Mick Talks All Things UX with UX Mastery

Here's what happened when CEO Mick McGee chatted live with UX Mastery.

Our co-founder and CEO, Mick McGee, was recently chat-interviewed by the community of UX Mastery, an online user experience resource center (think of a live Reddit AMA, only about UX). Mick had lots of fun and was asked some pretty fantastic questions.

For those who couldn’t participate in the live chat, we compiled our favorite Q&As from the interview for your enjoyment. If this taste isn’t enough, you can check out the full transcript.

The theme of the interview was “Designing for Any Experience.” For those readers who are not familiar with Mick’s philosophy, we included his introduction to the subject as he presented it in the Q&A.

1. Introduction to Any Experience.

Hawk (chat host): So Mick, would you give us an introduction to the subject? Tell us how you got into it and why you feel so passionate about it?

Mick: Sure, let’s dive in… Perhaps best to start back in grad school where I studied System Engineering. Essentially optimizing systems, however they were defined. And optimizing for whatever experience you were going for, however that was defined. Basically, the start of my any experience.

We studied virtual reality a lot. We were trying to optimize “presence” = the idea that you were REALLY there. And minimize “cybersickness” = the bad part of VR. We had to define what we really meant by those experiences – which was very different than typical engineering. To take that all the way to the more now. We do the same thing for “Public Transportation Experience” (for local Bay Area trains). “The Learning Experience” (for an online education company… All the way to “The Bagel Experience” (trying to make it a premium experience like Starbucks did for coffee — the business, not necessarily the coffee) And most recently, the Asteroid Experience, which was a project in partnership with NASA to figure out how to get asteroids more in the public domain. That’s a lot. But basically a bunch of examples that the design process can, and should, be applied almost anywhere.

Hawk: So what makes it different from the normal UX process that most of us follow (aside from the name)?

Mick: Great question. It’s how we mostly describe it to those not as familiar with the user centered design process. Like the astronomers at the Minor Planet Center in Harvard who realized that they too could benefit from design on top of their asteroid database. But it also speaks to going more towards solutions and not just ideas.

Hawk: Ok, so this is more about designing for life in context, rather than designing for the “internet.”

Mick: Yes! That is a big part of it. Context is ever present in everything we do.

2. The future of Any Experience and how effective it can be.

Hawk: So do you see the philosophy of designing to any experience as shaping the focus of UX? Where do you see it going in the future?

Mick: Understanding context, the “any experience.” has become super important to us in dealing with complex design problems. And we’re seeing a lot of more complex challenges both in big giant products at the google scale and subtle challenges like trying to create premium experiences out of something as simple as bagels. I think UX and design generally is getting more and more integrated into everything we do and buy. Thermostats, watches, etc., everything will have a UX component to it.

3. How broad UX can be.

Hawk: So do you think there is room for agencies that design UX away from the internet? In fact, do they exist?

Mick: Absolutely. We’ve tested inside physical stores, environments (BART). It’s more than the internet is creeping in on all these other things. Classic industrial product design doesn’t focus on the internet so much. Plenty of agencies there.

Hawk: Yeah, that makes sense. It will certainly take the onus of UXers to feel the pressure to learn to code.

Mick: Yes! Coding is nice to have, but not required. Really depends on the design environment you’re in.

4. The path of a UX designer.

Q: I see a lot of people coming into the fields from “conventional” backgrounds (architecture, UI, etc.)… how hard would it be for someone to come into the field from an unconventional background? In my case, I’m a lawyer by day… but I have basic design backgrounds (Adobe CC/ html), and I think some lawyer skills (research/analysis) would translate well.

Mick: Great question! I fired out an answer earlier that listed hotel hospitality, journalism, and other different backgrounds that found their way to ux. Your research skill would definitely translate!

Q: What path(s) would you recommend a current non-designer in terms of what to learn and/or practice to become a competent UX designer? Right now I’m in the library science field.

Mick: I often say that design/UX is only as good as your ability to communicate it. You would (hopefully!) have a strength there. Build up a “portfolio,” event with the things you analyze and/or research. That’s totally valid portfolio material. I’d love to see more of that in portfolios. You’ll of course want some tangible design things too, but there are a ton of great design skills that could translate into designer. I’d guess a similar path. Great research skills. Try to develop some design. Make a portfolio out of both.

Agile in enterprise environments.

Q: What is your experience with UX in an agile process like Scrum and especially in an enterprise environment with big development departments?

Mick: Agile is everywhere. You have to be comfortable adapting your process to fit a variety of dev styles. Agile can be chaotic, however, I’m generally a fan of iterative cycles as they can really advance fast. But it is a challenge for UX. I sometimes see agile/scrum as an excuse to focus only on engineering. Building those regular wins with these teams becomes even more crucial. Having tangible artifacts like an affinity diagram can help a lot as well. One of the best agile UX processes I’ve seen lately had a ton of things on the wall that caused developers to always go check to make sure they were on the right path.

We love connecting with people in the community. If any of these questions got your brain stirring, let us know here or on Twitter @EchoUser. We’ll pass questions on to Mick and respond to you directly.

Mick McGee

December 23, 2014

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