Meet National Instruments’ Sr. Software Interaction Designer, Jenica Welch

BeFunky_4997_97859920285_5012901_n.jpgAs a user experience fanatic, I’m always interested in connecting with top-notch UXers with an A class portfolio in order to learn from the best. As such, I decided to reach out and speak with Jenica Welch, Senior Software Interaction Designer at National Instruments, and get some answers to my often critical questions.

The results are as followed…

1. Where do you get UX inspiration and how does it play into your role as a software interaction designer?

Sometimes, inspiration comes from identifying breakdowns in my own life that could be better supported with software!  Often, inspiration comes from other software or from the web. Currently, I am doing a lot of mobile design and I’m often inspired by apps that I come across even if they are completely unrelated to what I’m doing.

2. How do you recognize a great UX designer?

They talk to users, but that is not enough! What really matters is the outcome of the design and how well it supports users’ tasks.

3. What do you think are the 3 most common misconceptions about user experience design? 

The biggest misconception about user experience design is that it can be done without doing any formative user research or iterative user testing. You have to know who the user is and what their motivation is before designing a user-centered experience. You would be surprised at how many UX groups do not even talk to users and still call themselves a UX group.

I would say that the second biggest misconception is that doing user research is expensive. This might be true if done in a highly formalized way. However, using “discount” methods can be highly effective and much better than not talking to anyone!

The third… often people confuse user experience design with other disciplines such as graphic design or development. While we collaborate closely with these other roles, we are not the same.

4. What’s the interaction like between R&D and the UX Team? Do they have differences? If so, what would you say is the biggest distinction between the two?

This is tricky to answer because my UX team is within the R&D department. So we are R&D! With that said, we are not the only design group at our company. We sometimes have to interact with other designers outside of R&D whose organization might have different goals. For example, the other designers in our company are in marketing. We tend to lean on them when we have questions about brand.

5. How can management best assess how much time and budget should be made available for UX?

It’s important to have a clear and frank conversation with the UX designers. Management should explain what they are trying to accomplish and then ask what UX process and deliverables best support their goal. An experienced UX person should be able to give a time estimate of how long the process and deliverables would take ideally.

Often, management might find that recommendations do not perfectly fit into time or budget constraints. This is OK, but UX needs to be transparent with management about possible tradeoffs. Many times, some tradeoffs are acceptable while others are not. It’s a negotiation.

6. What’s your first course of action when you begin the process of evaluating a product’s user experience? 

Often, this process is highly informal because I naturally form an opinion of everything that I use!

However, if I am evaluating something for work (especially something that I would never normally use), I try to come up with a list of user motivations and tasks. It’s good to start with some assumptions of what these might be, but validating assumptions eventually becomes important.

I then try to accomplish each task and ask myself how possible, easy, hard, pleasurable and efficient accomplishing the task is. I occasionally do a heuristic evaluation or cognitive walkthrough. I tend to just take the spirit of these methods when evaluating a product versus doing something formal.

It’s often easier to identify the things that suck about a product versus things that it does well. It’s important to try to identify both.