From Another Angle: A Panel Conversation on User Experience - An Event by AIGA Central PA

This Saturday, I attended an event by AIGA Central PA called From Another Angle: A Panel Conversation on User Experience. It was hosted at StartUp Harrisburg, and moderated by the smart and humorous Nick Setthachayanon who works as User Experience Lead at the FDA.

The panel was made up of four UX professionals in the area (more on each speaker on the event page):

  • Andrew Jacobs, User Experience Architect and Strategist
    at Williams Forrest
  • Jamie Hess, UX/UI Designer at Listrak
  • Teresa Van Wagner, User Experience Design Director at Neo-Pangea
  • Lissa Richards, Director of Customer Experience at Red Privet

Read some takeaways from the event that I thought would be helpful for those who could not attend.


Advocacy had a big presence in the conversation on Saturday. Advocacy for our profession, processes, and users both internally and with clients was discussed. Broadening the understanding of collaboration across organizations and projects seems to be the hallmark of successful UX, yet not all organizations are prepared to embrace it without training on its value and techniques. It seems resounding to me that UX professionals need to focus on this as a skill to succeed. 

"We are not just our deliverables”

Quoted from a panelist. This fact illustrates the difficulty we sometimes face when engaging in our field.


Some organizations perform a specific service for discovery as part of their work. Some wrap it into their projects as a given part of the design engagement. Either way, discovery and validation of client or team solutions is essential to knowing we’re going down the right pathway. This can be difficult for many traditional partnerships who are used to hiring for a specific solution. If implemented, it's not only valuable for the outcome, but promotes confidence in investment from the beginning.


The development of measurable goals early in the project is important on many levels. This is often an outcome of discovery/validation, and helps forge the pathway for resources, outcomes and expectations. Planning on how to measure these goals help make sure these markers are built into the solution and not just talk. One example that was mentioned was using Google HEART framework in tandem with data. 

Goals help with some issues that were asked about from attendees. For example: in how to make a change that is in the best interest of the user and therefore business, but may effect a deadline. This could be handled by tying back to a goal while forming the best way forward.

Human Centered

All-in-all, UX is about fulfilling needs of people. We need to stop back and see the big picture before we can dive into details. This includes not taking any assumptions for granted. 

A panelist brought up a great example about a project that was originally supposed to be about marketing an organization to the public. But after they did more research on the audience, they found that the users of this organization weren’t coming to them because they had many (if any) choices. So, they switched from a promotional campaign to one about making people feel comfortable when they are partnering with this very human-centered medical situation and facility. 


There was an interesting discussion on handoffs as well. Teams work differently with how their discovery and strategy becomes implemented. Sometimes, this is different per project and sometimes it’s different per client. All the time, it’s important to consider how we present our work to make sure it’s not only implemented as intended, but perhaps whether we have a seat at the table for maintenance and long-term growth. Experiences on this have varied, and I suspect as UX becomes a focus in more organizations this will become an easier conversation and process.


Does real Agile exist? Everyone seems to have their own flavor - which is perfectly ok. Lean UX is like Agile 2.0. It was mentioned that even if implementing stringent processes, often cracks form in the foundation and you have to adjust. This adjustment is ideal for your business, and it seems that more cross functional teams are needed than there may be taught to have in the pure implementation of this methodology.


When asked, panelists across the board agree that visually ugly but functional wins over good looking and not filling a need.

Research & Discovery

It was agreed that talking to users is the best way to learn and inform your UX strategy and design. You can talk to users pretty cheaply and for small amounts of time. When you can’t, there lots of tools and ideas out there (I recommend reading Just Enough Research by Erika Hall)


The best resources/techniques for success as highlighted by the panelists:

Who is "doing it right" these days?

Thanks to AIGA Central PA for another great event, its commitment to diverse topics within our broad field of design, and understanding the benefits and challenges specific to our local chapter’s geographic location.