Take the Advice of Fortune 500 Lead Designer Amy Marquez

Amy Jimenez Marquez is the lead experience designer for the R&D team of a Fortune 500 financial services company. She is also one of the publishers of Boxes and Arrows, a peer-written user experience and information architecture journal established in 2001, promoting Lead Designer Amy Marquezcontributors who want to provoke thinking, push limits, and teach a few things along the way. Amy started as a graphic designer in the early 1990s. She moved into the web design and user experience design fields in the late 1990s, working in a small enterprise, large enterprise, and freelance settings. With a Master’s degree in Directing, Amy has also been performing improvisational comedy for over 20 years, which has helped her immensely with collaboration skills in project team settings.  

What challenges do you currently face as a UX designer in today’s industry?

I work as the lead experience designer in the R&D department at a Texas-based financial services company. One of the challenges we face is designing for non-traditional experiences.   Voice-directed experiences, wearables, drones, biometrics; these are all technologies we are designing for using the same basic principles of user experience design, but the interfaces are so different, it takes a lot of technical research and diligent testing. Another challenge working in an enterprise setting, especially in R&D, is just talking to other design professionals about what we do. So much of it is under NDA that it’s difficult to have informed conversations with colleagues across the industry.   It’s also nearly impossible to have an up to date design portfolio.  

What are some methods you follow in your design process? Any personal touches you like to include?

One of the key things that helps me in my process is being in close contact with our data science team. We go to initial stakeholder meetings together on new efforts. We found that we asked a lot of the same questions when an effort was just getting off the ground.   Understanding upfront what the target audience is, what the hypothesis they want to test is, what the definition of success is – these are really important to the success of a project. Understanding where in the lifecycle of product design the effort is has been key to understanding the kind of kick offs we need with the team. We right-size our user-centered design workshops based on where the project is in its lifecycle and what the goals of the immediate effort are. Lead Designer Advice

Based off your own experience, what do you think will be the next big trend in the design world?

I believe that micro-personalization using intelligent algorithms and targeted data insights is a big trend that’s already happening and will continue to grow outside of the tech companies already doing this. When an offering is personal and relevant to an individual, there’s more value in it for them. It’s funny because just three or four years ago, we’d see in user research that knowing too much about people was creepy. Now, if we don’t automatically know everything about them, our application is “dumb”.  

In your opinion, what is the most common mistake you’ve seen designers make? How can designers avoid making this mistake in the future?

The most common mistake I’ve seen is taking a design too personally. Believing that the design is your “baby”, is a huge mistake. It leads to poor behavior and a lack of collaboration when a designer feels like they own the experience. The reality is that whoever has the most skin in the game (the product owner, the stakeholder), is the owner. They are the ones whose baby this is. And you’d better treat their baby well. Often, their livelihood depends on the success of their product.  

What is your approach to ensuring that websites and other platforms are accessible to all user groups?

It’s important that accessible design isn’t something done after the fact. That it isn’t a “phase” in the design process. Everything my team designs has accessibility baked in. And though we keep that at the forefront when designing color palettes and interactions for efforts, we bring accessibility experts in early to make sure we aren’t missing anything. From the early prototypes to the working models of an application, we get their feedback on what we could do to improve the design and make it as accessible as possible. It’s also part of the formal QA process before an application is ever piloted.  

What criteria do you use to define a “successful design”?

That’s an interesting question. There are successes within the full lifecycle of a design. Some of the pivotal points are: – The whole team understands what the business problem is and how it correlates to a user need. – Everyone owns the design. The business owner, the technical lead, the interaction designer – they all feel they’ve been listened to, contributed to the design, and they are proud to own it. – Early end user feedback validates (or invalidates) the direction of the project, and steps are taken to continue in that direction or pivot. – Well in advance of beginning design work, success metrics were planned with the business and IT partners, and after a period of testing, those metrics were met. For more UX insights follow Amy on Twitter.
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com