyone deserves a share of what Jhumkee Iyengar, a UX consultant based in India, calls the thinking work. More importantly, companies and their products will provide a better user experience for all.
Moving Into the Future
The stories we heard suggested that UX is continuing to make inroads. This is not to say that every company "gets it," but many do. As the saying goes, the future is unevenly applied, with some companies more solidly in the future than others.
As Jeff Eddings, a product manager at StumbleUpon, told us, "You can't do product management without user experience. The way the user interacts with your product, the goal you want the user to achieve ... that's product management." This thought was echoed by Matt Dooley, Head of Digital Experiences from the global bank HSBC.
Excerpted from GLOBAL UX by WHITNEY QUESENBERY. Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Elsevier Science.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.