Relaunching MiUXPA Survey

This past March we asked members for their feedback so that we can better serve the Michigan UX community. Our survey was answered by 65 members of the MiUXPA community, located all across the state (as seen below).

Professional UX Level pie chart. Student–9%, Aspiring UXer–5%, junior–5%, mid–22%, senior–25%, executive–13%, N/A–22%

Our Community

Our community is made up of professionals in many different UX roles with over 25% of respondents having two or more UX roles within their position and over 30% considering themselves to be UX generalists.

Our Location

Map of Michigan with location markers on the cities that MIUXPA members are

According to our respondents, the Michigan UXPA community includes individuals from all across Michigan’s Lower Penninsula. The east side of the state features some of the most common locations of our members, with over 30% of respondents located in Ann Arbor, and over 25% in the Metro Detroit area. Many of our community members are located in the Greater Lansing area and Grand Rapids as well.

Our Interests

We found that over 75% of our community is interested in seeing more stories surrounding UX in our newsletter, with a large interest in job postings and global events as well. These findings helped motivate our recent newsletter content, including our current series Michigan Women in UX and our featured job postings in each newsletter. 

Our Events

As far as future events, our respondents are interested in a variety of content with over 80% interested in having featured speakers, social events and participating in workshops and conferences. 

Projects for MSU XA Courses

Would you like to support and mentor undergraduate students in a UX-based Humanities program? Each semester many students in the Experience Architecture (XA) program at Michigan State University complete client-based projects as a part of their program.

Your organization (business, non-profit, government agency, etc.) can propose a project for a team of students to work on! This is a great opportunity to mentor and help students learn while receiving valuable insight and deliverables from emerging UX talent. 

Courses seeking clients:


XA 242 Intro to Experience Architecture

This intro course works to explain the field of XA to our students. It gives them a basic understanding of why our UX program is grounded in the Humanities while giving them modules that allow them to practice skills they would use in industry such as conducting small research projects, designing, building prototypes, testing, and presenting findings to clients.

Deliverables: students present their limited research along with informed prototypes and designs to clients.
Client Roles + Responsibilities 

The intro course has worked with the MSU Library to help them redesign their search landing page; the MSU Library Sparty Cafe web page and physical location; the MSU Rovi Gaming library web portal and game rooms in the library; the MSU Tech Store landing page and their physical store design and layout.

Expectations: clients will be available at the beginning to provide context for the project, answer questions about the project throughout the project’s timeline, be present at the final presentation, and offer feedback to students.

XA 333 Researching Experience Architecture
 
This course introduces students to the research methods a UX Researcher would use in their professional spaces. Students may have conducted some surface research in the intro course, but in this course students dive deeper into the ethical implications of methods such as diary studies,  surveys, interviews, card sorting, focus groups, field studies, and heuristic analysis.

Deliverables: students present their research findings to clients. There are no mock-ups or designs – only data from the research that was conducted.
Client Roles + Responsibilities 

This course has worked on the Michigan Avenue entire web site; the MSU Library main search page; the MSU Bug House website; 


Expectations: clients will be available at the beginning to provide context for the project, answer questions about the project throughout the project’s timeline, be present at the final presentation, and offer feedback to students.

Are you interested in submitting a project for students in the XA program? Contact Casey McArdle to connect with the program and learn more.

Michigan Women in UX: Stacie Sheldon Feature

How was your time at Michigan State University?

I loved being a student at Michigan State University. I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan and it seemed like a big city to me. And it was a time of discovery for me as I think it is for many. My time there also coincided with an exciting time in Tech (1993-1998) where the tech bubble was growing and in the fall of 1995 I landed a work-study position with H-Net, Humanities and Social Sciences Online. It is there that I learned UNIX, HTML, Photoshop, Perl, and how to partner with and work with people to build technology solutions to solve problems and build online communities.

What was your inspiration for a BA in Literature?

First, I am a total bookworm. I have always had the ability to get lost in a book. I was well aware early on how powerful an impact a book could have on how I experienced and saw the world and thought of myself and how it could do the same for others. This was solidified for me in high school literature classes. Langston Hughes led the Harlem Renaissance from his unique perspective on a shared experience. He created that moment in the context of a certain place and time. To Kill a Mockingbird has lessons for every generation but it came from a moment in time in the history of this country. Hemingway can make us feel the sun shining on the Two-Hearted River. I could go on forever. That is what got me in the door.

How has a BA in Literature helped you with software development?

When you study literature you learn to study people – what motivates them, what is the context of where they live and when? How does that impact the choices they make? In drama, most of the greatest plays come down to one decision a character makes or one thing they do that is irrevocable – that changes everything. And let’s take another example: Mysteries. Mysteries are really small journeys from uncertainty to reassurance (when the puzzle is solved!). Software systems and their designs are similarly often a journey where you have to find all the pieces and how they fit best together. Literature builds on the skills required for this – including exercising the imagination to deal with the complexities of the workflow and process and the ability to understand people and where they are at, what their intent is, and what their goals are. It all comes down to curiosity and wonder.

You started your professional career as a developer – what was the transition like from your Literature studies to a developer career?

For me it was seamless because I had that work-study position at H-Net and was already working in excess of those program hours because I loved that work so much. I never liked coding though – I liked working with people to solve problems but jobs like that (UX jobs) were not really available at that moment in time. 

What sparked your interest in UX? What was the transition to UX like? Was there much of a transition in your professional career or was it already incorporated in your work?

In the late 1990s I was doing every aspect of software and website design. I knew I was drawn to the discovery and design phases of work the most though. In the year 2001 I ran my first usability test and loved it and my understanding of user experience evolved with what was happening in Tech at the time. It was very organic in that sense. I think in 2006 I finally managed to get a position where I could just do information architecture and UX design (lots of wireframing) and no longer had to code. I was so happy at that point but it turned out to be a long road ahead (and still is) with individuals and companies not understanding UX or not understanding how to support it or leverage it.

What was it like working for Global Team Blue (Team Detroit back when working with Keith Instone around the year 2013)?

That was long ago enough now to think of as the good old days at Team Detroit! Those were fun times where Ford was able to invest a lot in research and brand campaigns were sort of unlimited fun. I loved working with the Creative team there. And it was very fortunate for us to have Keith there working with our team as he has always been a source of industry excellence and an advocate for User Experience.

What is Slalom? What was your role there? 

Slalom is a modern consulting firm focused on creating experiences through strategy, technology, and business transformation. There are globally 8,500 employees in 39 markets. Their shared goal is to build a world in which everyone has the opportunity to love their work and life. We exist to help our clients reach for and realize their vision.

I work for Slalom Detroit in the Customer Strategy & Experience Design practice. My favorite thing about Slalom is it’s genuine commitment to values such as authenticity, justice, and equality.

How do you incorporate inclusive design into your work? 

There are a number of ways to incorporate inclusive design in your work, here are just a few ways of doing that:

  • Determine who has been excluded from your design process (including user research)
  • For your next design sprint or cycle strive to include this group that was previously excluded
  • Seek out research or design process participants with a diversity of perspectives/life experiences 
  • Be self-aware and wonder about your own unconscious biases and identify your assumptions
  • Embrace accessibility standards
  • Attend meetings on this topic as this conversation grows and evolves
  • Use your IA labeling and form design super power responsibly
  • Demand transparency in algorithms whenever and wherever you can

How has this experience writing the “From Scientific Racism to Inclusive Design” article impacted your work? 

It allowed me to gather my thoughts and think critically about many aspects of UX that I have encountered over the years. And I think it helps me with figuring out how to share, teach, and advocate for better research practice. For example, I frequently encounter companies and organizations that value quantitative data over qualitative data. Everyone wants everything to be data driven and “right” and they are positive that quantitative studies are the way to get there. But humans are more complex than that and a single research method will rarely if ever tell us everything about an experience. Mixed methods (and knowing which method best serves a specific context or problem) will always be most valuable. And I hope my article can illuminate how great harm can come from our desire to want to measure everything without considering the context and impact of our measures. 

What was it like to start a new job remotely during the pandemic? What techniques/tools have you used to overcome the issue of face-to-face interaction during a pandemic?

My last two jobs have both been remote positions so this was old hat for me. I haven’t worked in an office environment since 2017. I find that turning your camera on is the biggest factor for connecting. It doesn’t need to be on all the time – that is too exhausting. But it does help build trust and rapport to have it on most of the time. There is nothing worse than presenting your work or giving a talk to a screen of icons.

As for tools, I use Miro or MURAL a ton for sharing and capturing ideas, affinity diagramming and collaboration. They are easy to use and even enjoyable.

How has the UX remote work been like for you? 

For the most part, I am really happy with working remotely in UX. The pandemic has made tons of people more comfortable with video conferencing which is a helpful thing for user interviews. Tools like Maze and some of the testing platforms are evolving quickly as well as demand for remote research grows. Workshops take more patience but there are great white-boarding tools (Miro and MURAL again) out there and it is possible to make it work. Being able to travel and do an ethnographic study though is something I miss. For the different customer segments I’ve been working with over the last few years I know there would be value in going to the kinds of places they work but it is not worth the risk right now.

If you are comfortable with it, would you mind sharing more about your Native American roots? I would love to hear more about your experiences identifying as a Native American female in today’s day and age.

I am Ojibwe or also called Chippewa. The name we call ourselves though in our language is Anishinaabe. We are a Native American tribal nation made up of these three groups – Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. Our confederacy, which is called the Three Fires Confederacy spans Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario, and even parts of Alberta. There are currently 12 federally recognized Anishinaabe tribes (sovereign nations) in the State of Michigan and our language, which we call Anishinaabemowin, is the first language of Michigan and these other areas. I grew up in northern Michigan, in Cheboygan.

I also grew up without getting to learn my heritage language. Until the Native American Languages Act was passed in 1990 we were prohibited from speaking and teaching our languages. And in my spare time now myself and a good friend run a website called Ojibwe.net that is about preserving and advocating for our language – it is essentially a cultural revitalization resource. I have also authored a bilingual (Anishinaabemowin and English) children’s book called Bebikaan-ezhiwebiziwinan Nimkii: The Adventures of Nimkii. A second edition is due out this summer! 

Every tribe in the United States is in a race now to save their language from extinction. We are in a place in time now where it is understood and accepted how much a culture lives within a language. Without a language, you don’t have a culture. And we also know that language and culture and well-being are connected. This has a big impact on how our youth are faring – so this work of preserving our language is very important to me. 

What was it like living in SE Michigan? Ever wanted to move West or East coast?

Here in Southeast Michigan I enjoy living in Ann Arbor. However,  I do miss the landscape and geography of northern Michigan and much of my family. My hometown of Cheboygan is near the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet and also has Burt and Mullet Lakes (the 4th and 5th largest lakes in the State). There is water everywhere and I miss that too. Sometimes I think I might like the mountains and sunshine of the American West but in many ways, Anishinaabe-land is my country as much as the United States is and I wouldn’t want to leave it. 🙂

Be sure to check out Stacie’s article From Scientific Racism to Inclusive Design.

This interview with Stacie Sheldon is a part of our Michigan Women in UX series. If you have a story you would like to share in our series, contact us at michiganuxpa@gmail.com.

Michigan Women in UX: Diane Bowen Feature

Photo of Diane Bowen

Tell us about yourself (e.g., hobbies/interests, etc.).

I love spending time with family and friends. It’s especially fun when we are solving a problem or tackling a project. Game nights with friends and family are fun, too.

What are your Michigan roots? Why do you live and work here in Michigan?

My father’s family were long-time Detroiters. I grew up and met my husband here. Much of our family still lives in Michigan including our adult children. We live in farm country now.

To you, what makes Michigan great?

Michigan has a rich history, unequalled lakes, and a good standard of living. The forests of the UP are gorgeous and the farmlands in rural mid-state pastoral. But the people are what really make this state great. Michiganders are hardworking, responsible, celebrate diverse heritages, flexible, creative, and resilient.

How did you get started in UX? Tell us about your UX career journey.

At the Michigan State University lab I studied behavior modification techniques with pigeons. After graduation I became an intervention counselor for at-risk youth. My personal guiding mission statement developed at that time: Help people improve their lives. When my husband and I started our family, I stayed home to raise our children full-time.

When I re-entered the workforce, I began in Customer Service at a Tech company focused on behavior change. Since I was working with customers to address concerns and answer questions, I had a unique opportunity to design solutions for everyday issues. I would share these designs with developers and the UX Team, eventually joining the User Experience Team. UX was a perfect fit for my personal mission statement. I earned a Masters in UXD from Kent State University in 2018 and am grateful for the many authors, mentors, and others who have invested in me on this journey.

Where do you work and what is your role there?

I am a Product Designer at Covenant Eyes. I define and solve problems, match business goals with user needs, engage in user research, and prototype solutions through information architecture, interaction design, information design, and interface design.

What is a typical day (or week) like for you?

I may be engaged in user research, creating UIs in Sketch, animations in XD, building information architectures, or interaction designs. I might be writing up design documentation so that implementation matches intent. I could be facilitating a day-long workshop or preparing a presentation. Although each day is different, the focus of my work remains the same: provide an exceptional end-to-end experience.

What do you like most about your work?

Every day I get the chance to make a difference in the life of someone battling addiction.

You worked in UX research before transitioning to product design. How did a research background help you become a better designer?

I am so grateful for the opportunity to focus on research before moving to a role in product design. Research, and customer service before that, allowed me to hear first-hand the jobs real people were trying to accomplish, the pains they experienced, and the gains they hoped to achieve. This was fantastic ‘insider information’ for a product designer.

In addition, a background in research makes me painfully aware when I am asked to design from assumptions rather than the needs of real users.

What’s your favorite part of UX? Why?

The activities surrounding matching user needs with business goals.

  • Defining problems through stakeholder and user interviews
  • Collaboratively identifying and proposing solutions
  • Testing solutions and building the winners.

Building products born from a business goal starts with understanding customer needs. Testing designs with customers ensures designs meet those needs.

But if I had to pick a single activity, it’s probably information architecture.

Where do you go for UX design inspiration?

For design inspiration I turn to the apps I use, Pinterest, pttrns.com, my colleagues, and Google searches. I also subscribe to several industry email newsletters and blogs.

What are your favorite UX tools? Why?

  • Adobe suite is a powerful, integrated set of design tools.
  • Sketch is lightweight and easy to use.
  • WCAG color contrast checkers for basic accessibility checks.
  • EZTexting for communicating with interview participants.
  • Usability Hub for super-fast unmoderated testing.

To you, what has been your greatest career accomplishment thus far?

A technical team was updating code infrastructure to ensure security for the user-facing account management portal. At the same time, the Customer Service team had a goal to reduce contacts related to user account management such as update credit card, update email address, and reset password.

Both goals could be addressed by reworking the account management portal. I was one of two product designers on an agile development team. While my colleague collaborated with development to build a design component library, I coordinated and executed requirements gathering and user research to craft a new information architecture, interaction designs, and UI design.

The information architecture and interaction design revamp were critical to meeting the project goal to measurably reduce contacts to Customer Service within 3 months of deployment.

A surprising and delightful result was the breaking down of silos between Customer Support, Development, QA, Marketing, Accounting, and UX.

What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?

We homeschooled our children from 1998 – 2014, an incredibly rich experience.

Is there something you wished you’d known or a skill you wish you had when you started out in UX?

I wish I would have had a better understanding of how various user experience activities work together and why.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in UX?

How have you benefited from and/or contributed to the MiUXPA Community?

MiUXPA has been a presence in my UX journey from the beginning. There was always someone from MiUXPA present at any UX meetup or event I attended, encouraging us as professionals, providing opportunities for networking, offering resources, and sharing information about other UXPA events.

Moving forward, what would you like to get out of the MiUXPA Community?

  • An opportunity to mentor or be mentored to guide through the career development process
  • Events to discuss and discover career interests, goals, new industry stuff, recognitions, and friend-making
  • A support system of advocates

This interview with Diane Bowen is a part of our new Michigan Women in UX series. If you have a story you would like to share in our series, contact us at michiganuxpa@gmail.com.