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023: Good Design is Humble with Austin Knight

User Defenders podcast
User Defenders podcast
023: Good Design is Humble with Austin Knight

User Defenders "Mentor Man" Austin Knight

Austin Knight motivates us to just start making things. He encourages us to keep designing, even if it isn’t our job yet. He teaches us how the future of UX is all about expansion and that there’s never been a better time to be a designer. He also inspires us to not only fight for the user, but the stakeholder, the company and the client.

Austin also was a very special guest in Mixed Reality & the Future of Design (special two-part series).

Austin Knight (Mentor Man) is a Senior UX Designer at Hubspot where his work impacts more than 8 million visitors per month. He’s an international speaker and author. He’s a fellow podcaster co-hosting the UX & Growth podcast. He serves as a UX and IxD mentor at Columbia University and General Assembly. He also has a popular UX Design blog and newsletter at Fun fact about Austin: He’s terrified of flying. Even though he flew 150,000 miles last year and has willingly jumped out of three planes skydiving…he has yet to overcome that fear.

  • Secret Identity/Origin Story (2:41)
  • Biggest Superhero (8:20)
  • Second Career Choice (10:42)
  • Biggest Failure (12:06)
  • Awkward Testing Story (21:32)
  • Design Superpower (28:51)
  • Design Kryptonite (31:19)
  • Successful Culture Building (34:07)
  • Design Superhero Name (40:47)
  • Fight For Users (41:13)
  • Should designers get a BA (45:43)
  • Future Of UX Design (47:44)
  • Habit Of Success (50:10)
  • Invincible Resource (52:42)
  • Book Recommendation (55:08)
  • Best Advice (57:26)
  • Most Excited About (1:00:11)
  • Contact Info (1:03:50)

Austin’s Twitter
Austin’s Website
UX & Growth Podcast
Hubspot’s Culture Code

[VIDEO] UX Insights from a Drunk Guy
[ARTICLE] This Guy Got Drunk and Critiqued Our Website
[ARTICLE] Good Design is Humble
[RESOURCE] The people I surround myself with.
[BOOK] How to Lie with Statistics

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Artwork by Cesar Lemus | Editing by Chris Combs | Show Notes by Ben Wegley | Music by Wyman Gentry

There was a time that I ran a user test with a drunk person. That was fun. HubSpot writes some really really awesome blog posts. The first time people get to interact with our brand is through our blog. It gets a lot of traffic, a lot of publicity and we’re always looking for new stories to write. So, we heard about this guy where you could pay him to get drunk and test your website. My VP of marketing came to me with it and said “Austin this sounds like such a cool idea I think we should do it and you should just run this test with him” and I was like, “well of course!”. So that’s how I met Richard and he’s a really interesting guy. So we had him get drunk and test originally as a joke, as kind of a viral blog post, and we ended up achieving that, we got a really good blog post. So I was really proud of that, but there was actually more to it. There was a lot of good feedback about our site, and also a lot of good lessons about how to run a user test.

I would say I don’t necessarily have any, I’m always trying to get better and shoot to a higher level. If there’s anything I do think I’m good at, it’s distilling information and I’m really passionate about it. I work hard at design during the day and then I go home and I mentor people, I work on putting together speeches to share information with people, I host the UX & Growth Podcast. One of the things I’m also the most passionate about is teaching others about design because through teaching people you have to really learn your stuff. You have to find a way to condense your thoughts, and put them in a controlled and easy-to-understand way. I think that that’s what I’m good at, that’s what I’m the most passionate about.

If anything, it’s a total intolerance for bulls***. This is something that runs in the blood of the people that work at HubSpot. Really, people that don’t know what they’re talking about and acting like they know, or people belittling other people, or introducing bureaucracy. One thing we’ve done a good job killing is ego or lack of humility. It’s refreshing to be able to work with designers, art directors, creative directors etc. that don’t have an ego, they don’t play politics. Call out BS when you see it in a tactful way, and provide a solution to overcome it.

Mentor Man

I don’t. And I don’t really believe in doing that, and I can explain why. The core function of the UX designer, is to serve two constituents. The first of which is the user the second which is the business. When we focus exclusively on serving the user we all to commonly forget the business. The most talented designers will be the ones that can propose a single solution, a well-thought-out solution, that will solve for both the user and the business. If you’re solving for one and not the other, you’re not really doing your job.

Expansion. I think that we are seeing UX enter into so many different mediums and technologies. There is a really well-respected UX agency in Boston called Fresh Tilled Soil. You talk to some of the people that work there and they will tell you how they designed the UX for airports. Meaning the signs and what is the experience of walking through an airport and customer experience, etc. I think there’s a lot happening in that realm. Also, things like different devices, and screens and augmented reality. That whole digital product thing is accelerating and evolving. What I see is an expansion of the roles that UX will be used for. Also, what platforms UX designers are going to be designing on.

I treat my time as currency. I didn’t do that consciously. It just kind of started to happen. I place a high value on time spent with my fiancé, time spent in Brazil, I place a high value on building my own personal knowledge. It has helped me in a lot of ways to optimize how I spend my time and realize that everything you do is work.

Great question. Along those lines, a question I get a lot is “how do I get in to UX?”. For the aspiring UX designer, my advice is to start building things. Start actually designing. If you have to ask about how to get into UX, you’re already doing it wrong. There is no single path into this industry. Education is going to be factored very low and the hiring process. It’s more about what you can demonstrate you can do. The best thing you can do, is to start making something. And it doesn’t have to be for a real client, it could be a passion project or a fake product. Starting to actually build something will demonstrate that you care about this profession.