What do a professional organizer and a UX designer have in common?
Before I was an organizer, I worked in marketing for a global education company, for a looooong time. I started in 1995 as a copywriter and graphic designer, and at the end of the year, I was asked to build a company website. I barely knew what a website was let alone how to build one!
I bought a book called “Teach Yourself Web Publishing in 14 Days,” and I did.
I spent a lot of time making cute images, like this one, and learning new code to make the site do what I wanted it to do. A clever little icon for every page? Nailed it. A spinning logo? Nailed it.
Fast forward 21 years and I was a director of marketing with front-end development, database management, branding, content strategy, and a wealth of other experience under my belt, a leader on a team of people working to make our websites the best they could be.
But what did “the best” mean? The best looking? The ones with the most clever copy? The ones that used colors that were our bosses' favorites? (Don't make me go there.)
Little did I know I was missing a critical bit of knowledge: user experience (a.k.a, UX).
Luckily my company had started thinking about this, and they built some talented UX teams. And my team and I began working with them to understand this fascinating discipline and its approach to design. And, man, was it fun!
What is UX, you ask? UX design is all about understanding your users' needs, goals, and challenges, and designing <a thing> based on an understanding of cognitive and behavioral science, research you've done to understand your users, prototyping your designs, and testing them with people...your actual users.
So rather than design a website or a potato peeler or an insurance statement of benefits to your (or your boss's) subjective preferences, you design it with a deep understanding of your users, with the goal of having their experience using it be as useful, efficient, and pleasant as possible...for them.
Then you test it with your users and analyze the feedback. Then you tweak it to make it even better. All the while striving to meet your business's goals.
And you do this over and over and over again.
It’s all about designing for people...humans. The humans who use your “thing” (whatever it is) to make their lives easier.
At its heart, UX is about caring.
I was hooked
I became fascinated with UX design and signed up for the renowned Bentley University User Experience Certificate program. And my company was nice enough to help me pay for it!
Then a few weeks before my first course started, I was “made redundant.” (This is how they say it when you work for a British company. It’s much more refined than “laid off.”)
Even though I was working on great projects with some of my best friends, and even though I was terrified about leaving the company I’d worked for for 23 years, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take some time off and rethink my career path.
However, I was now enrolled in a program for a line of work that I wasn’t sure I was going to stay in. And I was now paying for it myself.
At the same time, several friends suggested I look into professional organizing as a career. “That’s a thing???” I asked.
I was good at keeping my own home pretty tidy. And I did love helping people. And I really didn’t want to work for someone else anymore. But could I really get paid to do that?
And I was taking UX courses! UGH! I decided to investigate this organizing thing while continuing with the Bentley program.
And then the weirdest thing started to happen
As I was sitting in class learning about information architecture and accessibility and cognitive science and prototyping and ethnography and consulting and research and testing and measurement, I started seeing parallels with how this practice might help design a person’s physical space to be useful, efficient, and pleasant.
What was the difference between creating and labeling the structure of a website’s content and helping someone decide where to put things in their garage? What was the difference between making a mobile app easy for someone with vision impairment to use and making a kitchen easy for someone with vision impairment to use? What was the difference between making a web page easy to navigate and making an office full of cubicles easy to navigate?
I was taking notes about how to use UX to design websites and mobile apps in the front of my notebook, and notes about how it applied to organizing physical spaces in the back of my notebook.
By the end of the program, I had decided to start my own organizing business, and how I wanted to talk about business started to crystallize. I was going to differentiate myself from my competition by talking about my focus on human-centered design. (More on that on my About page.)
But is it working?
Now that I’ve been working with clients for a year, it is obvious that my UX training has made me a strong organizer.
- My focus is on helping individuals better use their space, based on their needs, goals, and challenges. Their challenges might be related to time, money, emotional attachments, attention span, motivation, mobility issues, sharing their space with others.
- I learn this through asking questions, LOTS of questions, and developing a deep understanding of all of these factors.
- I suggest different options that might help them meet their goals and steer them toward the ones that best address their needs, challenges, and goals. I do not dictate what they should do.
- We try them out together. They try them out on their own.
- They give me feedback on how things are working.
- We tweak them when we’re together. They tweak them when we’re not.
- And then sometimes we loop back and start the process again, sometimes in the same space, sometimes in a new space. And if I've done my job right, they do this on their own, using principles they learned from me!
All of this comes down to caring. I want both the process and the results to be pleasant....and dare I say, fun!? We high five a lot. Sometimes we hug at the end of sessions. Sometimes we get a little teary.
I want them to know in their hearts that deep in my heart I want their spaces and lives to be more useful, efficient, and pleasant. Because I’m a UX designer, and I care.
Read reviews and testimonials from some of my clients. It’s working!