An advent calendar for UX folk.

04 2012

5 Popular UX Techniques I Rarely Use

By Donna Spencer

5. Sketching

I rarely sketch. I don’t own a pencil case with different weights and shades of grey. I have to hunt when I need a pencil. For me, sketching is a slow, inefficient way of working through ideas.

Don’t get me wrong—I do consider alternatives to a design, and I do iterate. I just happen to do it in my head, then draw it on the computer when I’m done.

4. Designing in a group

Whenever I see photos of people standing around a whiteboard, markers in hand, all sketching ideas together, I wonder how that works. When I’ve tried it feels like a big mess—thinking, sketching and talking all at the same time don’t work for me. It’s too fast and there’s too much happening. And when I’ve had to do it, I end up coming back the next day with a whole lot of reasons the design isn’t going to work for actual data, constraints or users.

3. Personas

Most of my projects are small projects with small teams who know the users well. We don’t need to create personas so two of us can remember what it is important to the users—they’re just not necessary. Scenarios, however, I use on *every* project.

2. Up-front user research

In many situations, especially for redesigns, we already have a ton of solid information about the users, and up-front research doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Instead, I create an initial design based on what we know, and take that to people instead. It’s much easier for them to reflect on something semi-concrete, and we get better insight into how they may use it.

1. Card sorting

Honestly, these days I only do card sorts when I’m mentoring new clients or new UX folks.  Instead, I create a draft structure and test it—usually at least twice. This provides much better value for the users’ time than doing a generative card sort.

Now, before you yell at me to tell me how useful these techniques are, just remember that we all work in different contexts. I mainly work on small projects with small teams for small amounts of time. I never need to sell them the value of user-centred design. And I’ve been designing experiences for quite a long time now.

About the author

Donna Spencer

Donna Spencer

Donna’s a user experience designer, conference organiser and budding fashion designer. She loves working on all aspects from strategy to implementation, no matter what she’s designing.

She’s a regular conference speaker and article author; and has written three books – on card sorting, web writing, and information architecture.

Follow @maadonna on Twitter


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