MaRS Library UX Design and Your Startup with Darrin Henein
Video transcript | UX Design & Your Startup with Darrin Henein
Tell us about UX design & how it relates to business objectives.
UX design is a framework for thinking. It’s a process and a toolkit that lets you design and develop products and services that map to real people needs. It’s putting humans at the centre of the process and ensuring that they’re always the focus of what you’re doing.
Companies that do UX design well are those that do keep humans at the centre of the process. It’s often the intersection of technical opportunities and constraints, opportunities to make the business viable and advance their strategic objectives as well as keeping that human-centred approach to everything that they’re doing.
Design can’t exist outside of those objectives, otherwise you just have art. You have design that should be focused on advancing the strategic objectives of an organization, whether that’s revenue or new customers or brand awareness. There’s always something it’s trying to accomplish, and that goal and how well it does that is how you can measure the effectiveness of the design.
How do you start a project?
There’s a lot of methods and techniques that you can use as a designer. As you grow as a designer, you’re building this toolkit, you’re expanding your repertoire of method. It really is not a one-size-fits-all thing. Each project is going to have different needs and different challenges. Design is all about communication, though, and understanding, and so part of your process is going to be about understanding the problem, understanding your users, and then you shift that into, “Okay, how do we solve this problem for this unique situation?” There’s lots of tools, like design experience and journey maps and customer maps, that are really helpful in communicating that design intent to your stakeholders.
I think that the design process can be complex. I think to manage that you really need to be able to communicate the rationality on why to those people. If they can understand why you’re doing things, and why it’s taking the time that it is, they’ll be more invested in the process.
What makes for good design?
Good design is hard to define, but I think you do have to go back to that intersection of those three concerns. Good design should be human-centred. It should be making someone’s life better. It should be solving a problem for them. It should be viable for the business or organization. It should advance their objectives. It should work well within the technical constraints and opportunities that exist. And sometimes there’s a push and pull between those three concerns, but they’re always factored into good design.
When should entrepreneurs start to think about UX?
Entrepreneurs often don’t know when to start thinking about UX. As a practitioner, my advice would be yesterday. It’s something that, if you are building something that is for people, you should be considering them from day one. Having someone who’s trained in the techniques of research and design is going to really help align your products with the customers you have in mind.
Is it valuable to have a UX designer on the founding team?
I may be biased, but I do think it’s important to have someone from a design background involved early on. I think as long as you’re building or thinking about something that is for real people, you should have someone who can understand those people, help develop empathy within the company for those people, and help solve problems in ways that actually add value and meaning to those people. Even in companies of greater size, I’ve seen projects start without design support and you end up realising later that this is not truly helping anyone. This is something that makes sense from a technology perspective, or maybe it’s an opportunity from the business side, but if it doesn’t map to how people are actually using your product, then it’s likely not going to succeed.
How do you build collaboration with other internal teams?
I think there’s two ways that you can really work with disciplines outside of design in a healthy way. One is just to remember that communication is everything. And so being able to communicate why you’re doing something, why you’re taking this particular approach, what are the approaches you also tried and decided against, to help them understand what their interface with the design team is like versus just saying, “This is what we’re going to do. Just trust us. Go make it.” When they feel more engaged and they feel more aware of the process, they’re going to be better collaborators.
And to that point, engaging them in the process is a really helpful way as well. So when we’re doing design experience, or brainstorming, or we’re doing reviews or a critique, we’ll bring in product managers, we’ll bring engineers, we’ll bring in support, we’ll bring in people who will have opinions and questions about their work. That’s really valuable for us, but it’s also valuable to help them feel like they’re part of the process as well.
User experience design (UX) is a framework for thinking about the design and development of a product and/or service that maps to real people’s needs.
Darrin Henein, Senior UX Lead at Shopify, explains the the basics of UX and delves into the mind of a UX designer.