Improving Accountability Between Colleagues in a UX Workplace

Overview

To better show my skills as a designer and researcher, I developed this independent project based on my dissertation research, which explored how UX professionals interacted with colleagues outside of design.

Problem

How might we support designers in creating a collaborative workspace that improves accountability between colleagues?

I just walk to him, we walk really [u] to each other, or communicate over Slack, that’s our chat system, and hey do you have time this sprint, how busy are you?” -Visual Designer

“…Sometimes here if you slack to someone or email them, or plan something. There’s always gonna be something in between, they never have time.” - Front End Developer

Designers in a UX workplace often struggle with a power dynamic where the needs of developers are privileged and designers are tasked with addressing those needs. In this environment, designers must carefully navigate their relationships by creating a collaborative workplace.

In my research, I found several instances of designers discussing the idea of accountability. They often needed answers to questions, or resources from their colleagues to complete their work. Designers developed different strategies to get this help in time to complete their own work as seen here

Looking at these two strategies, it is clear there is no consistent strategy within the organization for UX professionals to interact with their colleagues when they need their help.

Methods

In order to understand the nature of the UX workplace I used the following methods:

  • 8 remote interviews with US designers

    • Experience ranging from 3 to 10 years

    • Mostly designers in corporate design departments, but several with agency or freelance experience as well

  • 13 on-site interviews with Amsterdam professionals

    • 10 at a large telecommunications company

      • 7 with the title ‘designer’

        • 3 Visual designers

        • 3 UX designers

        • 1 Front-end designer

      • 1 Design Manager, 1 Product Owner, and 1 Brand manager

      • Experience ranging from 7-30 years

    • 3 at a design agency

      • Experience ranging from 10-35 years

Interviews ranged from 15 minutes to 90 minutes, and were a mixture of group interviews and one-on-one interviews.

I transcribed 15 hours of interviews and performed a Meaning Fields Analysis which allowed me to analyze specific statements within the interviews to reveal underlying meanings.

I also created a journey map from my research, which revealed pain points related to accountability between colleagues.

Customer Journey Map

To better understand the pain points of a UX professional, I created a journey map of their process getting information from their colleagues.

Journey Map.png

We can clearly see two pain points involving accountability. Once a designer makes a request, they must wait for their colleague to respond. If the colleague doesn’t respond, they must continually follow-up until the request is fulfilled. If they aren’t careful with these follow-up requests, they might create animosity among their colleagues. They must show diplomacy, and patience, respecting the time of their colleagues.

Once I understood this, I worked to pull insights.

Insights

I uncovered the following insights from my study:

  • Workers don’t have good support for making direct requests of their colleagues in a corporate setting.

  • Waiting for colleagues to complete essential tasks creates stress for workers.

  • Workers see value in respecting the time and effort of their co-workers

  • Workers have different strategies for ensuring their tasks get completed, ranging from very indirect and passive, to very direct and aggressive.

Sketching

From the journey map, I recognized that the pain points for the user were centered around the waiting for their request to be completed. I began sketching out ideas that would create a persistent task that each individual could refer to.

As I sketched, I developed the following considerations:

  • The solution needs to show respect to both the requester and the requestee.

    • This must involve some kind of negotiation of the time necessary to complete the task, and when it would be completed.

  • The solution must put both parties on as equal of footing as possible.

    • Neither the requester or requestee should have explicit power over the other.

I considered a calendar request system, but this felt too impersonal and didactic, which implied one individual had authority over another.

[IMAGE]

I then moved to a Slack or chat-based system. I sketched a system that would work as a Slack extension, since in my research, every worker was in a Slack-based system. This system would follow these five steps:

  1. Reaching out

  2. Time Negotiation

  3. Agreement

  4. Task Completion

  5. Notification/Delivery

With these 5 steps, I felt that each individual participating had their own agency. This system is meant to engender respect between colleagues, but also ensure that tasks are completed and work can proceed.

[IMAGE]

I also sketched out an icon exploration, considering what icons might indicate to the users that they have a task waiting to be completed. Rather than select a single icon, I decided to allow users to select any emoji available on their Slack site. This would support multiple tasks, and allow users to inject some personality into their requests.

[IMAGE icon exploration]

Finally, I sketched out a workflow of the process of using the extension.

[IMAGE OF FLOW]

Once I completed these sketches, I moved to wireframing.

Wireframes