Interview by Katie Oeschger, May, 2021
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?
- Join a professional organization, like MiUXPA
- Subscribe to a couple UX blogs, like the Nielsen Norman Group.
- Read the best UX books. Here’s a good list of 7 for a start.
- Initiate a meaningful UX project for a non-profit. Here’s an example.
- Take a UX course or two, like this list from Coursera
- Foster humility, seek feedback
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.