I’m self-learning experience design, so I’m always on the look-out for how to practice design thinking / human-centered design. As I mentioned in my last post, I have chosen a personal design challenge that would have immediate benefits for my family and my marriage: how might my husband and I improve how we handle the family’s finances?
Besides that, I have also thrown in with a small group of self-learning UX students such as myself that I stumbled upon through the Junior UX Community slack channel. We are informal and don’t really have a name or anything. But we are learning so much more than just reading articles or taking classes alone. We are learning through doing, which is a vital mindset in human-centered design. But more on this in later blogs.
I wanted to work on the personal design challenge to improve my family’s finances with my husband since we both need to be involved with any changes that this challenge brings. He’s not as into it as I am, but he’s playing along. 😉
Dealing with our finances has been a high-priority pain point in our lives that we haven’t been addressing. We take drastic action, like taking out a consolidation loan, and then in a year or so, we find ourselves in the same point that necessitated the loan. Something needs to change if we’re going to be financially stable. And being financially unstable is an amazing strain on a marriage. We need to make this change to improve our lives, reduce stress, help our family be financially stable for the future, and help keep our relationship strong.
First thing I did was come up with stakeholders involved. It’s not just my husband and myself. We may be in charge of our family’s money, but others are affected by how we chose to manage that money.
Then I started some preliminary research; i.e. did an internet search. I have a cognitive bias – I felt like I knew all the information I was reading already, but I was missing the piece on how to apply it. I put the internet search aside and took another approach.
So I thought a good next step was to ask the people involved questions about their situation. Problem with doing a personal design challenge, the whole thing is soaked in personal bias, so it can’t be avoided, but it can be called out whenever I notice it. I tried to think up questions as if I was going to be interviewing complete strangers to help them out. This was hard to step out of my own situation to be objective and not take questions in a certain direction using my own knowledge and bias.
I came up with interview questions. What do I need to know? (e.g., What is the family currently doing to track finances? What works? What doesn’t work? Why does it work or doesn’t work?) What do I already know about the situation? (e.g., Need a budget, need to spend less than you bring in, etc.). How can I reframe these questions? Looking back at the questions, I think I could have done better, but that’s how we learn. What I do remember from the various classes and articles I’ve read, I don’t want to ask leading questions. I don’t want to ask questions in such a way as to influence the interviewee.
I brushed up on how to interview. I tried to use the interviewing skills laid out in the +Acumen / IDEO.org course I took this last summer which called for a neutral perspective and an empathy-inducing curiosity. I don’t want to give positive or negative feedback on the answers (e.g., “Oh, wow! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear!”), other than thanking them for being honest and taking the time to answer your questions (e.g., “Thank you for answering that honestly.”) And I do want to keep asking why to get to the heart of their motives (e.g., “Yes, I see what you mean. Why did you do it that way?” or “What was going through your head when you made that decision?”). I’ve still got a lot to learn about interviewing skills.
Then I interviewed my husband.
THIS. WAS. LIFE. CHANGING. Or rather, perception-changing.
I interviewed my husband and just listened. I didn’t respond. I didn’t try to argue or persuade him. I just asked questions and listened to the answers. And I asked why. This technique may have saved my marriage (j/k – but it certainly enhanced it!). And I learned that when I talk to my husband, I’m really not listening as much as I thought.
I would recommend that technique, especially if you feel stuck with your significant other. Interview them. Ask questions. Listen. Observe. Don’t respond to their answers. Don’t argue or persuade. Just listen. It may not be comfortable, but that usually means we’re learning something.
We’re still in the middle of this personal design challenge. I’ll keep you all updated as we move along!
What are you doing to practice human-centered design? Have you considered a personal design challenge? What would you want to change in your life? What could use a tweak?