Designer reading a book during Table XI's Lunch 'n Learn.Table XI was delighted to host user experience designer / big thinker / awesome person Carolyn Chandler for an engaging Lunch 'n Learn last week. Carolyn Chandler is a design instructor at the Starter League and the American Design and Master-Craft Initiative. She’s also written A Project Guide to UX (with Russ Unger) and Adventures in Experience Design (with Anna Van Slee).

The lunch was a reunion of sorts since Carolyn has history with Table XI’s design group: front-end designer Matt Reich and I have both taken her Starter League class (it was through that class that I met Mike Gibson, head of the Love Has No Logic design group and now senior designer at Table XI).

Over lunch we discussed many fascinating components of user experience design and research. For now, I wanted to share a couple ideas. I’m excited to see how we can bring this kind of thinking to our work.

1. Have empathy for the user.

Screenshot of Mail Chimp responding to a tech issue.When aiming to make a useful, relevant solution for a certain user group, empathy is a good place to start. Mailchimp’s Voice and Tone project is a great example of incorporating empathy for the user into a site’s user experience. Mailchimp knows users likely will have different emotions depending on what they have to find. For example, if someone is on the "help" section of the site, they’re not in the mood for jokes—they want answers, understandably.

2. Formulate design principles early in a project.

When clients describe their product’s ideal user experience, they often use words like “simple” and “intuitive.” I can’t disagree—systems should absolutely work the way you expect them to. Totally on board. But, sometimes, I think having only “simple” and “intuitive” as goals is a little like saying the boat you’re building should float. If we spend more time upfront defining our design goals, codifying a common vocabulary, it will help with decision making throughout the development process. For example, if you’re trying to choose between two possible page layouts, circling back to the initial design principles can help break the tie.

3. “The details are not details. They make the product.”

I pulled this quote by Charles Eames from this fabulous sheet on microinteractions by Dan Saffer. A greater emphasis on details often helps in crafting a great user experience. Best case scenario, attention to detail helps the user feel taken care of. Thoughtful details also show you’ve taken the time to think through carefully what users are trying to do, and that you respect their tasks. Finally, a system's details can assure a user they’ve come to the right place.

Carolyn Chandler tasing at the Table XI's Lunch 'n LearnThanks again to Carolyn for an inspiring and useful discussion, with ideas that we'll be able to act on immediately—I’m eager to apply these lessons to our own practice.

In the meantime, in an attempt to catalogue inspiration and just generally be more observant, I made this tumblr of UX Defeats and Triumphs. Drop me a line if or when you come across something delightful or disastrous.

Are you interested in attending one of our future UX Lunch 'N Learns? We'd love to have you. Email for more information.

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