Critical Thinking for UX Designers (Or Anyone, Really)

Loose notes from the SXSW 2011 session: Critical Thinking for UX Designers (Or Anyone, Really)

Love creative problem solving, but need something more practical–something specific to User Experience? Russ and Christina will share with you the exercises they use to solve the REAL problems. You’ll flex your critical thinking muscle through a series of jumpstarter activities. Even better, attendees will be encouraged to participate, if not embarrass themselves in front of a room full of their peers as they challenge themselves to see past the first, obvious–and often incorrect–answers, and start to flip problems on their heads to see solutions from a different view.

This session got off to a good start, but turned out to be focused much more on marketing than on UX. Not a lot of informational content here, unfortunately.

Christina Wodtke

Russ Unger
User Experience Dir
Happy Cog

You need to be able to chunk a problem into pieces, don’t take everything at face value.

You’re in a house. It has four walls. Each wall has a window. All the windows are facing south. A bear walks into the view. What color is the bear?

Henry Ford: If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said “A faster horse.”

The brain is wired for things that are black and white, very two-dimensional. We used to run from sabre toothed tigers because there was no way we could a sabre tooth tiger’s ass.

The limbic system: Beyond flight, fight, freeze, there’s also fuck.

With a bit of training and through some basic brain-stretching exercises, we can be reflective. We can slow down and find alternative solutions.

Critical thinking is not biased, partial, uninformed, or prejudiced.
Critical thinking is self-directed, self-monitored, self-corrective

It is possible to focus so much on your business that you forget to focus on your business.

When the cassette recorder was invented, the music industry announced a moral panic over the fact that people could simply steal music from the radio, or copy it from each other. -John Lanchester

the first digital audio player was invented in 1979 – WAY before the Diamond Rio or the iPod. He was already worried about payment systems and piracy.

The price of printing a newspaper is so expensive that they could give each subscriber four Kindles per year and it would still be cheaper.

How can critical thinking help in the design business?

Business tends to do deductive/inductive reasoning. But designers can LEAP to 14 fabulous solutions – that’s ABductive thinking, and it’s how innovation occurs.

STOP: Step Back, Think, Organize, Proceed.

Tools for thinking:

For clarificaton, try active listening
– Repeat
– Paraphrase
– Extend

Understanding – the five whys – keep asking why until you get to the root of the problem.

Is it worth doing? Three reality checks
– Size of market TAM = Total Available Market vs SAM (Served Available Market)
– Different markets have different needs (existing, new, resegmented)
– Markets are people – Business people should actually talk to users, OMG!

Evidence: How do you prove your right about your marketing ideas?

3 skills needed to succeed: Product, Business, Tech

User/browser role play. Make a cardboard cutout browser window, put it over someone’s head, and have them pretend they’re a form with required fields to be filled out. The user wants to skip some fields, the browser is yelling at them “All fields are required!”

Wear a different hat. How would different big brands respond to the same design challenge? (have groups role play each)

Hold a funeral for your product. Ask user “In three years, when this product is dead, tell me why it did not succeed.”

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