Drawing Inspiration from the Women of UX

Maribeth Fitzpatrick, Lead UX Engineer
Posted on Jan 10, 2019

I’m not sure if it was because the content was so on-point and relevant to me, or that all of the speakers were fellow ladies in my field, but, three months later I’m still deeply inspired by the 2018 TalkUX Conference.

The conference is put on by Ladies that UX and features an all-female lineup of speakers covering a wide range of UX topics as well as networking events.

The conference started with a presentation from Google’s Director of UX, Laura Granka, who has worked her way up the ranks, since starting as an intern 13 years ago. She’s implemented different UX strategies for research, testing, and frameworks for measuring user acceptance.

One of the most interesting was the evolution of their testing lab. As a UX engineer, I’m always testing my work on different devices, screen sizes, and so forth, considering how users are interacting with a site. Google’s testing lab started out as a small room with monitors and cameras, but evolved into a lab on wheels! They now bring the testing lab to different areas in hopes of encouraging more participation and to find different sets of users. All this talk about testing labs got me inspired to initiate a new testing setup at Imarc. (Stay tuned for more on that!)

Left: Original Google testing lab, Right: Lab on wheels! (imagine testing at the Grand Canyon?)

Solving for the Wicked Digital Problem

During the conference, one of the biggest topics was Wicked Digital Problems. While it’s usually in reference to social or cultural issues, we deal with Wicked Digital Problems all the time in UX. A Wicked Digital Problem refers to a problem that is difficult to solve due to a number of issues relating to time, budget, past missteps, and misinformation. Whether it’s working on a redesign on an outdated CMS platform, figuring out how to rearrange a site structure without negatively affecting SEO, or how to transform a long lead generation form into a digestible chunk, we have to solve a problem while ensuring we don’t create more down the road. We accomplish this by conducting research, doing testing, iterating, and keeping the strategists, designers, and engineers in the loop throughout the entire project. Collaboration is key!

The Latest UX Trend

I also want to touch on one of the newest trends in UX: the Design System. Like me, some of you may have seen HubSpot’s new Design System, Canvas. I had the pleasure of listening to Lara Tacito, Senior Manager of Product Design at HubSpot, talk about the process and challenges the team faced while building the new system.

The end goal of a Design System is to show your users consistency, clearly define expected behavior, and to help onboard new team members. Canvas is not just a style guide, but it’s also a component library for both UX designers and UX engineers, with guidelines and processes in place to request new features. At Imarc, we frequently put together mini design systems for our clients so they have a web style guide, which helps them when editing content and helps our team pick up the project and make edits easily.

I also attended a workshop on Problem Definition run by Kate Brigham, Design Director at ezCater. Kate helped me learn about putting myself in the users’ shoes and new strategies to define the right problem. Ultimately, defining the right problem is the best way to come up with the most effective solution.

As a UX engineer, I’m constantly receiving requests for new features. For these, I have to determine what the problem is the client is attempting to solve, so I can come up with a solution that will work for them and, more importantly, the users.

The Leading Ladies of UX

Probably my favorite part of the conference, was a panel made up of leading ladies in the UX field. Panelists ranged from directors of UX, to chief experience officers, to product designers, and VPs. They talked about advocating for themselves, leveraging resources and studies, and having imposter syndrome (not knowing if you’re doing a good job or if you “belong here”). They also discussed the importance of showing what your team is doing for the rest of the company. A good idea is to hold workshops or lunch-and-learns to demonstrate design decisions that worked well and didn’t work well, what you learned along the way, and general knowledge-sharing.

All of these women were so inspirational and every one of these ladies is proof that you can do anything you put your mind to. None of them had imagined careers in UX or working in such high-profile roles at amazing companies. The bottom line is to make sure your voice is heard and believe in yourself and you will succeed!

Since joining Imarc five years ago, the number of women employees has grown to 13 (including a partner)! We have such a great group of ladies, across all disciplines, which is really cool. Every one of us is talented in our own ways, both at work and outside of work (have you seen Bonnie’s Magic Wheelchair costume?).

We constantly share ideas and experiences, support each other, and advocate for one another. A bonus is that we all get along and love to hang out after hours to blow off some steam. It really helps us feel empowered and successful in our roles, knowing we have such a strong group of women behind us.