Networking between designers is not the rarity it used to be. The web, and more specifically Web 2.0, has brought the design community together through conferences, unconventions and good old informal meet-ups. By and large though our professional communications take place with two other main groups: clients and end users. So it’s worth considering how we handle those conversations. Hold that thought.
The July selection for UX Bookclub Belfast was ‘How to Use Your Eyes’ by academic James Elkins. Each chapter delivers a brief but compelling insight into the expertise of others. By deconstructing amongst other things a culvert, an oil painting and the Periodic Table, the book reveals hidden mechanics and meanings, inspiring admiration for those whose contributions you might not otherwise consider.
Designers are experts too!
Had there been a chapter devoted to the makeup of a graphic user interface or how a web browser renders HTML no doubt most of us could have produced something that would draw similar admiring gasps from readers. But before we descend into a round of “woohoo!”s, “awright!”s and high fives, let’s remember that expertise is (or should be) the minimum price of entry to the Service Industry Club. The question to consider is: how do we communicate our knowledge?
It just works
Throughout the day almost everything we interact with or consume is the product of others’ technical mastery and this input is largely invisible, allowing us to go about our day without giving a second thought to theory, systems or manufacturing processes. Similarly when we consult with experts outside of work, be it a doctor or a car mechanic, we appreciate it when they frame any potential problems in simple terms.
In UI design, and I’d suggest every other design discipline, expertise should manifest itself in simplicity. Certainly the science we incorporate into what we produce should be invisible to a non-expert. Further to this, we should be able to communicate our expertise and remain easily understood. Too often we are tripping over ourselves to prove our competence rather than communicate it effectively. Our ability blinds us. We should not berate the client for, as designers are so fond of saying, “not getting it”. Others do not see as we do.
So perhaps the truest test of our expertise is how simply it can be shared. When we discuss a project’s challenges with the client and more importantly what the solutions are, keep it simple. And sound like a true expert.