Episode 31: User centered design practices

User-centered design practices episode graphic

Episode 31: User centered design practices

In episode 31, Cathi, Jackie & Monique talk about user-centered design practices. This podcast is based on the talk Cathi did for the GoDaddy online event Expand 2021. Listen in and learn from our mistakes.

Related interesting reads or resources

YouTube recording of Cathi’s talk for GoDaddy’s online event Expand 2021

Full Transcript of this Podcast Episode


Monique And we're live...

Hey, everybody, welcome to rethink.fm, your favorite podcast about design things, like design, all the things or UX All The Things as we're presenting ourselves.

Usually, our lovely Jackie D'Elia does the intro, but I now have the honors. And I want to introduce our topic for today is based on a talk that Cathi Bosco did for a GoDaddy event a few weeks ago. And Cathi, maybe you can explain a little bit about the event and what the topic of your talk was about.

Cathi Sure, so the event was an online conference about expanding your time as a web design professional. So GoDaddy launched this hub inside their platform for freelancers to manage client websites from one single source of truth and expand save time. It's a real efficiency, but also community driven platform that they've launched. And they're doing a lot of user centric design practices with the platform. So they've launched it, it's going to continue to get better. And they're getting feedback from, you know, professionals using it, which was really great to see how their whole philosophy is very user centric. So my talk was also about user centric design practices. So something we're all very passionate about.

Monique Yeah, so user centric design, is it another jargon thingy? Or is this something people can understand by themselves? Do we actually know what user centric design is? Can we? Do we have an idea or feeling about that? It's about a user, I think, but do we talk about digital design? Like, I see a lot of things in my daily life that aren't very user centric, like teapots, for instance. Why do they always drip? Right?

Cathi I don't know. Jackie, do you think it's a jargon thing? I'm so bad at jargon. It probably is totally jargon. But it It also is regular language, when you say user centric design. So it's a journey.

Jackie I think it's more on the jargon side.

Cathi Alright.

Jackie Because the word user itself, is, can be a little bit of a jargon word to start with, too. But when we're talking with clients, we typically try to refer to visitors. Like if they're going to a website, or you know, those type of terms, people, human, those types of things. But centric design kind of means that's where your focus is, right? So you're focusing on your design is focused on the user, whoever's using the product, right. So now, what is it focused on? Is it focused on making it better for them? Is it focused on getting them to take an action? There's lots of options with that.

Cathi Right? Because it's a whole practice. And it's a whole toolbox and toolkit people can pull from, because you can have a very layered experience. Like so taking the GoDaddy platform, the hub, the end users are the pros who have customers who have customers who may have customers. So like that, there's so....

Monique hold on, hold on, hold on! I lost you at the second type of customer. So another thing here, like is a customer user? And is a user always a customer?

Jackie No, the answer to that is no. Because you can also have users that are your customer, because they could be using the back end of a product, right. And you're designing some interface for them to make it easier for them to work that has nothing to do with who their customers are, but has to do with how they do their job. We were doing that for a client right now.

Right, so there's some some customers or users, some of the people who manage the website more making their workflows easier. Those are users that we have to address. Right. That's good. Yeah.

Monique So yeah, and I think you started your talk. I thought it was an excellent talk. And I You're always so modest, it's got like yeah, hope people liked it. But it's not easy to, you know, pat yourself on the back. So I'll do it for you. But I saw all the responses on Twitter and people were like really enthusiastic all over the place and be tweeting like our model so I feel really proud of you Cathi just wanted to say this in front of everyone. Like everyone is a witness there. I'm proud I'm saying it loud.

Cathi I don't even remember giving the talk. I completely blacked out the entire experience. So I was relieved.

Jackie Your talk was awesome. I really, yeah.

Monique And as awkward as it is, you can always look at yourself on YouTube, if you want to, we'll share the link for people who get who missed the talk. But you started your talk, and the subtitle was, like, tangible ways to accomplish this with clients like accomplish user centric design practice. And you started with a why. And the why was: you want to do this because you want to unlock more time for yourself and your team. Maybe you can explain a little bit more why you why that could be a motivation, right? Why would you want that?

Jackie Right so that you can get paid to do better work, that's the main thrust of this. So it's a little bit like design, career oriented. So you want to get paid for your time, not go over scope, not have to do work, you don't get paid for not waste time. And then so as a UX designer, of course, I started breaking up people into user groups. So some people want to expand time for free time, right? Some people want to just, they just want to limit the amount of hours that they work so that they could do other things.

Monique I'm that group! Hands up who is in that group I want, I really that's my goal, my end goal.

Jackie Yeah, our goal is to bake bread and garden. That is our goal.


Cathi And sometimes you're in a force situation where like, you need time to take care of a health crisis, or there's emergencies that come up. And you need to have that flexibility, not by choice, but by necessity as well.

then another user group, or people who want to grow their business, and they want to, you know, expand their teams and increase revenue and maybe sell their business. I call this an entrepreneur group. And then the last group are people who want to really master a certain aspect of design, or, you know, they want to become really expert in UX writing, or they want to focus on UI, or whatever that is, you know, those people are much...

Monique Oh more jargon! We'll get to that.

Cathi I'm sorry, I'm so bad. So basically, I did a whole UX breakdown. My whole talk was just a UX exercise.

Monique And UX is user experience for people who are not familiar with that, that short term. Right. So what I loved about your talk as well, is how you made this relate to your background in art. Both you and your husband have been in art school in Chicago, way back in the 20th century, right.

Cathi We invented the wheel, yeah, hahaha!

Monique Tell me more about that wheel. The wheel is what you mentioned, a diagram that's based on your husband's experience art.You can tell this better than I 'cause you were there!

Cathi Yeah, he defined his work. Dom's work was amazing work and very original. And he was defining art as an experience and not an object. So we were sculptors, and we were studying time arts time, arts was sort of like a new thing on the scene, like film and video were just becoming part of the resources people use to create art with. So his definition of art as an experience, rather than an object required three things to have an art experience, it required an object, it required an artist to build it, and it required an audience. And without one of those three things in the equal our triangle, you could not have an art experience. And so I just sort of extended that to software as an experience. So we're not just pumping out code. We're not just making some things. We're actually creating ways for people to have shared experiences.

Monique Yeah, that sort of translates to how I always refer to websites to clients, right? When they say I want this and I want that and I want this. Yeah, but your website's not for you. And they look at you with this sort of like, excuse me? It's like, ya know, your your website is for the people visiting your your users, your clients, you know, people you want to expose your product to. Because if not, you, you know, it's my little repetition here. But if not, you can just keep it on your own computer and not put it out on the web because why bother if it's if it's just for yourself, just you know, hang it on your wall and look at it.

Cathi Guard at your own house and never show it to anyone. Yeah, so that's it. What it is right it is what it is. Yeah. The other thing about, like the installation, Dom would make, like, people would move through space and their random movement through space would cause things to happen not through electronics or anything. And it was a study and people as much as anything else, like, unexpected things would happen. And it was never anything that could be bought or sold. So it sort of broke that art mold as well.

Inevitably, in every instance, and this is sad. In every instance, some people in an exhibit would abuse their power. And they would search around and try to figure out how to make it happen and stomp and break things. And it was always abuse. You know? And that's the case on the web as well. Right? There's always bad actors.

Monique Well, we have Jackie as our bad actor. She knows how to break things on the web, she knows how to find bugs and knows how to look for stuff that's not working as you planned. And which is good, you know, because then you can anticipate. Right, Jackie?

Jackie Yes. Thank you for that comment. It's not intensional. It just happens. I don't know why. But it's just I always seem to find these things. So it's just, you know.

Monique I see it as a core quality. Really.

Jackie Thank you. Yes, we all have core qualities, the three of us together make a we make a whole person.

Cathi Eventually, some days.

Monique Yeah. So and another model, it's something we build ourselves. And it's not really a new model, like inventing, but, you know, there's a lot of usability models, because that's what it's all about right. things need to be used by people, by users. And if you cannot use it, well, then what's the purpose of a product. And, um, we've been trying to look into existing models, like design models about design thinking that exists and about processing. And I, for me, it was really valuable to sort of translate it into what worked for us, right. And we made our own model to work from to have our core values and methods incorporated in that. And that was retweeted a lot because people could really relate to the model. And maybe you can explain a little bit. We've got a separate talk about that will show that but maybe you can briefly discuss that.

Cathi Yeah, and I think that the usability model, the improvements we added to it this year in January with the base layer of sustainability. What are the other two things?

Monique Ethical and inclusive.

Cathi Inclusivity? Yeah, yeah, it really wraps, you know, finish it up nicely, and it's a great lens to work through for any project. And I think giving talks is like this is the first time I ever gave this talk. So you know, like stand up comedians, it's nice to give your talk multiple times so that you can like refine it get better at it, see where it hits, see where it doesn't, So this is the first time I gave this talk. But for me, I opened up a lot more about like my, my you know, past and our and like things that we really care about as a core and I tried to pull back the curtain. Because when I when I attend talks, which I love listening to other designers talks and learning I definitely get dopamine from that. I like seeing the curtain get pulled back and see what it's really like to be on projects and how these teams work together. That's like so fascinating to me. So I'm working on doing that. I found this quote yesterday. It says "What you want must be held in the same hand is what you give". So I guess I'm trying to share as much as I absorb in the world now and I'm not perfect at it yet but I do enjoy it.

Monique We'll be perfect by the time we retire. We have to speed up though, because we're past our thirties.

Jackie I'm the closest to perfection at this time.

Monique We knew that already. Close to perfection. Isn't that a song? I always get these some associations when we talk. I won't sing this time. I'll free you from that.

Cathi That quote is by Cleo Wade I should say that Cleo Wade as a poet and artist as well.

Monique It's a great name. My cats called Cleo as well. So I managed to put her in the in the I'm sorry. So after the model, so you you divided people into user groups. It's about saving time working with a model. What was the next thing that you discussed in the talk? About user centric design practices?

Cathi I'll put an image of the notes I went by in the, in the, I'll drop the link in the podcast notes. So you can see how crazy my notes are about it. But I talked a lot about collaboration.

Monique I'd rather see it as a as a piece of art. A form of art.

Cathi Yes, so service offerings and collaboration, I find that our collaboration, like our three collaboration over the last couple of years has been incredibly fulfilling and useful. And I feel like my collaboration with developers earlier in my career, when I started partnering with developers, and even Jackie and I were partnered quite early before we came into our trio here. I never learned more, I had more satisfying outcomes than when I was doing that. So it's, it's something that takes time to nurture and work on and you don't always get paid for that time to build that up. So I felt it was important to encourage people to do that. Do you agree?

Monique Yeah, I agree. And I think it also, in a way, is part of our model, because diversity is in there as well. And having a diverse team. Like, we now have international team, and we've just been working with some freelance developers, right as well. The different experience coming from different organizations, and you learn so much if you have a fluid team that sort of fits the project that you're in. I once read. And I wonder if you agree with that, that it's really weird in a way that we sort of have fixed agencies with the same people all the time, whereas films, there's a director, and they look for the right actors and the right camera people and they built their stuff with every new project again, and in a way that fluidness or fluidity, how wouldcall it that I that always resonated with me, and I see that as a great advantage as being like a small team where you can sort of pick the right people for the right project. Once you start working on that. I can see that translate to building design projects for the web as well.

Jackie Well, and we all know how important it is to get fresh eyes on our project.

Right, right. Yeah, yes, to get fresh eyes on your project and have and be able to bring in other resources when you need to is, has been a big help for us, I think. And also, individually, we've all worked for other agencies. So we have that other perspective that we can bring in and be very observant about what works at other places, and what isn't working. And then we can share that with our own internal team and help to improve the work that we do.

Monique Yeah. And also, I think, maybe you'll bring that up. But what people sometimes think is when you do user centric design, that it's usually the goal of all your business goals. It's only about the user.

Jackie No, because you got to have a functioning business or the user doesn't even get to use your resources, right?

Monique Hey, yeah, so business goals are equally important, right? Balance, it's all about balance.

Cathi And struggling to to sort that out. Like, you know, you don't want to put in gimmicks and tricks and here we go. Dark patterns. I know that's not a good term to use Jackie, what's a normal language term for that? Manipulations, digital manipulations?

Jackie That's good. Yeah. Digital manipulations.

Monique Yeah, where you, for instance, I think they've skipped that now but where Netflix never had a 'No I've been binge watching until four in the morning AM I want to go to sleep now-option in their buttons right? It was just like continue to next episode and before you're thinking like should I do another thought that popped on you were in it already that sort of is a dark pattern because it's anticipating to you know, addiction and keep going which is good for Netflix, but not for the user it because she needs to get up at seven in the morning to go better.

Cathi Yeah. Or you might need a bio break or a snack. Come on. Let me be in control of my time. Yeah.

Monique Like an example of a of a dark pattern or digital manipulation, which designers and teams are responsible for and yeah, sometimes you need to push back because there's a business goal. It's good for, for Netflix that people keep watching, right, if some revenue, but yeah, if you neglect the user in that way, they'll abandon you at some point because they'll get fatigue. Mm hmm. So anything else you want to highlight from your talk? That's you, because I'm scrolling through your piece of art here that you're going to share?

Cathi Yeah, I guess maybe tracking your time and estimating time I struggle. You know, I always struggle with estimating the work we do and the time it's going to take, especially because a big block of what we do is research.

Monique And and you're optimistic. You're always optimistic.

Cathi I have optimism bias. It's true. Yeah. No, I'm working with it. I have. I have that.

Jackie But I am the opposite of Cathi. I'm the dark person that comes in with, I think it's going to take longer than that I don't be unrealistic, or they're never going to accept that. So yeah.

Monique Yeah. So that's good. That's when a team helps as well. Right?

Cathi Very much, so very much. So just double it. I just whatever. I think I just double it now. And that's, but having paid discovery period, I think was something I came too late in my career. And I wish I had done earlier all along. Yeah, it's not something I'm clients are open to all the time either.

Monique No date. And it's also a cultural thing. I think, depending on what business you're in. I think the software digital business is I mean, we still see a lot of things that could be improved. But if I compare it to some industries of my clients, or where my partner works, you know, it's they always have to say, like, this is the price that you know, and if you have to do extra research, well, that's at your own risk. And it was and still is in a lot of industries normal that that's at your own cost, right. Yeah,

Cathi We were just talking about this Jackie, you outlaid that you outlined that perfectly, we're saying waterfall, like you're saying, clients. Go ahead, just give it to us.

Jackie We were talking about the transfer of risk earlier, right. Oh, yeah. Transfer of risk, right. So when you do a fixed price project, the risk is transferred to the vendor, right? For the most part, not, I'm not saying it's absolute, but it's definitely on the sliding scale further closer to the vendor, when you are doing an hourly project without any budget or anything, you're just gonna, we're just billing by the hour, you're like an attorney, right? You're just whatever hours I spend, you're getting billed for it, then all the risk is transferred to the client at that point, right. So they're accepting almost all of the risks. So you're always trying to look for that balance in the middle where there's risk on both sides. And a lot of times, that is how well you define the scope of work, right, that helps you control the risk on both sides. And we were also you brought it up Cathi was, you know, doing this in smaller chunks so that you can measure, you know, are you still on track? Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve in this phase? And then you can go on to the next phase. So it does help you, when you take a look at that, because you're acting, I think both parties are acting in their best interest when you're closer to the middle, right, so that you're not transferring risk all to one party or the other, because then it becomes the client feels like if you're just billing me by the hour, then you're just going to work as many hours as possible. And if you're doing a fixed price project, the clients ask for a lot more than you agreed upon. And they're making changes all the time. And then you have all of the risk on your end. So trying to find that balance. And the way that you do that is, like we were saying with research, right? So you understand what it is you're going to do. And you have a clear defined scope that you can follow. So if you deviate from your scope, then you can either choose like Monique said earlier, you know, you can choose to eliminate that part of the project right or redefine how you're going to do that. Or you can accept the additional costs from it and then go forward with it.

Monique Yeah, and I think communicating, staying transparent, right. Yeah, keeping the client updated on what the status is and what the options are is really important. The funny thing is, is what I realized when you just said that about lawyers and stuff that they bill, you you know, by the minute once they pick up the phone, you know, it's also about what's accepted within certain industries, because obviously people question that you know, whenever you're going Oh, yeah, we have to call an attorney. Whoa. Start pulling those bills out of your back pocket, right? But there's no way that you negotiate. You just know, that's how it works with them. And apparently, I think they did something good from the beginning, because no one's questioning that method, right? We all accept that it's gonna cost you a lot of money before you hire them. So I think there's another thing like setting expectations from the beginning. Right? Like, this is how we work. This is how we, you know, like to get paid. These are our terms and conditions.

Cathi Yeah, for this talk, it was a lot of freelancers. And, you know, it's important that freelancers don't under cut their work, because they damage the entire industry. When they do that, not only did they hurt themselves in their own ability to get paid to do better work, they damage the whole industry, because then people expect web design to be like, cheap, and it's no big deal. And, you know, it's like, we just make it a web shop, it shouldn't be any more money to do that. Or like, you know what I mean?

Monique Yeah, straighten it. And that's all about education and resources as well, when, because when I started out, I found it really hard to get some references there to you know, how to scope out work. And that's all the things like when you're a good designer, or a good developer, you're not per se, a good entrepreneur, right? You get that all for free to come with the job if you start your own business. And I think like as a community, like the WordPress community, we're part of our design communities. It's good that people support each other and be transparent about the rates they charge clients and how they define their scopes. And I think this is a good, like maybe as a wrap up a good way to share what we've learned, maybe sometimes in a bad way. And hopefully, like people just starting out, regardless of their age, right? Because you can start on your own when you're 60, or 70. Doesn't really matter. Yet to learn from that, and do it better than we did. You don't want to learn the hard way, right. Sometimes it's the best way to learn it the hard way because it sticks but not necessary, I don't know.

Cathi Agreed.

Monique So we need to wrap up this conversation, I guess, what's a takeaway you'd like to give except that people should watch your talk because it's excellent.

Cathi You're too kind. You're too kind. Um, take away. I don't know. I don't really know what to say. I put it all in the top. So. So get done. Get the right things done while doing less was the way I ended the talk.

Jackie Perfect. That's it.

Monique Well, thanks, everybody for listening. We'll put some links in the show notes. And well, happy to be back with the next podcast. What's the topic going to be? Do we have a decision already. are we keeping this as a cliffhanger?

Jackie Stay tuned.

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