Trust

I'm taking an interesting UCSC seminar-course "User Experience Managers Speak" led by the Richard Anderson, famous for his roles in leading BayCHI and DUX.

Those of you who are not familiar with Richard Anderson's work or taken any of his courses are missing out!
Check out his blog.

One theme that is emerging is the importance of Trust. We don't hear a lot about that in the literature or in casual conversation of the HCI business; usually we talk of Us (HCI people) versus Them (engineering). In this class, however, ALL the successful manager-speakers so far (4) have stressed the importance of the UX Manager and staff establishing Trust relationships with the engineering teams they work with.

The speaker at the first class was Jim Nieters, formerly of Oracle and now director of UX at Yahoo. He said that as a leader, a UX manager needs strong relationships with many key people across an organization. These relationships are emotional bonds - trust - and very important. He said that this is far more important than more traditional UX organizational concerns such as "whom you report to in the org chart". He cites a "Trust Gap" between UX Staff and senior corporate executives in most organizations. (Many UX practitioners are not trusted to be pushing for things that the company really needs). He also points out that trust requires face-to-face physical contact- meetings, conversations, etc., and that trust is earned.

Anderson has blogged about Nieter's lecture.

An interesting related tidbit is that Trust was mentioned twice at xDesign's Design Summit. Notably, that establishing Trust relationships requires face to face physical human contact; an interesting problem at a distributed company that employs telecommuting so extensively.

Comments:

Nice post.

It will be interesting to put together a list of what user experience designers who are engaged with teams on a daily basis can do to establish trust. Some things that may help...this is just thinking aloud...

1. Having street cred helps, but it's important to be able to demonstrate that you can problem solve creatively early in the project. An early prototype, a concept model or flow that illustrates the problem area, etc. This helps establish the fact that the designer can indeed design.

2. Early deliverables should also demonstrate to the team that the designer understands the product or problem space. Engineering teams usually have a very deep understanding of a product and it helps for them to know that you understand what they are trying to solve.

3. It probably helps to work towards larger product goals than get pulled into tactical design discussions regarding low level interaction design issues, layout, etc. Very often teams are usually working within time and budget constraints and some elements of a great user experience may not always make it. It helps to have a plan to get to a great user experience in incremental steps than try to get it all right the first time.

4. It often helps to lend a helping hand to teams with things outside core deliverables. Helping out with presentations, posters, documentation, etc. Since most designers usually have better than average visualization/representation skills it's surprising how much of a difference you can make with relatively little effort.

I'm sure there is more, but I need to get back to work. :)

Posted by Prasant on March 05, 2008 at 03:10 AM PST #

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