Now available: Design for Impact by Erin Weigel

Expert Interview: Aarron Walter

09/19/2012

We’re excited to have Aarron, noted author and leader of MailChimp’s UX design team, on board as one of our UX experts. We love his writing, and we’re a more-than-happy MailChimp customer. Below Aarron discusses some of the challenges to managing a UX team, and interaction design in general.

RM: What’s a common misconception people have when it comes to building and managing a user experience team?

AW: The most successful companies and products have a very integrated UX team behind them. As companies grow they splinter into silos of expertise. Developers split into server-side specialties, front-end, mobile, system administration, and various technology specialties within each group. Design splits into specializing on specific areas of a product, marketing, mobile, etc. With each splintering of teams, communication breaks down and the continuity of the user experience can suffer. User experience is, by definition, dedicated to understanding and improving the continuity of a product, which requires peering into each silo, speaking the language of each team, and building bridges to connect them.

A good UX team combines expertise in design research, interaction design, business strategy, visual design, and development. It can be challenging to pull together such breadth and depth of skill, but when you combine that diversity of perspectives you end up fostering respect between the disciplines, which will make designing amazing products much easier.

RM: Speaking of IxD: what’s one thing you wish everyone knew about interaction design?

AW: Many interaction designers feel compelled to create new, novel interaction patterns. But with every new pattern you introduce, you place a burden on users to learn a new way to get something done. Great interaction design uses existing design patterns already familiar to users, and innovates only when necessary. Though it’s a little depressing to interaction designers, our ideas go unnoticed when we are doing our best work. If we remove all stumbling blocks in workflows and anticipate a user’s needs, the things we design become effortless to use.

RM: Thanks Aarron!