As I said my goodbyes to my coworkers in preparation for my December retirement, a product owner suggested that I would now be unleashing my critical "UX Eye" on the world beyond product development. It's...
As I said my goodbyes to my coworkers in preparation for my December retirement, a product owner suggested that I would now be unleashing my critical "UX Eye" on the world beyond product development. True, it is true. But I have always done that. Although I don't read as many articles about UX design as I used, I still read them.
Krisztina Zerovay's "Happy Paths and Edge Cases", a recent piece, struck me. It provided a UX-focused perspective on the comments sections on the Washington Post, New York Times and NextDoor, where a sad number of people offer advice that shows a lack of empathy for those at the lower end of society.
Do what I do because everyone is in the same situation as me. If you don't get to where I am in your life, it's because of [fill in blank] being lazy, stupid, or lacking the moral fiber that I have.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating the meaning of happy pathways and edge cases, however, it struck me that many people can't imagine that everyone has a happy path through life. Or that success could have been due to good fortune, intelligence, or moral fiber.
The Happy Path to this advice: Raised by professionals from the upper middle class. Can afford college education. A network that can be used to find summer internships and professional jobs after graduation. You can schedule job interviews by working remotely a few days per week.
Unconsidered Edge Case - This case is for someone who comes from a working class background and cannot afford to go to college. However, he or she works full time at a job that pays barely above the minimum wage. There is no network and he cannot afford to do an internship in another city. Now, I'm trying to combine two jobs that have unreliable hours and irregular work hours. I would love to find a better job but cannot leave their in-person work for interviews.
The Happy Path to this advice: Have the money to rent a UHaul or move movers, pay a security deposit and first and last month's rent. Can you show credit to be eligible for a lease. You are young enough to have no ties to the local area. They can be found by their parents until they settle somewhere else.
Unconsidered edge Case: Due to low-wage jobs, don't have enough funds for security deposit or first and final months' rent. Their entire family and social network is close to them by 50. They also have access to medical providers. Even if they are able to relocate, companies rarely hire people from far away and even less often pay for moving costs. Moving to a lower-income area without mass transit would require long commutes to reach low-wage jobs.
The Happy Path to this advice: Have the money to join Costco, a place that allows bulk purchases to be transported and stores them in one family home. A large enough income to cover the cost of bulk buying.
Unconsidered edge Case: Can't use public transit to get to Costco. They live in a studio apartment (whatever they can afford), so they don't have a place to store bulk items, even if they could afford them on a $10.75 per hour wage.
Unconsidered Edge: Does not have the funds to pay tuition or for expensive Boot Camps. Has children at home and works two jobs to survive. There is not enough time to train and get a better job.
I'm trying to decide which came first. My empathy or my success? Is it possible that I succeeded as a UX designer simply because I had an already-developed empathy muscle. This was honed from growing up in a blue-collar home and having a friend who was disabled and always worried about money. Or did I learn empathy by spending years thinking about how users would interact and what obstacles they might face?
I don't know how to answer that question. I am sure I have my own blind spots when it comes to empathy. If you're looking for advice beginning with "Just", please take a moment to consider the ways others might have not had the smoother path that you had.
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