1. Get your research out of the echo chamber. We do too much of our research with the people who are easy to find and easy for us to interact with…people too much like ourselves. Expand your recruiting to people who might be less digitally literate, interact in different ways, come from a different culture. You’ll have to make an effort to make these people part of your research: Recruit through community organizations, schedule sessions when they are available, and go to them instead of making them come to you. It’s worth the effort. I can guarantee is that they will give you new perspectives to bring to your work.
2. Design for extremes. Get out of the habit for designing for that ideal situation in the center of the curve and think about the edges. This includes extreme users – very low and very high abilities; and extreme contexts – when things go wrong or assumptions break. Is your product a good experience in the audio? Can someone use it in a bouncy vehicle or if they don’t have much dexterity? Does it translate well across languages and literacy gaps? We know how to be responsive to different devices – now add being responsive to different people.
3. Design with and not for. This is a mantra of civic design and civic tech. It’s a reminder to think about the people who will use what we create as partners, not ‘research subjects.’ Find ways to make them your partners in exploring the context of use or reacting to prototypes. Let them teach you about their lives and tell you their stories. They may not be skilled UXers, but through you they can have a voice in creating the things (you hope) they will use.
At the Center for Civic Design, Whitney Quesenbery brings her UX skills and passion for understanding the story behind the data to making every interaction with government easy, effective and even delightful. Because democracy is a design problem. Follow her at @whitneyq and @civicdesign