UX DESIGN 101

Teamwork, asking the right questions, refining your craft.

A colleague reached out and asked if I could help her prepare for her first role as a product designer. This was the response I gave. Hopefully, you’ll find this to be a useful guide to help you along in your journey.

1. Fight for the customer and get scrappy to uncover insights about them.

Put this one high on your list. Fight for customer exposure time. Fight to do ethical work and respect customer privacy. You’re their advocate. The company is nothing without the customer.

Familiarize yourself with all the ways your company talks to and receives insights from your customers. Seek out ways to get more data and time with customers…


What would your final words be?

“So much wasted time.” ~David Cassidy

These words are weighing heavily on me.

David Cassidy, star and teenage heartthrob of the 70s sitcom, The Partridge Family, passed away in 2017 at the age of 67. These words were reportedly some of the last he uttered.


You grow up when you show up.

Wow…here we are, over 150,000 words later. That’s nearly the equivalent to J.R.R. Tolkien’s 156,198 words in Lord of the Rings — The Two Towers! The difference is, Mr. Tolkien’s books are much more exciting to read and continue to generate waaay more money! 😂

Even still, I’ve learned a lot in the past year. I almost lost my wife (twice) to suicide, contracted COVID-19, fought through chronic back pain, was sent home to work remotely, slowly started losing my vision, and had to stay away from family and friends for much too long.

Those events, on top of my…


Make stuff, volunteer, participate — that’s how you’ll ship the best version of yourself.

I don’t particularly like acronyms. But in the world of product design and development, we’re suffocated with them. M.V.P. is a familiar, unavoidable one. The Agile Alliance defines MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

But I’d like to propose a new way to remember these three letters, which will serve as a simple framework if you want to improve. …


Nothing is ever going to work out unless you step into the uncomfortable.

This one is likely to ruffle some feathers or get under the skin of a few…but it’s been eating me up inside. For far too long, I’ve watched as those in my professional network and close family members struggle to get ahead and experience fulfillment in their lives. Their fixation on the past, anxiety in the present, and worry for the future is crippling their ability to achieve progress.

It’s killing me to watch it unfold.

Based on my observations and close relationships with many in this situation, one thing holds true: They are not taking appropriate action related to…


Don’t let someone else do it for you.

silhouetee of trees and a man holding a camera
silhouetee of trees and a man holding a camera
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

Today, my oldest turned 10. It boggles my mind that 10 years have passed. Ten years ago, it was all so new. Those were days filled with fear, laughter, crying, love, exhaustion, and an adventure so fulfilling and wonderful. An enormous weight of responsibility and hardly a clue what to do…but here we are — we made it through and keep going.

I’m 40 now, a little bit older, and a little bit wiser — and I can tell you this: Nothing means more to me or gives me more purpose than the experience my children and spouse have of…


Take a step back and evaluate what it takes for a product to be successful.

In the literal sense, look around you. What can you see in your peripheral vision when you’re at work? Who sits in your periphery? What are their stories? What makes their job hard? What could you do to understand their role and how it overlaps with UX? Could you make their job easier?

That’s the first step to improving your peripheral product vision. By doing this, you’re enhancing your vision and clarity as it relates to the roles and individuals around you. Great first step.

The next step involves the figurative sense of product vision. Get to know the systems…


Don’t have your hard work thrown in the garbage.

Seek context.

My 6th-grade teacher taught me this better than anyone I know and his method contains a powerful lesson.

29 years ago, Mr. Barton surprised our class with an impromptu quiz. The quiz, he said, was to check our knowledge up to that point on the materials we were learning. He passed out the quiz on a piece of paper, laying them face down on each student’s desk.

He then walked to the front of the classroom, looked at us, paused briefly, then said, “You may begin.”

We turned over our quizzes and started. Only a few minutes went…


You never know the impact a simple act can have.

In the latter part of 2013, I exchanged a few messages with my older sister. She was in a rough spot. She was desperately trying to figure out her life again at the age of 41 and faced many challenges in doing so. The first message from her landed in my email on a chilly December morning.

Amy: “Can you help?” She asked, and continued…“I need a job.”


Design maturity within organizations is in jeopardy if we don’t work on the UX of ourselves.

We often hear the familiar term, UX design maturity. The more “UX mature” a company is, the more they’re talking to their customers, listening rather, and the more the entire org is involved in the design process. They ship delightful products to the world, customers are happy, goals are met, and the company thrives.

I’m all for increasing UX maturity and the benefits we see for the customer when a company “gets UX”.

“Better UX design maturity makes an organization more competitive and more effective at delivering great products and services.” ~ Jared Spool

But what about when we struggle…

Mike Curtis

(aka Uncle Mikey) How do others experience you? I help amplify people and products through human-centered design. 20+ years in design, e-com, sales, and UX.

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