UX Unplugged with Tiffany Eaton
Tiffany Eaton is an Interaction Designer who, in her own words, "strives to enlighten and inspire users with memorable, useful and beautiful experiences that drive social change and bridge community." And she also happens to work at Google. A versatile designer who thinks broadly and deeply about the users, her designs end-to-end experiences that meet both the user goals and business goals. She has been featured in many popular UX publications like UX Collective, HackingUI, and Hey Designer, among others.
Tiffany spoke to Yogeshwari Dingankar and shared her views on a variety of UX-related topics. Excerpts from the interview:
You were a freelancer before joining Google. Could you tell us about how you got into design in the first place and your journey from there to Google?
To clarify, I was in college before joining Google but did freelance work on the side. I have always been interested in creative work, painting, and drawing since I was a toddler, so I knew I wanted to do something related to that. It wasn't until the beginning of college, where I had more exposure to UX design. Since my college was based in the Bay Area, I was fortunate enough to be immersed in the field, with tech being based here and what-not. My major was originally graphic design, but I wanted to do work that allowed me to utilize multiple skills, rather than primarily focusing on visuals. I actually didn't know I wanted to do design until I took a few classes that challenged my craft and problem-solving skills, which felt more applicable and gave room for more possibilities when it came to creating things. From there, I hustled to find opportunities to apply my skills in real-life situations, given the fact that my financials and support were limited. It took the form of helping my professors, going to design events, and getting internships. Before joining Google, I interned at DocuSign during UX Research, and the following year, I interned at Intuit doing UX design.
I learned to be critical of the feedback or information is given to me and to ask questions that would lead me to make my own judgment.
Your journey in Google must be going amazing. So, would you like to share some challenging experiences from your journey at Google?
I would say the hardest part for me had been advocating my work and providing a strong perspective behind it. For months, I felt like an imposter, feeling that the work I was doing wasn't good enough or that people didn't listen to me because (insert self-perpetuated insecurity here). This would be reflected in the fact that I didn't have a strong stance behind my designs, and this resulted in getting swayed by other people's perspectives and not taking consideration of my own. It made me really frustrated, but I learned to be critical of the feedback or information is given to me and to ask questions that would lead me to make my own judgment. Doing this has allowed me to have a better understanding of where the other person is coming from and has made me more confident in really owning my work and the decisions I make. I learned that no one is going to be a stronger advocate for your work than yourself, and in order to have other people on board, you need to be the one driving.
From experience, designing for both business and user goals requires some degree of compromise and understanding of what and where the business goals are coming from and how they can work in tandem with the user experience without compromising it too much.
In designing user-centered designs or deigning user end to end experience, there is a difference between user goals and business goals. How did you manage this gap and designed applications which were meeting the business goals as well as user goals?
Let's say that you were designing a scroll feature for a news app that allows users to see lots of content effortlessly all at once. A user goal could be to have an overview of all the content that is available to them based on their interests, and select what to engage with more. On the other hand, a business goal is different. It is often based on set metrics or goals they have in order to make a profit and ensure their business stays afloat. A business goal could be to incorporate more ads in the experience but not being super obtrusive for the user (think Instagram), or if their goal is for user engagement based on time, an infinite scrolling feature might be taken into consideration. In other words, business goals are often beneficial to the business first, but not necessarily take into consideration the ramifications of its effect on the user experience.
From experience, designing for both business and user goals requires some degree of compromise and understanding of what and where the business goals are coming from and how they can work in tandem with the user experience without compromising it too much. There was a recent experience where my PM proposed a feature that could lead to more sign-ups, but the potential problem with the feature was that users wouldn't understand the value because we were essentially handing it to them and it was a brand new feature that they probably wouldn't know too much about. In some cases, this would be fine, but, in our case, the lack of context could lead to distrust with major stakeholders. With the business goal of more sign-ups, I changed the experience so users could understand the feature in context and in the design, created the incentive to sign up in order to achieve their goal. If I had just designed for business goals, it could lead to a pretty deceiving user experience, but if I had just designed for user goals, it could lead to wasted resources and no profit to continue funding the project.
Load balance, and don't be afraid to disregard a project where the deadline is far and work projects with more aggressive deadlines.
As always, Google's designs turn out amazing and user-friendly. But what were the challenges that you faced working in Google? Things that didn't go according to plan design-wise?
The projects you do will always change a priority. One minute you are focusing most of your time on one project, the next minute your time could be focused on a new project that suddenly came up. The solution to this? Load balance, and don't be afraid to disregard a project where the deadline is far and work projects with more aggressive deadlines.
As an interaction design expert and UX designer, what are your superpowers?
Some of my superpowers are identifying opportunities and distilling them into straightforward designs, understanding the system architecture behind how things work, and listening.
Get as much experience as you can. Find ways to contribute to your community, whether in school or outside of it.
What advice would you give to UX designers who want to be a part of big companies?
Ask yourself why you want to be a big part of a big company and how you could contribute. Get as much experience as you can. Find ways to contribute to your community, whether in school or outside of it.
There are also many different opportunities to make an impact. Here is an article I wrote that gives insight into the expectations and realities of working in a big company: https://uxplanet.org/expectation-vs-reality-as-a-ux-designer-working-in-the-big-four-394cea84ab43?source=---------27------------------
When in doubt about a challenge, communicate. Communicate with your cross-functional partners early and often.
What are your thoughts on UX designers and agile? How can designers tackle the challenges they obviously face working in an agile process?
When in doubt about a challenge, communicate. Communicate with your cross-functional partners early and often. Ask them questions that help you with your work. Get them involved in your process; make sure they understand your role and what you are working on. Align on shared goals and OKRs. This ensures that everyone is on the same page with each other's work, and you know what you need from them to get your work done.
Think If there is a situation where you don't have enough time to research, then how your process will be?
If I don't have enough time for research, I will try to find existing research of what I am working on, or test my work internally with people who are the closest representation of my users. That way, I am still basing my designs on relevant data and not designing with perceived assumptions.
You have versatile experience in working like a freelance you must have designed for start-ups as well as more established brands. So, how would you differentiate your experience?
I made a comparison between corporate and consultancy work, which you can find here: https://uxplanet.org/the-difference-between-corporate-and-consulting-design-work-dbc75176a42b
And lastly, would you like to guide us or give us some tips in UX for software solutions?
Siva Sabaretnam, head of design at Facebook, wrote a comprehensive post about designing for enterprise solutions. I highly recommend it as it sheds light on the differences between solving consumer and enterprise solutions: https://medium.com/elegant-tools/the-enterprising-designer-beyond-consumer-product-design-7671bb869418
This wonderful chat with Ms. Tiffany Eaton was very helpful. Thank you so much, Ms. Tiffany Eaton, for having such a nice conversation and clearing our doubts.