Having gone through User Experience Certification with a group of folks at Saint Mary’s Press, I shifted gears into a new vocation before we had a chance to debrief. Right before my departure, Heather Sutton, the Customer Market Knowledge Leader at Saint Mary’s Press, and organizer of the CUEP training, asked me to share some of my insights via email for the group.

I ended up listing five things I not only took out of the training, but from my experience with User Centered Design at the Press. In true Heather fashion, always digging deeper, she asked me to elaborate on these thoughts. The results are as follows:

Trust the Process

  • Give it a chance. Commit to following the process. Don’t take the shortcuts that present themselves. Don’t let the NOW pressure get to you. Realize all steps are important. Realize it will get easier. Get excited. Stay excited – it’s infectious. Remember the customer. Remember you are not the customer.

The seemingly tedious discovery work on the front end will greatly reduce the inevitable rework on the backend when “aha” discovery moments have been made, but it’s too late (or expensive) to incorporate them properly.

  • This can be as complex as an enterprise level website *cough*  LIC  *cough* or as simple as deciding to make the extra trip to the car so the bottom doesn’t fall out of your grocery bag. It takes less effort / time / money building a site based on the user, instead of a perceived cool factor, just as is does to make two trips to the car rather than driving back to the store to get another gallon of milk to replace the one that is now on your garage floor.

Cross-functionally agree to disagree at times and keep the customer at the center of the decisions. Give a little to get a little.

  • You will never get everything you want – nor should you. The customer should get what they want – even though they don’t know what that is exactly. Compromising with other stakeholders – and being ok with it – will be the only way to maintain a positive functional team with the same goals. Heuristically we all have our insights, choose your battles. Trust that the team as a whole is stronger than you as an individual.

Ok is OK. Stop paralysis by analysis

  • See next bullet. There is nothing perfect in this world. Know that at the same time you are making your decision, your customer is changing anyway. Accept it. The goal of going through the process of user-centered design is to make an informed decision balancing the see, say, and do. Some discovery is better than no discovery. What good is making the perfect decision based on the data of who your customer was last year? You must iterate with them, or someone else will.


  • Do trust your gut. Do act on that email. Do take the initiative. Do lead by example. Do not be afraid to try something. Do know failure leads insight. Do know insight leads to foresight. Do know things change, people change – embrace it. Do get started – NOW.
  • Discover your hunches are spot on. Discover your hunches are off base. Discover your customer might no be exactly who you think they are – or used to be. You might not like what you find. It’s not about you. Deal with it. You have to do to discover.
  • Iterate. To get 10 yards in 4 downs, you only need to average 2.5. Sustain the drive for the long haul. Small incremental changes add up to big changes. Continual improvement is essential. Continual improvement done alongside the customer is golden. You must Discover to effectively Iterate.