Simon Norris founded Nomensa in 2001 with the strong belief that the internet should be more inclusive and work more effectively. That belief is one that we at UX Booth can definitely get behind! Just like our readers, Norris believes that digital technology should be both usable and accessible, so much so that he coined the term “humanizing technology” to refer to that need.
Recently, Norris gave the keynote at Interact London, where he discussed the process for creating a corporate UX strategy for Liberty Global (the world’s largest cable company), applying Nomensa’s proprietary UX Maturity Methodology. This week, we’re excited to chat with him and learn more about human psychology, humanized technology, and his experience in the field of UX.
- Your bio is quite impressive! You have degrees in Human Psychology, Human Biology and Cognitive Science. How did you make the transition from cognitive psychology and human biology into web design?
- I was using the internet from the end of the 80s so when the web emerged it was a natural progression. I studied Human Psychology at Aston which is heavily human factors influenced and therefore similar to Human-Computer Interaction so it was a logical step to look at the relationship between people and technology. Cognition allowed me to focus on human decision making and the cognitive factors that influence how we use and feel about technology. In reality, I think I was very lucky that the web happened because my skills seemed to naturally fit understanding (researching) and making (designing) good use of web technologies and UX.
- What do you find to be the key challenges in shifting academic design theories into practice?
- Speed. Many of our projects require rigorous research but at time scales that are severely limited because of commercial ambition—think research at speed but the research needs to be robust and relevant and ultimately answer a question. Theory and practice go hand in hand. When I meet with client teams and view their digital ecosystems I am constantly evaluating both their design management processes as well as the outputs—or to put it another way—how well they choreograph strategy and implementation. The most mature UX teams are always looking to tightly couple these processes. At Nomensa, we measure an organizations’ UX maturity (capability) but understanding the relationships between theory and practice. Typically the better the coupling, the better they are at UX.
- In your talk from Interact London, you stress the importance of “flying at the right level,” and seeing both details and context. How do you recommend designers scale this to enormously complex ecosystems, such as are seen in large enterprises and in the healthcare realm?
- There are methods that can be used to gain a perspective of the ecosystems we are designing for. It is imperative that an organization understands the ecosystem it operates within. Once the ecosystem is mapped, then deeper dives into the ecosystem can be taken. Sometimes those dives will need to go right down to the level of a component (element) within a user interface. This is allows you to show clients the relationships that exist between the micro and the macro of the user experience. Designing great UX requires that you ‘fly at the right height’. From a strategic perspective you need to fly pretty high because you are thinking about how things are connected—the relationships. Whereas, when you need to think about the details, for example, the interactions and transitions between elements or content of a UI or screen you need to fly at a much lower level. When scaling for large, complex ecosystems it is important to take an ‘inside-out’ perspective by educating internal teams on becoming ‘UX mature’.
- Your talk also touches on the intersections and differences between CX and UX. Can you explain for our readers, briefly, why you feel it’s so important to recognize the two as unique elements?
- Digital has unique properties and the digital space is very different to the physical space. Digital, for me, represents digital interactions and experiences and therefore, digital is synonymous with UX. I see CX as non-digital or everything that happens but not in a digital way. Both UX and CX need to be understood in terms of their similarities and differences and once this is known we can blend them together more effectively and create ‘blended experience’. This is what organizations need to do to become ‘digital first’; they need to work out how best to blend digital into everything they do. A good book to get you thinking about blended experience is David Benyon’s book Spaces of Interaction, Places of Experience.
- For readers looking to learn more about UX maturity, where would you recommend they begin?
- There are a number of articles and presentations available online, however, very few sources have described the importance of taking what I call an ‘inside-out’ perspective. This perspective involves embedding a culture of UX within an organization by educating their teams about how to effectively create both customer and business value. It is not enough to look at the digital ecosystem without looking at the teams (people) involved in the design of the digital ecosystem. You need to correlate both to gain accuracy in terms of UX maturity and therefore an organization’s design capability.
Our maturity model evaluates the digital ecosystem against the capability of the digital team. For further information, read our White Paper about Digital First as it represents a philosophy for supporting UX maturity within an organization. In addition, Sofia Hussain who also spoke at Interact London this year, has written some great articles on ecosystem thinking. When an organization is practising ecosystem thinking they are some way to reaching a higher level of UX Maturity. Another leader in the field of UX Strategy is Paul Bryan who also runs a fantastic conference on this subject: UX STRAT.
Thank you for speaking with us Simon! Readers interested in attending Interact London next year can buy tickets now, at www.2016.interactconf.com.
More information about Nomensa:
Established in 2001, Nomensa is a strategic digital design agency that combines experience in psychology, interaction design and technology to transform digital experiences. The team work collaboratively to push the boundaries of possibility to solve challenges and discover opportunities and drive commercial value for their clients.
Made up of 60 of the brightest, most talented minds in the industry the Nomensa team cover all aspects of user-experience. They blend state-of-the-art thinking, innovation and creativity to build experiences that engage, enable and delight the people that they touch.
Nomensa believes human experience is everything and works with an extensive range of high profile clients globally. The business helps its clients realise their vision and provides them with a strategy that integrates and refines human-centred design techniques. As a result, organizations such as Sky, the National Trust, the BBC, the Royal Mail and npower as well as other leading brands put their trust in Nomensa not to just design or improve an online experience, but transform it, improving accessibility and usability.