What Every User Experience Designer Should Learn from Frank Underwood

25 April 2014 | Categories: Design, User Experience | Author: Ewa Puchalska

For those who have seen the House of Cards series, Frank Underwood needs no introduction. For those who haven’t – without giving away the plot – Frank Underwood is a congressman (played by Kevein Spacey) a very powerful and very dangerous type, who carefully plans revenge on people who stand against him. Putting aside the politics, power struggles and an obviously treacherous personality, Frank’s character has actually a lot to teach us all. If you are User Experience Designer with a soft spot for customer experience metrics, read this carefully and learn how you can adapt Frank’s (some would say, bad) habits for maximizing your Team effort in order to improve customer experience and apply UX best practices.
source: Netflix / caption memegenerator.net

source: Netflix / caption memegenerator.net

Do your research

No matter if you are preparing for a political battle, trying to bake cookies for the first time in your life or you’re developing the greatest product the world has yet to see: you need to do proper research. In the case of User Experience design this means learning constantly from everything and everyone. If you start working on a new project, you need to do a proper brief:
  • who is your project for?
  • what is people’s real struggle and how to help them?
  • is there competition in the field?
  • what is it that they do well and how can you do it better?
  • do you have the time and resources (including people) to create the best possible product?
  • what would be the best solutions for this particular project?
These are the questions you should be asking yourself first. User Experience Design is a wide field that includes (but is not limited to): visual design, information architecture, interaction design, usability, proper management and organizing knowledge and data. A User Experience designer should factor in all of these disciplines. Just like Frank Underwood has all his knowledge at his fingertips, ready to be used anytime, you – as a User Experience designer should do your research and know it backwards and forwards to be able to pull it out of the hat in case anyone asks.

Know the players

No matter if you are one of the UX team or you are an external consultant hired to give your thoughts on a certain project, it’s crucial to know who you are working with. Of course, you will not get to know everyone instantly but it’s good to look around and get to know the team, their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes and to learn from what they may teach you. Know the decision makers: who hires you and why, what are their motives and does your opinion matter to them.

Know your closest co-workers: developers, front-end team, marketing, logistics. The website or product that they all have in mind is probably something completely different from that of all parties involved – identify needs! requirements and challenges and come up with a solution which is, at the same time, best for business and serves as a conversion rate optimizer.

But most of all, get along with your customer service department. Listen carefully to what they say: people who call or email have their problems, challenges and complaints. Anyone who cares enough to call or email and states that they are not happy is a great asset. Collect as many complaints as you can, select the most problematic fields and then work out a solution using research you have gathered, knowledge from your coworkers and your own instincts. Customer experience enhancement is a process and it doesn’t start with fantastic key visuals that an art director wants to push or a big flashy Call To Action that Marketing wants. No. Customer experience enhancement is a process that starts with a problem. And it can only move forward if you find a solution that works. That is why you need to know who are you building the product for, whom are you developing product with and most of all: who and why will be using the product.

Play on your strengths

Important as it is to do research and knowing the people you work for or with is knowing your own strengths and limitations. Not only will it allow you to improve the skills you already have but will help you to develop new ones. Knowing what you can and can’t do is crucial while building a successful business. This remains the same no matter if you are the founder, a sales person or User Experience designer.
Source: Netflix / caption: memegenerator.net

Source: Netflix / caption: memegenerator.net

Stay true to what you know. Be eager to learn more and more and then some. Never claim to be an expert in a field in which you are not. Listen carefully and draw conclusions. Be observant and let people use their best knowledge to build something truly remarkable and special.

Find a way to help others improve their skills. Lead by example and always offer help but don’t demand everyone around accept it. Disagree respectfully and truly value the opinions of others instead of just making them feel like you value it. Frank Underwood was great at planning things, his career especially. You should too. Here you can find more tips on how to Plan Your User Experience Career.

Always have Plan B (and C, and D…)

Developing a successful business that is in line with business goals, customer needs, expectations of the team and UX best practices is not an easy thing to achieve. In life, when you face a problem there are many solutions you can apply to solve it. The same goes for the business and its development process. Proven tactics may be tested and be not-so-proven anymore. In which case you will need a new game plan for the business. While working on the project, always take many notes in case you’d need to go back to some of them in the future. A good thing to do is also to record the discussions you have with your team and listen to them again if need be. If you feel that you are close to the right solution and want to jump right in and move forward – sleep on it. One of Frank Underwood’s most memorable quotes is: I never make such big decisions so long after sunset and so far from dawn – you shouldn’t either.
What Every User Experience Designer Should Learn From Frank Underwood

Source: Netfilx/ Caption memegenerator.net

And it is actually well researched that after a good night’s sleep your brain works better and you have improved chances of making the right decisions: Your fallback options may actually seem more like good ideas or you will think of new ones. One solution is not enough.

Test what you know

Every tactic you eventually decide to try out needs to be tested. It doesn’t matter if your boss, the entire team and yourself are completely convinced that it is going to work for the user. It won’t until they try it out and prove you’re right. If you haven’t heard of it by now, try getting to know about the lean startup method for developing successful products.

The best way to improve customer experience and increase customer satisfaction is by asking real people what they think about your product: user testing. It doesn’t matter whether you decide to do it yourself or hire professionals to do it for you – usability testing is essential part of the customer development process and needs to be done as quickly as you can.

There is a clear process to follow if you want to do it right and gather as many customer experience metrics as you possibly can. You can read more about it in one of our posts: Usability Testing – 10 Tips For Getting It Right. Another way to go may be putting your product “out there” and using special software to track visitor mouse movements, create heat maps and do a/b testing – all of which can be done remotely. Data that you gather shall then be used to improve the product and for you to work out proven tactics for developing a successful business. You don’t need to be smug, arrogant and abrasive like Frank Underwood. All you need to know is how to work smart and use his strategy in a good way for your product to make it both successful and usable. Be Like Frank Underwood and Find out how to improve your product!