At the end of January, Red Hat’s User Experience Design team heads to Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, to attend DevConf.cz, the 11th annual, free, Red Hat sponsored community conference for contributors to open source.
This trip marks our team’s first appearance at the Brno conference, and we’re excited to see interest in user experience from the open source development community. I sat down with some of the team to talk a bit about why UX matters and how development teams can shift their thinking to build more usable and intuitive user experiences.
Hi everyone, thanks for taking the time to chat a bit about UX today. Let’s start with the most important question! Why do you think UX is important for all members of a product team?
Colleen Hart (Interaction Design):
UX is a useful topic for all team members to learn about, regardless of their role on a project. Any given product strives to create some value for users. Users determine the value of a product based on their experiences. The more we can learn about UX and user-centered design, the better our products are going to be and the more value we will provide.
Jenn Giardino (Interaction Design/ Front End Development):
UX is constantly changing. As a result, so many factors can affect a design. Team members usually have different perspectives on a project, but no one team member knows everything about the user or the things that might affect their experience. The best design is one where team members can share what they know — best practice in design, user research, the technology being used — so the experience that works best for users can take shape.
Tereza Novotna (Interaction Design):
We all use digital devices and are familiar with UI and what’s on the screen. No one likes products that are complicated, confusing, and hard to use. As we create software together, I think everyone wants to have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping to provide a great experience for users.
Sara Chizari (User Research):
I think it’s safe to say that the experience is as important as the product itself. Learning more about UX encourages team members to keep their target users in mind and incorporate user needs and abilities into the product.
Jenn, you started off as an interaction designer and then became really interested in front-end development. Can you talk about your journey and how you became interested in development?
I started out studying graphic design, where "user experience design" was more of a concept than a web-based practice. It involved understanding audiences and learning to craft seamless experiences for them. Later, I was able to incorporate that focus on the user into a career in interaction design.
As a designer, I experienced frustration at how the little details that can make or break an experience were being overlooked by the developers tasked with implementing them. That frustration motivated me to learn how to build HTML/CSS mockups of my designs. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with understanding how the little decisions we make in code can have huge impacts on the usability of our designs.
Why is UX important to you and how do you think UX can impact open source projects?
Over time, it’s become clear to me that diversity between people calls for diversity in designs and preferences, but I recently realized the main challenge we face today is designing solutions that work for all users, regardless of their culture, language, background, etc. Being a user researcher allows me to be a part of that.
Adopting design thinking and UX principles can make open source projects more user-centered. By identifying users' need and prioritizing them, we can direct open source efforts and contributions towards the path that matters the most to our community of users.
Design thinking, at the core, is an open, interactive process used to understand needs, challenge assumptions, and determine solutions. By sharing this process through open source communities, we can create better solutions as a team.
Have you noticed any significant changes in the culture around UX in the last few years?
Yes! I’ve noticed changes both inside and outside of Red Hat. We as a Red Hat UXD team have grown rapidly in the last three years and we aren’t the only place with such a trend. I’ve also noticed an increased presence and demand for designers and researchers to participate in conferences like DevConf. These opportunities are invaluable for our team to gain more direct user feedback which ultimately helps us improve the user experience more quickly.
More and more, we are surrounded by digital products. UX design helps teams build products that are fun, delightful, and stand out from the competition. No one likes boring. UX also helps ensure we’re creating the right tool for the right audience. With UX and design thinking, we validate ideas, iterate on them, and then partner with engineering to build the experience.
Finally, tell us a little about what you’ll all be doing at the conference and how people can find you to learn more about UX.
I’ll be demonstrating Cockpit Composer, which is a tool that enables users to create customized system images of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The demo will be on Friday and it’s a part of the Platform/OS track. As part of that demonstration, I’m hoping to solicit feedback from audience members about current and future features in the application.
On Sunday, Tereza and I are giving a talk around Engineering Intuitive Experiences. We hope our audience will learn various ways to empathize with users and capture user feedback to incorporate into their products for an improved experience.
I’ll be conducting different types of user studies for RHEL Web Console (Cockpit), Composer, and the PatternFly Design System. We’re still in early stages of design for some of the products we’ll be testing, so your feedback can shape the future direction of those designs. We would love to get input from a wide range of people, so please stop by the UXD booth for some quick activities and grab some swag!
Great, thanks! Have a great conference.
We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at DevConf.cz this year! Come say hi during one of our talks or come by the UXD booth between sessions.
Jenn Giardino, Will Woods
Friday January 25, 3:30 p.m.
Colleen Hart, Tereza Novotna
Sunday January 27, 10:30 a.m.
Section E of the venue