How to become Responsible.

User Experience is about responsibility, I once wrote an article that UX is Responsible design.

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Here is one of my current favorite person’s take on responsibility. Jacques Ellul writes-

In a society such as ours, it is almost impossible for a person to be responsible. A simple example: a dam has been built somewhere, and it bursts. Who is responsible for that? Geologists worked out. They examined the terrain. Engineers drew up the construction plans. Workmen constructed it. And the politicians decided that the dam had to be in that spot. Who is responsible? No one. There is never anyone responsible. Anywhere. In the whole of our technological society the work is so fragmented and broken up into small pieces that no one is responsible. But no one is free either. Everyone has his own, specific task. And that’s all he has to do.

Just consider, for example, that atrocious excuse… It was one of the most horrible things I have ever heard. The director of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was asked at the Nuremburg trials, “But didn’t you find it horrible? All those corpses?” He replied, “What could I do? I couldn’t process all those corpses. The capacity of the ovens was too small. It caused me many problems. I had no time to think about these people. I was too busy with the technical problem of my ovens.” That is the classic example of an irresponsible person. He carries out his technical task and isn’t interested in anything else.

Become interested in people today.

Becoming the face of Tech Nation Visa UK

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I cut my hair on Christmas day 2015. Partly due to a dye job gone bad and mostly to trichotillomania an anxiety disorder, this means I had pulled out almost 1/4 of my hair. It had flared up due to much stress after the summer. I needed to get the entire hair off. Continue reading

Q & A : How an INFJ survives the 9-5

Pro Tip

A big challenge for the INFJ in working 9 – 5 is the constant ON required to work this way, but this is unavoidable some times, so what can an INFJ do to keep themselves from imploding?

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This is Your Work-Life Balance

JD Hancock

JD Hancock

No, I’m not here to give you advice on how to achieve a work-life balance. What I’d like you to do is rethink the way you view work.

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How to increase empathy for users

In User Experience we are fond of talking about empathy, but what does it really mean?

“Empathy is an important aspect of user-centered design (UCD) as it allows people being seen and understood from where they stand, not as test subjects but as persons with feelings” 

Vanhuysse, S & Hall, L. (2004) 

No one asks you to have empathy for your son or lover, we seem to do it anyway. Empathy doesn’t just come out of no where, it is founded on love and requires action, here are some that may help you increase your empathy.

Participate in User research as a User

While I was in University I took part in User research as a user (still do). The most memorable one was a Diary Study for a Scottish University. I had to sign into my specially created online diary and log my sleep habits daily. This ran for a couple of weeks, the incentive was £50 and a copy of the research findings. After the initial week, I got weary and bored. There wasn’t any update from the researchers (until the end ) and I frequently felt neglected, but still got to complete it because I like to finish what someone asks me to do.

As I began to conduct the interviews, research and studies on the job this experience became very useful. Knowing how I felt when I was a user helped me take better care with the people I meet for research, making sure they are comfortable if running an interview or usability study. I have made mistakes, made someone cry once but hopefully never again.

“We must remember that people live beyond our research and approach them with that in mind” 

Antonia A.

With this experience you’d know what it’s like to be interviewed, recorded, prodded, you know where it hurts and where it makes you sing. This is standing in the user’s shoes.

Put up Personas on your wall

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I’ve seen a number of articles which question the need for personas. I have questioned it myself because no one seemed to really ever use it, except as a deliverable. But it struck me one day how necessary it was to have them, empathy. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself as well because I don’t do enough of it.

We invest time in our relationships, we do things daily that affirm to the people we love that we love them, why do we think it will be any different to the one’s we design for?. What if you never had a note, a picture, the reality, of the person you are starting a relationship with, what kind of relationship will that be?

Personas help us connect to those we are designing for. Personas tell us the user’s story and stories engender empathy. Personas should be present when we have our daily or weekly catch up project meetings because like we do in Nigerian weddings sometimes, if the persons getting married cannot be present, they will be there in picture and spirit because the party must go on.

“Absence blots people out. We really have no absent friends ” 

Ambrose Bierce

Some Useful Links on Personas

The Use of Comic Strips to Encourage Empathy in Design

Five approaches to creating lightweight personas

Persona Empathy Mapping

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I’m keen to know what actions you take to help increase and strengthen empathy.
Stay Bright.

UX is Responsible Design

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“In this age of mass production when everything must be planned and designed, design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environments (and, by extension, society and himself). This demands high social and moral responsibility from the designer.”

Victor Papanek (p. ix, Papanek, 1985)

Responsible Design

The idea around responsible design was ignited when I was in a Bible study about love and it’s responsibilities. At the same time, I had been working on a responsive design piece for the web and I thought to myself, to design responsively well, we need to be responsible designers first. And just like love, design should not merely be responsive (firefighting approach), it should be pro-active, given to ‘take care of’ concerned about others, finding out real problems and trying to solve them.

I read Victor Papanek’s book, Design for the Real World (highly recommended) a few weeks later and the ideas began to really gell.

Responsible design takes into account a number of things; Culture, Accessibility, Sustainability, Empathy, Ethics. Responsible design is holistic, accountable, creative, caring, visionary, quality conscious and forward thinking.

The relationship with User Experience

I read an article recently that attempted to split UX and design, it drew me back to Papanek’s words that we are all designers, but how we design is another story, UX is how I design, for example. We are all teachers in the same vein, whether we teach professionally or teach using a particular method, is something different.

A friend of mine had a stint teaching maths to children at a secondary school in Lagos. Many of the children appeared to be dull and didn’t seem able to grasp what he was teaching. My friend had been using the prescribed textbooks and examples, to describe percentages, additions, distance etc. and he got frustrated. The children were frustrated as well and they turned to buying and selling of items in class.

One day, it hit him, he describes it as an epiphany. He quickly changed all the textbook examples into things the children could relate to and see in their neighbourhood and the class began to liven. The children were happy and learning, he was happy and wondered how blind he had been.

I told him it was the same with design, any attempt to leave behind the people we are designing for will end up in frustration, for one party at least.

Can you design without UX?, sure! But UX is a better, responsible way to design, whether in visual, technical or development.

UX is a combination of skills that derive from the responsibilities we have as designers.

If we care, have empathy for people, we will involve them in our design process through co-creation, user research, usability studies etc. These skills must be applied to take an idea from pure fiction safely into the hands of users.

If you are in the business of design, you need to decide which way you fall, take up the responsibility and consider the above, build the necessary skills, it’s a daily struggle! Don’t think you will be able to master all skills, so better to ‘know thy self’.


Next Post: The Responsible Designer & Culture

I gave a little speech about Responsible Design and Culture at work, which went down quite well. Culture falls into 3 categories, Culture Within, Culture Without, Culture Transpositions (from/to)

Culture Within is about the character, values and experiences that are allowed to flourish or wither within a design team/org. It is foundational to how one designs.

The next post on Responsible design will explore ‘The Responsible Designer’, how the designer contributes to culture within, and it’s effects on the designer/designer’s work in turn.

For now, stay bright.


Essays on Responsible Design

Don’t talk about Immigration on the tube

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Once upon a train

Generally, I don’t talk on the tube. It’s one of those unwritten London rules so I read. However, when you haven’t seen a friend, an ex-colleague in months it’s easy to throw conventions out the window. Due to our busy schedule this was the only time we could catch-up during the week, after work. So there we were on one of the fastest trains, hurtling north and we were talking much.

We talked about the past few months, our present and the future. We talked about the changes we had been subjected to. Being both ‘Expatriates’ or Immigrants as those of us from developing countries are usually called, we talked about our immigration status, and being away from family. Perhaps we were talking too loud, enough for someone to get angry and they did.

I had only heard of such things in the news or read them on blogs, So when this man, standing close to me, said “You are not even British” I could not believe it was happening. Looking at me, his face already turning a certain shade of red, he addressed the both of us. My friend was shocked speechless, (she’s white, so I wasn’t sure this was racism).

“You have better jobs than me” he continued, my heart started to beat so fast, my legs began to fade away, scared of where this might escalate to. “How do you know that” I asked, (my extroverted feeling at work). “We are in this country because we’ve got useful skill” I tried.  “You are not even British” he continued. “You come here and you take the better jobs”. I looked at this man, and knew that a rational conversation was not possible. Luckily the train stopped at the next station shortly so we scrambled to get a seat while others got out. “I’m sorry I couldn’t say anything”, my friend said, “I was shocked”. I told her it was ok, but I was so shocked I had to say something, we deal with things differently.

Please, be kind

The life of immigrants is not an easy one by any measure, especially those of us who have left family behind. We constantly have to weigh our current status and all we had to give up to be here. I’ve been in the UK for 5 years and non-EU migrants like me for the most part depend on companies to sponsor our visas, we cannot collect government benefits. So it can be difficult especially when out of work.

We also get discriminated against when it comes to employment. I’ve been rejected immediately I brought up the fact that I’m Nigerian and would need a visa. It is understandable in some cases, but when it takes at the least, 2 days to get a visa you wonder why recruitment doesn’t take the chance. Is it even legal to discriminate this way?

I feel lucky to be in London, which is currently the most desired place to work in the world, and grateful that companies have agreed to sponsor me, and though I’ve never been denied a UK visa, I know people who have and it is one of the worst feelings in the world. Rejection is one thing, but to have a whole country reject you, horrendous.

Please be kind when you encounter an ‘immigrant’, you don’t know their story, give us a chance. The UK visa is actually very straightforward, don’t be afraid of sponsoring and employing one of us.

Thank You.