UX designers - have you got your ‘Batman belt’ ready?
Being a superhero is a tough gig, especially when you don’t have superpowers like so many of the others. No ability to fly; no invisibility and no shapeshifting. Not even super speed or super strength. No…Batman relies solely on his intellect - he's a great strategist - and of course one of the defining features of the Dark Knight’s costume is his utility belt.
###Type in “What can be found in Batman’s utility belt?” and in 0.68 seconds, Google will surface over 7.7 million results. The belt’s history is as old as Batman, with artists embellishing it each time they drew it. The Comic Vault describes it as “carrying all of his crime-fighting tools and gadgets, made up of a strap and buckle with ten pouches attached to the outside”. Conveniently, the contents of the utility belt vary based on what type of sticky situation Batman finds himself in, although he does have some standard equipment that he usually carries, including a rebreather, and napalm gel (ignites upon contact) and glue goblets (freezes villains in place).
In many ways, I believe that today’s UX designers are a lot like Batman. (Yes, I did just say that.)
Hear me out…They’re the modern heroes of society’s conundrums, using the ‘tools’ in their ‘Batman belt’ like empathy maps, persona building and prototype feedback to guide the design process towards a more user-centric outcome.
But what over two decades of design practice and product management for brands (including Deloitte) has taught me is that not all belts were created equal. In the quest to help our clients work through the complexities of designing products, services, channels and brands that deliver innovative, human-centred experiences to market - our ‘tooling’ is very often the difference between an outcome that is mediocre; and one that is extraordinary.
After spending several months focused on the development of an industry-leading set of creative processes, methodologies and best practice for Osynlig’s team - our ‘Batman belt’ if you will - I couldn’t imagine us embarking on any project without it.
If you oversee, mentor or manage a UX team - here are three ways to tell if your practice's ‘Batman Belt’ will set you up for success.
It’s available at short notice
Imagine if right before stopping the bad guy and saving the day, Batman struggled to unlock one of those compartments. Or worse - imagine if what he needed wasn’t available because he forgot to pack it in.
Quite often, UX practices face this same sort of conundrum. New clients are signed on or projects signed up; and that’s the cue for a sudden scramble.
“Where did we save that great example of how we lead a virtual ideation session?”
“Where do we keep the user story templates and which version is the latest?”
UX design is a process driven series of activities. Your UX tools help you to unlock information, which when combined with creativity, can be turned into something absolutely transformative. When everyone across your practice has industry-leading UX tools at their fingertips (‘grab and go’ style), this ‘unlocking’ is a lot easier because the how you do things is taken care of so that everyone can focus on the value you deliver instead.
It enables you to focus on output
Back to those compartments.
It’s not uncommon for UX practices to onboard new staff every month, quite often across different regions globally, as they scale. New designers, contractors hired in especially for large pieces of work and permanent recruits stream through the door with their own ‘Batman belt’ and ‘what great looks like’ starts to lack consistency across different organisational levels, roles and teams.
When everyone in your practice is using the same ‘Batman belt’, your tooling is efficient and consistent. A common understanding of your processes and methodologies guarantees consistency around what clients experience and how you deliver.
Importantly, the output won’t look the same, but the trusted, industry-leading techniques you use will. Standardisation is all about accelerating value for your clients by optimising the people, resources, effort, and energy of your organisation - because when you optimise how you interact with information (your input); you can spend far more time on the output (and this is, after all, where your actual value lies). Agile, lean practices that are hyper-focused on creating value will never be in danger of being commoditised by this acceleration because the value they produce is incomparable to alternatives.
It helps you ‘leapfrog’ obstacles
Batman might not have traditional ‘superpowers’, but his intellect, combined with his utility belt, has always given him the edge.
When you ‘operationalise’ your UX systems and processes, you accelerate your capability to leapfrog traditional barriers to growth and scale. Your ‘Batman belt’ can help you reduce the need for micro-management and support and - critically - allow you to deliver results faster because your ‘design ops’ are taken care of. Your practice has an ‘edge’ because you already know what works; and you’re putting it to work for your business.
While Batman is a comic book hero; the stakes are much higher in real-life and ‘winning’ against the villain (bad design) is a lot more complex.
In closing: Imagine each one of your employees as Batman. Faced with the villain, they reach for their belt. What do they have at their disposal, immediately, to deliver a victory? Is their ‘Batman Belt’ ready?