UX Designer mindset: Be the gentleman explorer of the digital world

UX Designer mindset: Be the gentleman explorer of the digital world

In an attempt to demystify User Experience Design I turn to the archetypal gentleman explorer of the Victorian age. A product of western popular culture and literature is a tangible and useful character to imagine, when approaching the exploration and proliferation of unique innovations. Just as in the user experience design process, the gentleman explorer’s application of novel concepts to old methods results in the development of the next evolution. It is through this paradigm of the gentleman explorer that we can better understand the true mindset of every successful UX designer.

Be curious and take chances

Just as the gentleman explorer willingly risks life and limb in the pursuit of new lands, so too does the UX designer.

  • Search out new concepts, explore what’s out there and identify what’s working by questioning solutions.
  • Put good ideas in your back pocket, you never know when they may come in handy.
  • Have the confidence to go outside your comfort zone. The possibility of discovering a new idea in uncharted territory is worth it.
  • Immerse yourself in new cultures and ways of thinking. Strive for a holistic understanding of a people or solution before making a judgement. Put a precedent on the human element.
  • Always critique your own performance, learn from your mistakes and identify other opportunities. This knowledge will be useful the next time around.

Plan out your journey…To the best of your ability

Things are just about ready. You have the sign off. Now let’s figure out how this is all going to come together. We need a road map – a framework – for who will do what and when. Knowing the details of your ship’s manifest will help you be a better informed leader on the high seas.

  • Employ a flexible framework and begin with a core set of directives.  Let those guide the planning process.
  • Plan for failures and mitigate risk by identifying your strengths and weaknesses before you set sail.
  • Know your landscape, leverage available information. When something goes wrong, you are able to dynamically evaluate and adjust the plan.

Expect things to change and be ready to adapt

Hello. Goodbye. The product lifecycle is accelerating at an unprecedented pace. How can anyone be expected to develop a product with a release date 9+ months into the future, or return home from the new world with innovative knowledge? Staying relevant in this market means placing importance on tried and true methods, knowing which trends have teeth and avoiding fads.  In a multi-month project phase, anticipating the changing landscape can be the difference to rolling out a fresh or stale digital experience.

  • Trust your instincts when evaluating, trends come and go, intuitive UX lasts forever (if only they had known that about pantaloons).
  • Act on real time feedback instead of prescribed backup – this allows for your journey (read: project) to reach its destination in the most efficient way possible.
  • Jump on opportunities when they arise – what you have planned may only be half as good as it could be (see Be curious and take chances).

Bring home the knowledge and share what you’ve learned

Don’t just absorb…Make it your goal to interpret what you’ve learned and share it. In sharing, also search for new combinations, no one will know unless you try. You are the thought leader and you have the experience, now be the authority.



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  • jj fields

    Nice post Walker. I think approaching most things in Interactive & Digital with the mentality of a curious explorer is a really elegant approach. I appreciate being reminded of the demeanor and contributing characteristics this persona has. Well done.