User experience is about science, not art. That’s why consummate UX pros don’t base design decisions on intuition. Instead, they use data and feedback to improve the experience for users of websites and applications.
They think independently, solve problems and aren’t afraid to advocate for their ideas, according to Jen Romano Bergstrom, UX Project Leader for Arlington, Va., research firm Fors Marsh Group. She’s also the Director of Marketing and Communications for the User Experience Professionals Association.
“You can tell the difference between a guru and an average candidate right off the bat,” Bergstrom says. “Average candidates provide vague answers to interview questions and make decisions on feelings instead of facts. Real pros use an iterative process to improve the user experience.”
To explore a candidate’s traits and familiarity with popular UX research methods and tools, Bergstrom asks these questions during interviews.
Describe your process for designing prototypes.
- What Most People Say: “I don’t have a process. I go with my gut instinct. My experience has taught me what users want and don’t want.”
- What You Should Say: “First, I utilize proven research techniques to solicit user-centered feedback. For instance, I might conduct a usability study, eye-tracking study, field study or focus group to gather input. After reviewing the data, I’ll create several mock ups in the lab and continue testing and refining the prototypes until I achieve the desired outcome or goal.”
- Why You Should Say It: UX isn’t about you, it’s about the user. You need an iterative process and an open mind to see things from another person’s perspective.
What tools have you used to build prototypes? Do you have a favorite?
- What Most People Say: “I’ve used several tools but I don’t really have a preference.”
- What You Should Say: “I consider the kind of prototype I’m building, the cost, timeframe, user experience and so forth when selecting a tool. My favorite software programs are Azure and Justinmind Prototyper because they provide a comprehensive solution for wireframing and protoyping. But I often use Solidify App or Filesquare to create, test and gather insights from users when time and budgets are tight. I typically use MockingBird or iPlotz when I’m working with software applications.”
- Why You Should Say It: UX experts know how to select the right tool, according to Bergstrom. “They should know what works and what doesn’t in a given situation by weighing the cost, effectiveness, ease of use and the experience for users who provide feedback,” she says.
How do you incorporate usability into the design and testing process?
- What Most People Say: “We don’t really worry about incorporating usability into the website design and testing process at my company. If someone wants to test a site, they come to me and I provide the data or plan a study.”
- What You Should Say: “It depends on when I’m brought into the process. If I’m involved from the outset, I conduct research and integrate UX throughout the design and testing phases. If I’m brought in later, I’ll conduct two to four rounds of testing and provide recommendations that offer the greatest return while being mindful of time and budget issues.”
- Why You Should Say It: Ideally, UX is woven into every stage of an iterative design and testing process. However, UXers are often brought in later. So real pros have the ability to render fact-based opinions and improve the user experience from several entry points.
How do you advocate for usability in your organization?
- What Most People Say: “I haven’t had to do that. People come to me when they need something.”
- What You Should Say: “I blog about UX and speak at conferences to demonstrate the value of improving the user experience. To garner support from executives and colleagues in my company, I’ve taken the initiative to identify opportunities to improve our existing applications and websites. It’s easy for them to see the merits and financial benefits because I validate my recommendations with facts.”
- Why You Should Say It: “Identifying opportunities without being asked is the sign of a real go-getter,” observes Bergstrom. “It shows the type of independent thinking that separates the average performers from the UX rock stars.”
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