“Take work-life balance seriously,”said Dr. Janice “Ginny” Redish. “Take time off. Be sure to take vacations!”
Redish, with a Ph.D. in linguistics from Harvard University and famous for her UX research, training workshops, plain language tutorials and writing for the web, was the star interviewee at the October 25th UXPA Redux conference. She has authored and co-authored seminal books in UX, including “A Practical Guide to Usability Testing,” “User and Task Analysis for Interface Design” and “Letting Go of the Words.” Redish spoke about the impact of technology on UX research, the effectiveness of today’s UX graduate programs and how best to maintain work-life balance.
Ginny noted that technology has always been important to UX research. “It’s always been about technology, even if technology meant a pencil.” She added that today there are many products available to help UX professionals conduct their research. When asked about her favorite tools, Ginny said that she didn’t want to endorse particular products. She always has her staff decide on the technology and she prefers focusing on working with people.
Regarding big trends, Ginny emphasized that the shift to mobile devices and social media is changing UX research. Now she is doing more writing and evaluating for the small screen. In addition, she has had to modify her training to accommodate tablets and smart phones. “Today, many people are using their phones as their primary computer.”
Regarding career paths for UX, Ginny shared that she is most familiar with the challenges and rewards of being a consultant. She worked at the America Institute of Research (AIR) for many years doing UX work as a consultant before anyone knew to call it UX. Anyone who wants to work as a consultant will have to learn to be very flexible. “You have to be very flexible as a consultant because you never know what your next project will be.” In addition, consultants sometimes have to be a little more aggressive as they introduce their ideas because they’re often brought into a project at the end of it.
Do universities adequately prepare students to enter the UX field? Ginny said that the students in the audience would be better able to answer this. But she also referred to the UX programs at the University of Washington, University of Maryland and the University of Michigan as good programs.
What is a good book for UX professionals to advance their knowledge? Ginny highly recommended “User Interface Design Evaluation” by Caroline Jarrett, Debbie Stone, Mark Woodroffe and Shailey Minocha, and published by Morgan Kaufman.
How can UX pros stay motivated? “There’s always something new to learn. Who knows where we’re going to be five years from now?”