“The Light — It’s Always Been There. It’ll Guide You.”

My career as a User Experience Professional materialized by way of a nontraditional route. I came not from a design or psychology background, like many of my UX peers, but rather arose from the dark side–a place where design knowledge is scarce.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was an HR Practitioner. I can’t honestly lay claim to assisting the valiant Poe Dameron in obtaining the Skywalker map on Jakku, or destroying the mighty Starkiller base (which, as was the case with its predecessor, is conveniently designed to required only one, well-placed shot!)… but I do believe my early, dark side HCM training fostered an innovative approach to design, and positioned me to help lead the Rebellion charge to create the next generation of experiences for today’s workplace.

In order to escape the sinister clutches of Kylo Ren and the dark side of software design–where users cannot successfully complete tasks, or find the process to do so cumbersome–software designers must employ user-centered design principles, to insure usable and effective software, that increases productivity and also delights the user.


(I ran this by Yoda, and agree he does)

Empathy For the User

After interacting with the rogue Stormtrooper FN-2187, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron affectionately renames the unlikely wingman “Finn.” Despite their diametrically opposed backgrounds and allegiances, Poe identifies with Finn on a personal level, and takes him under his wing to brave the ruthless First Order.

In UX, we also have to take people under our wing. We must have empathy for the users of our software. By understanding how they think and work–context, goals, and motivations–a UX professional is able to create the best solution for a user’s particular wants and needs. This entails having insight into a user’s perspectives, processes and ultimate goals. How do they work? Where do they do their work? Do they get interrupted throughout the day? Do they use spreadsheets outside of the system? Who do they collaborate with? 

I once was the frustrated HR professional who was marching to the First Order leadership, as I completed basic HR tasks on hard-to-use software. I recall needing to quickly on-board 5-8 new employees before a critical payroll deadline; I also had to obtain the necessary approvals from inaccessible managers for a promotion, before I entered the data into the HCM system. Even back then, when J.J. Abrahms was still playing with action figures from the original Stars Wars: A New Hope, I encountered some of the pain points that HCM users still encounter today.

Understanding Business Needs

Poe Dameron’s droid, BB-8, obtains part of the map that will lead to Luke Skywalker, courtesy of Lor San Tekka, but an awakened R2D2, perhaps a bit grumpy since BB-8 is stealing his thunder in the seventh installment of the series, rallies for the team and provides additional details that fully reveal the critical Jedi’s location.

Similarly, business processes span across departments, roles and time.  The HR professional must not only insure that a new hire is engaged and productive as soon as possible–acclimating him or her to the company’s culture and daily operations, facilitating the provision of necessary business productivity tools with the IT department, assigning department and location-specific training, and obtaining required employee information and coordinating with Finance, so they are paid in a timely manner –but must work with other departments to accomplish this task.

Being Innovative and Creating an Awesome Prototype

Just as Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Finn take a chance by going into hyperspace warp to avoid detection and then crashing onto the Death Star, you have to take a chance and commit to an approach, once you know what you are up against… choose a design direction, formulate a concept, and put something on paper (or in a prototype). Be bold and creative! Embrace the force. You might not be as successful (or incredibly lucky) as Han, Chewy and the gang, but the only way you’ll know that is by getting feedback from users.

By sharing the design with users… the people who will ultimately use the product… you can evaluate whether or not it meets their needs and expectations. Regardless of how rudimentary your design, you can improve on it and iterate. User feedback will inform you how to revise the design.

These three UX principles combine to form the basis for a…

Jedi Code of Conduct for the UX Professional

The force can be elusive, but rest assured, the light saber is well in reach. By employing Empathy for the User, Understanding Business Needs, and Being Innovative and Creating an Awesome Prototype, the UX designer can successfully keep the dark side at bay, while designing the best experiences for the enterprise.