What do Lean UX and roller derby have in common? Aside from each having some signature techniques, both involve quick iteration, a collaborative environment and the use of retrospectives to improve their ‘game.’
Megan Williams has a foot in both worlds. By day she’s hard at work as a senior UX designer at PayPal. On the weekends, she coaches for the Santa Cruz Derby Girls. And on top of all that, she’s a speaker at WebVisions Chicago, where she’ll present “Lean UX and Roller Derby: More in Common Than You Might Think.”
This week, Megan took a break from UX and skating to answer a few of our questions:
Q: In a nutshell, what is a Lean UX design process, and how does it differ from a more traditional, or waterfall, approach?
A: Lean UX is all about moving quickly, getting connected with your users, testing hypothesizes, and placing an emphasis on learning. In my experience, waterfall design process doesn’t allow for as much customer influence as Lean UX does. Lean UX also allows for less documentation and meetings since teams are constantly working together throughout the design process.
What is a day in the life of a senior UX designer like, and do friends and family understand what you do for a living? We all probably have a one or two sentence explanation of what we do, to give to people who aren’t familiar with our industry. What’s yours?
I start my day with a creative warm up of reading through news articles, my Twitter feed, and various blogs to get inspired for the day. During this time I usually also sketch in my moleskin and write a daily to do list to keep myself focused. Throughout the day I spend time designing experiences for my sprint work (wireframes and prototypes), working with my teammates, and attending user testing sessions.
Since I work in Silicon Valley most of my friends and family have an understanding that I do “something” with computers. However, the majority of them don’t really know what my day to day work is like since they usually just get to see what we release. Whenever asked I usually explain that being a UX designer includes talking to customers and creating solutions for their usability needs. In the past several years the trends in UX design go beyond just considering the interface that a user interacts with but also considering the holistic experience of the user.
In your session, you’ll be comparing Lean UX to roller derby, and you have a lot of experience with both. You say that “being able to quickly iterate, thriving in a collaborative environment, and conducting retrospectives” are all commonalities. Can you explain this a bit more? Is there something in Lean UX that is equivalent to a “booty block” (a roller derby term, we hear)?
The listed commonalties are important to keeping a team focused on a common goal at a quick pace.
A “booty block” is an essential skill to be effective in roller derby. Almost all skaters take time to master this skill. In Lean UX sketching is equivalent of booty blocking. It’s an essential skill and it can take time and practice to master.
Part of the Lean ethos is eliminating waste, and usually listed under waste is bureaucracy. Is it a hard sell to get a major company like PayPal, where you work, to adopt Lean techniques? Is it a battle to reduce documentation, for example, or is it welcomed?
Any switch of process takes awhile and some convincing at any enterprise sized company. The selling point of Lean UX for my team was the increased interaction that we are able to have with our customers and how connected we became with providing solutions for them. Our leadership team has been really supportive towards this change and has empowered us with training and tools to smooth the adoption process. I think everyone was excited to find a solution for lessen the amount of documentation that was needed to release new features and functionality.
What is it about roller derby that keeps you coming back? What would you say to someone who’s never been to roller derby to get them in the door for the first time?
I love the roller derby community! It is one of the most inspiring and empowering communities that I have ever been involved with. We have some ridiculously talented and passionate people that make up our community. I also love that it’s a wide variety of people coming together for one common goal (promoting a highly competitive full contact sport). The league I coach (Santa Cruz Derby Girls) is made up of wide variety of people from Google employees to stay at home moms to independent business owners to students.
For anyone that is new to roller derby, I would advise them to leave behind the expectations that women’s flat track roller derby is anything like 70’s banked track roller derby. Modern roller derby is focused on athleticism instead of theatrics. Both forms of roller derby are great and highly entertaining though!
Bonus question: Your roller derby name is Pandamonium. Which of course is completely fantastic. What’s the BEST roller derby name you’ve ever heard?
I’m a big fan of most roller derby names that are a play on words. For example, Collin DeShotz (ref for Wasatch Roller Derby) and June Carter Crash (skater for Dallas Derby Dames) are both pretty awesome.
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