UX Unicorns

This blog post is adapted from a presentation I gave for a design manager role, so it is more focused on me than I would like. The mythical UX unicorn doesn’t seem to be going away and I haven’t truly decided if I’m further in the camp of “most of us are unicorns” or “unicorns don’t exist”. For this role, I was directly asked “what makes you a unicorn?”, so I ran with the first perspective. Enjoy.

What makes a unicorn??? There are two definitions of a unicorn – 1) The greatest thing since sliced bread…which I am not. 2) A creature that combines specialties in a unique and effective way.

In the case of an actual unicorn – it has the strong body of a horse, the strange horn of a Narwhal on land, and it may or may not have magical powers and a rainbow mane.

For me, my strong body is made up of UX Research methods and techniques. I am always passionate and empathetic to the experience of the end user and I know how to get teams on board with that.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.07.02 PM

As a Product Owner and Product Manager, I’ve been a bit of a Narwhal on land! I’m knowledgeable and respectful of Agile processes and often reference myself as a “dev groupie”. 

My magical powers and rainbow mane come from my background as a Data Curator. Depending on the topic, data curation allowed me to be really technical or very creative and out of the box – but always passionate about making data and content usable and FINDABLE. Believe it or not, datasets can go viral – find it, use it, love it, tell everyone about it. I spent years working with data and data systems to ensure that people can find what they need and easily use what they find.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.10.07 PM

  1. Information Gathering/Problem Definition: 1219-512

My role is Researcher, Team Lead, Guide, Mentor

User Research – Generative – Contextual Analysis, Interviews, Evaluative – Heuristic Analysis, Expert Evaluation/Walkthrough, Persona building, scenarios, empathy

cropped-Living-Synergy-Icon-lge2. Participatory design (originally co-operative design, now often co-design) is an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) in the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and is usable.My role is facilitator, researcher presenting findings, creativity encourager (not exactly cattle prod!)

  • What problem(s) are we really trying to solve?
  • Cross-department Design Workshops
  • Brainstorming
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • All stakeholders involved and heard – building buy-in!
  • Level of Effort and Value

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.15.53 PM3. Feasibility Checks: My role is Scrum Master, protector of teammates.

  • Constraint breeds the next level of creativityplanning-feasibility-300x300
  • Devs, designers, data peeps
    • Roadblocks?
    • Opportunities?
  • Deep Dive into Level of Effort
  • What do our Participatory Designs actually mean for the system?
  • Reassess LOE and Value
  • Legacy system negotiation
  • Understanding tech debt


vector_design_icon_bezier_curve_draw_sketch_drawing-1284. Wireframes and Prototypes: My role is vision/gatekeeper, facilitator, Product Manager

  • Intrinsic/extrinsic = white hat/black hat motivators
  • Gamification
  • BJ Fogg’s behavior model – Trigger, motivation, ability
  • More of the traditional design process happens there
  • Iterate with screens and workflows
  • Lo-Fi and Hi-Fi wireframes and prototypes
  • Information Architecture research
  • Card Sorting, task analysis
  • Menus, navigation
  • Get the wireframes in front of users!
  • Iterate with screens and workflows
  • Compare findings to our original research and problem statement(s)
    • New scenarios?
    • ADA?

5. Orchestration and Collaboration:collaboration

  • My role is Product Owner, ~Project Manager
  • Conductor
  • Ensure buy-in and shared vision throughout the process
  • Stories and agile process w/ devs
  • Manage product briefs
  • All info in one place and up to date for everyone!
  • Collaboration with Marketing, Data, DevOps, Resident Life, etc


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