Undercover User Experience Design is a much talked about book detailing a somewhat guerilla approach to implementing changes and effective strategies for UX within large organizations. Before we get into what sets it aside from older writing and philosophy on the topic, as well as what doesn’t seem to have changed much, let’s take a quick look at why this new perspective came to be in the first place.
undercover user experience design
The problem it addresses – that being that larger or older organizations are reticent to embrace the importance and legitimacy of UX as an important process – is quite real. We’ve mentioned this reticence in some of our stuff before, and simply cast it off as just being good at selling the organization on said importance with good old fashioned B2B-styled marketing flair. Undercover User Experience Design, however, recommends a different approach to this, and possibly one that works better than trying to thaw people from the start.
If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, the recommendation is to infiltrate the development, design and testing processes involved in the software or web interface’s creation in the form of a team leader, director or supervisor of some direct role, and then implementing the tenets of UX strategy through standard leadership practices.
Over the course of the chapters, it basically covers the basics of UX design in practical application such as identifying first who can describe a problem best (because they are the most likely people to solve it), working out sketches, paper mockups and wireframes that identify what a user wants.
The overarching focus is to overcome the natural tendency of design teams to obsess on perfect design versus practical, good design, which is a guiding principle in UX that even UX people often have a hard time keeping up. Admirably, this book does suggest gamifying things like the sketching and mockup phases, as well as practices for identifying and then identifying with the user demographic being targeted.
Ultimately, this book does have a good grip on the logic behind UX, as well as how to address many people-oriented obstacles often encountered when UX is overlaid on a design and development team. The idea of going undercover actually isn’t focused on that much in the material conveyed aside from hints on how to cleverly work in the UX directives and tactics I mentioned in an organic way so not to hammer “this is UX use it!” with the people in question. But, given the undercover aspect is intended to be a layer of subtlety to get companies and teams to use UX when they normally scoff at it, the subtlety of its presence in the book itself is actually kind of to be expected as well.
Undercover User Experience Design is good for two groups of people. For one, people starting into UX and still learning actually stand to gain some good insight into UX on the whole with this book, as with the subtlety of implementation of the practices comes a reduction of convolution and clinical representation that other works might be laced with. Also, though, it does accomplish what it sets out to do with UX veterans, that being to get them to approach implementation in a new, organic way. But … I would have liked to see some more guerilla tactics outlined from the start. It seems to pick one path there and just go with it, when there is a lot of potential for more.