Experiencing Data with Brian T. O’Neill

054 - Jared Spool on Designing Innovative ML/AI and Analytics User Experiences

December 15, 2020

Jared Spool is arguably the most well-known name in the field of design and user experience. For more than a decade, he has beena witty, powerful voice for why UX is critical to value creation within businesses. Formerly an engineer, Jared started working in UX in 1978, founded UIE (User Interface Engineering) in 1988, and has helped establish the field over the last 30 years. In addition, he advised the US Digital Service / Executive Office of President Obama and in 2016, Jared co-founded the Center Centre, the user experience design school that’s creating a new generation of industry-ready UX designers.

Today however, we turned to the topic of UX in the context of  analytics, ML and AI—and what teams–especially those without trained designers on staff–need to know about creating successful data products.

In our chat, we covered: 

  • Jared’s definition of “design”
  • The definition of UX outcomes, and who should be responsible for defining and delivering them
  • Understanding the “value chain” of user experience and the idea that “everyone” creating the solution is a designer and responsible for UX
  • Brian’s take on the current state of data and AI-awareness within the field of UX —and whether Jared agrees with Brian’s perceptions
  • Why teams should use visual aids to drive change and innovation, and two tools they can use to execute this 
  • The relationship between data literacy and design
  • The type of math training Jared thinks is missing in education and why he thinks it should replace calculus in high school -- Examples of how UX design directly addresses privacy and ethical issues with intelligent devices
  • Some example actions that leaders who are new to the UX profession can do immediately to start driving more value with data products

Quotes from Today’s Episode

“Center Centre is a school in Chattanooga for creating UX designers, and it's also the name of the professional development business that we've created around it that helps organizations create and exude excellence in terms of making UX design and product services…” - Jared

“The reality is this: on the other side of all that data, there are people. There's the direct people who are interacting with the data directly, interacting with the intelligence interacting with the various elements of what's going on, but at the same time, there's indirect folks. If someone is making decisions based on that intelligence, those decisions affect somebody else's life.” - Jared

“I think something that's missing frequently here is the inability to think beyond the immediate customer who requests a solution.” Brian

“The fact that there are user experience teams anywhere is sort of a new and novel thing. A decade ago, that was very unlikely that you'd go into a business and there’d be a user experience team of any note that had any sort of influence across the business.” - Jared

[At Netflix], we'd probably put the people who work in the basement on [server and network] performance at the opposite side of the chart from the people who work on the user interface or what we consider the user experience of Netflix […] Except at that one moment where someone's watching their favorite film, and that little spinny thing comes up, and the film pauses, and the experience is completely interrupted. And it's interrupted because the latency, and the throughput, and the resilience of the network are coming through to the user interface. And suddenly, that group of people in the basement are the most important UX designers at Netflix.  - Jared

My feeling is, with the exception of perhaps the FANG companies, the idea of designers being required, or part of the equation when we're developing probabilistic solutions that use machine learning etc., well, it's not even part of the conversation with most user experience leaders that I talk to. - Brian


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