There’s an apocryphal story about the famous director Alfred Hitchcock that goes to the heart of motivation. A young actor who was preparing for a scene asked Hitchcock a simple question about his character: “What’s my motivation?” “Your paycheck,” was Hitchcock’s reply. There’s no record of what happened next, but I’m going to guess that the actor nailed the scene.
As UX designers, “What’s your motivation?” is a question we often ask our users, sometimes in person at a usability test or during a contextual visit, or sometimes while performing ethnographic research. Sometimes we make assumptions about motivation based on data or interviews. And sometimes we just guess, based on what we know about our users or ourselves. We fold motivation into personas, task analysis, and use cases, and if you pay attention you can see it in our wireframes and prototypes (and hopefully in the finished product).
There are a number of great articles in this issue that look at motivation from this design perspective. Dave Royer and Ryan Devenish describe several techniques borrowed from behavioral science and psychology that can be employed to influence user motivation, and Luke Chaput de Saintonge provides some sound advice on how to motivate your peers to provide great content.
But I’m also interested in what happens when we turn the motivation question on ourselves in the way that Hitchcock did to that young actor. On one level, a paycheck is certainly a strong motivator. Still, when I read an issue of this magazine—any issue of this magazine—what stands out to me is the consistent dedication of our contributors (and subsequently, our readers), to improving our craft. And this issue is no different, from Lindsey Arnold’s thoughtful look at how UX design isn’t unlike therapy, to Ekta Srivastava’s call for us to start “designing in the browser.” Article after article, UX Magazine helps us hone our skillsets and shows us how our peers are building their careers. I don’t think we’re doing all this just to get a bigger paycheck.
In my own career, I know that I’m motivated to be a strong manager for the people who work for me, and a thoughtful designer for the people who use the products my team and I build. But unlike getting in shape or getting better at playing a musical instrument (neither of which I’m particularly good at sticking to, by the way), those are hard motivations to quantify. I think that’s why I found Ian Swinson’s UX career framework article so interesting. Swinson, a senior director at Salesforce.com, has built a structure that makes the outcome of motivation visible and can help us address the gaps in our skillsets. It’s one tool that I’m going to start using right away.
So, before you read this issue, I’m going to ask you to take a moment to answer a simple (but difficult) question:What’s your motivation?
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