UX Strategy Musings from Will Tschumy, Microsoft User Experience Advisor

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Hey Will, Where ya been?

March 26th, 2007 by Will Tschumy

So, to call my posting to the blog recently ‘erratic’ is probably an understatement.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been on the road, including a week of training at the mothership and a trip to Los Angeles. As you might guess, all that travel has left me a little tired.

Given all this, I thought I might talk about some of the things that happened over this last two weeks.

First, the week of training. One of the things that Microsoft is very good at is developing and offering training to its employees. It’s one of the many things that I like about the organization. Not only is there the opportunity to attend training, there’s the expectation / obligation. This isn’t different than most other orgs that I’ve been in that value it’s employees, but it does seems , well, more sincere.

All this sounds good, right? Well, at least in part. Monday, the 12th was the hardest / worst day I’ve had at Microsoft. The training I attended was intended for the field team. Most of them are sales people, but not all. On this Monday, it became real for me how big Microsoft truly is. That, and how much of a challenge we User Experience Evangelists have in turning this ship.

The Evangelist role (of any variety) is part of an org called Developer Platform Evangelism (DPE). Microsoft is ~72,000 employees. DPE is roughly 2,000 people world wide. Now, I knew how small DPE was when I joined – what was so hard for me was understanding how little relative attention it receives from the org.

It did get better. Subsequent days presented DPE in a much more essential light. My manager has been extremely supportive. I really enjoyed meeting my other colleagues around from around the world. The worst part about the week (after the above) was 40 hours of powerpoint.

As low as the week of the 12th was, the week of the 19th was great. I drove down to L.A. to meet with a number of different customers / partners of Microsoft. What was heartening was how open these organizations are to UX as a discipline. Everyone I spoke to (and these are not shops that would be traditionally associated with any type of design sensitivity) hungered for an ability to better connect with their customers, potential employees, partners and investors.

The challenge I still see in the market place is:

Design ≠ Aesthetics

If there’s one thing we need to do as a profession, it’s to get the market to understand that these two things are not the same. UX and Design include aesthetics, but are not solely limited to it. Aesthetics is the end of a portion of the design process, not the beginning of it. This seems to resonate with the customers I speak with. Coupled with a overview of some of our tools and techniques, there seems to be a collective “Oh, that makes sense…” If nothing else, it’s good to see how many opportunities there are for UX these days.

So now I’m back in SF, starting a new week. I’m working hard to carve out time in my schedule to post more often. Looking forward to continuing our conversation.

Look for a podcast on Core77 with Chris Bernard and myself. It was a wide-ranging conversation. Many thanks to Steve Portigal for the invitation.

Oh, and on a totally different note: 2008?! Common that’s just not cool…

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