We kicked off 2017 design events here at Substantial last week with a session on “Effective UX Communication” for XXUX Seattle. Even though the weather and traffic were rotten (ie. it was pouring buckets and streets got backed up), we saw a great turnout of new faces, existing XXUX members, and Substantialites. For this event, it was important to Substantial and XXUX to come up with a session format that helped both connect and educate our design community in actionable ways. So, we hosted the night through a combination of mingling, presenting, and workshopping activities.

The Presentation

The focus of our night was to share ways to stop wasting time and energy through more effective UX communication with any audience. Coming from our background in client services, we’ve seen immense value in this for our clients and internal teams to avoid frustration, confusion, and repetition for everyone involved. We believe the key to effective communication lies beyond just considering the format of the deliverable or artifact you’re sharing – it’s about meeting the needs of your audience and walking away with actionable results. That means considering why you’re communicating your work, what information is important, and how valuable the format and fidelity of crafting the communication is.

While it’s not an exact science to determine these things, our presentation shared a simple framework to help guide these decisions – an acronym of “D.E.T.” Pronounced like “debt”, this acronym stands for “Desired Outcome. Environment. Toolkit.” It not only reminds us to remove our ego from the deliverables and artifacts we’re producing, but also helps us determine the type of context we need to set based on our desired outcome, correlates the types of details necessary to share for different personalities, relates fidelity of production to the time and relevance of your work, and explains how audience expectations can impact the selection of deliverable or artifact formats. In short, remembering the acronym of “D.E.T” can help us improve the efficacy of communicating our UX and design thinking work by reframing it to meet the needs of our audience with the least amount of effort.

For more details on this process and a deeper look at the presentation, check out our link at the bottom of this post.

XXUX Meetup Presentation

The Workshop

In the second half of our night, we switched to small group workshopping. We encouraged networking in this activity by grouping attendees randomly through pre-assigned animal names on their name tags. Tables were set up with these animal names at the beginning of the presentation so attendees could find their groups and more easily transition straight into workshopping.

Ranging from four to six individuals, each group was given one of four random prompts with challenge and scenario (see image below) that aimed to get them to figure out an effective communication plan based on the framework we just discussed. We started off with introductions at each table (to let folks get to know each other), then dove into individual problem solving, followed by sharing within the teams.

At the end, we asked for volunteers to share their experiences with the exercise and some of the communication plans they had created. Some of the general trends that came out were to think of the desired outcome first, and work back through the framework of “D.E.T.” to select formats for deliverables / artifacts and details that would be shared in the communication plans.

XXUX Meetup Name Tags

Parting Thoughts

In the Substantial spirit of continuous improvement, we asked attendees to share feedback with us at the end of our session about the format, facilities, and content. We got some great positive impressions and really useful suggestions that we hope to take forward to future sessions. Overall, we’re really glad to have shared our space and provided some value, and shared actionable education with our community of fellow designers. We hope to continue doing so as we move forward this year!

Special thanks to Kristine Kohlhepp, Chelsey Glasson, and Jada Williams of XXUX for helping us organize and host the event!

Unable to have attended, looking for a refresher, or hoping to hear our session again? Feel free to download a PDF of our presentation or get in touch with us.