Anyone who works in UX (and even those who don’t) probably know the traditional parts of a research project that involve planning, assessing methods, gathering data and then analysing this and making recommendations. However, a factor that is often missed in UX work is one that is probably the most important of all – evaluating yourself.
Why is evaluating important?
Evaluation is often seen as an optional part of projects, and often, something that people dread doing and put off. Nobody says that it’s easy, but it is certainly important.
Without proper evaluation of yourself, you will never improve your skills. You might have an awareness of things that you struggled with more than others, but without taking time to properly ask yourself ‘why’ you struggled with a certain aspect, you’re susceptible to making the same mistakes over and over again.
Without taking time to properly ask yourself ‘why’ you struggled […], you’re susceptible to making the same mistakes over and over again.
If you don’t evaluate your projects, you might be kidding yourself that you did everything perfectly. My favourite (and first) thing that stuck with me when entering into a UX role was that good user experience involves making lots of mistakes. Some mistakes are obvious and you have the moment of ‘I would never do that again’, but often, the mistakes that might be most detrimental to your project development might be ones that you didn’t even notice at first glance.
Good user experience involves making lots of mistakes.
How can I evaluate projects?
This isn’t always a 1000 word essay at the end of a research paper, so don’t panic. It’s also not about thinking in terms of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ (as this is pretty subjective); it’s more about nuances. Think about if you can try doing any of the things below in your next research project:
- Include a ‘Limitations’ section in your research proposal: no research proposal is airtight, so it’s no good for anyone if you try to ignore potential problems even as early as in the planning stage. Acknowledge what might be an issue, who/what you might be excluding by doing the research as planned, and, if you can, how you might work around this issue or what you’re doing to address this. This shows an awareness of the project that will really help you solidify your goals, lower unrealistic expectations and show the value of consistent user testing (as no project will ever provide every insight possible)
- Include an ‘evaluation’ slide in any presentations to stakeholders: they will probably respect you for pointing out things that might have influenced project outcomes, and it helps distinguish between the actual evidence gained and your recommendations. However, be careful not to undermine your project here and make your research seem less valuable. It’s important to point out limitations, but not to invalidate your projects completely so that they seem unreliable
- For quick fixes, simply take a moment to reflect at the end of each day in your project and scribble on one post-it each, ‘REPEAT’ and ‘REFINE’. Put one thing you think went well today on ‘repeat’, and one thing that could’ve gone better on ‘refine’. Take a picture at the end of your project of all the notes and add it to your portfolio/project diary or even better, pin it on your desk or a nearby wall. You’ll have various points you can consider in your next project, and are in the habit of consistently evaluating at the end of each day
How can I evaluate myself?
This one might seem trickier, but it has so many pay-offs that extend beyond just improving your project.
- Be humble: If you are aware that you can always improve on what you are doing, and are humble about it, you’ll find that the sky is the limit for your skill-set. Attend as many meet-ups as you can and speak to a wide range of professionals – from those who you admire to those who are just starting in their career. You will always learn something new in these kind of environments. One of the great things I hear about UX is that a senior role should always be accompanied by a junior one, as the junior role might come up with creative and inventive ideas that are a bit more ‘out of the box’, and together, this can be steered into a direction that really improves a project
- Act like you’re applying for a job, always: the time will come when you are forced to evaluate yourself in a job application process, and to make this easier and get into the habits that employers are looking for, it’s worthwhile to always have up-to date examples of questions you might likely be asked in an interview. Keep your CV up to date and a record of any stumbling blocks, because then you can talk about how you overcame these
- Keep a weekly check: you might not always realise that you’re evaluating a process until the process has been and gone. Keep a weekly journal – it doesn’t have to be long – but slot 30 mins on a Friday to write what you did this week and if you had to change anything or work through anything in particular. You can keep referring back to this to see how far you’ve come, and when/why you made changes you did
It’s great to evaluate!
What other useful ways do you have to evaluate yourself, or your projects? Have you had a time when you’ve taken a step back to evaluate and it’s really paid off for you? Let me know in the comments!
A good article that looks at how evaluation can fit into planning a project: https://usabilitygeek.com/how-to-get-more-clarity-and-control-over-your-ux-projects/
A really interesting article about using metrics to evaluate project ‘success’: https://uxdesign.cc/a-metrics-driven-approach-to-evaluate-success-of-ux-design-dd3bea098820