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Accessible User Experience with Derek Mei

April 16, 2021

Welcome to 3Play Media’s Allied Podcast, a show on all things accessibility. This month’s episode features Derek Mei and is about the importance of accessible user experience and design.

Derek Mei is a Senior UX/UI Designer at 3Play Media who is passionate about understanding interactions between people and the technologies we use.

He has an eye for aesthetics and a knack for the functional, and wants to fuse together his knowledge of both code and design to create digital products that excite users and simplify their interactions with digital products.

In addition, he wants to help others understand the power of design, whether it be writing about his experiences on Medium, or using his skillset to give back to less-privileged people and communities.

Visit Derek’s website

Connect with Derek on LinkedIn

Check out Derek’s posts on Medium

Subscribe to The Handoff with Derek Mei

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Want to get in touch? Email us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.

Episode transcript

ELISA LEWIS: Welcome back to Allied, the podcast for everything you need to know about web and video accessibility. I’m your host, Elisa Lewis. And today, we have Derek Mei joining us to discuss the overlap of accessibility and user experience and why accessible user experience benefits people, both with and without disabilities. Derek is a senior UX/UI designer at 3Play Media who is passionate about understanding interactions between people and the technologies they use.

Derek has an eye for aesthetics and a knack for the functional and wants to fuse together his knowledge of both code and design to create digital products that excite users and simplify their interactions with digital products. With that, let’s dive in. Thank you so much, Derek, for being with us today on Allied. We’re super-excited to have you here. To get started, we want to talk to you a little bit more about your personal background. So can you tell us about your background, where you’re from, and what did you see yourself doing as a young kid.

DEREK MEI: So my background is in, I think, the creative side of things. I was never really interested or knew much about accessibility until the last few years. Since I joined 3Play, it’s become a huge part of what I’m passionate about and what I’m interested in as a designer. But back in middle school and in high school, I had always had an interest in design and development. So I remember taking a class on web design back in, I think, sixth or seventh-grade.

And in that class, we learned a lot about Dreamweaver, and HTML, and good web design principles. And back then, we didn’t have emerging interfaces, such as voice interfaces, or AR, and all these virtual reality interfaces that we see in the news today. So at that time, I think it was the web was definitely a little more narrow in terms of scope. But over the past few years, we’ve definitely seen the explosion of both web technologies, as well as mobile technologies. And that’s essentially where my focus is today.

ELISA LEWIS: Awesome, thank you. And where did you study for your undergrad?

DEREK MEI: So I was born and raised in Boston, stayed local for college. And I went to Boston University for college. I studied computer science, math, and I got a business degree there too.

ELISA LEWIS: Awesome. So we know that you’ve done a lot of interesting projects on design outside of 3Play Media. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of your projects?

DEREK MEI: Sure. So outside of 3Play, I’ve done a lot of freelance work in the past. At my last company, I worked as a software developer. And only within the past few years, I’ve finally made the transition more from development over to the side of design. So in the past, I’ve worked for a lot of different types of clients. I’ve worked with HubSpot owns the content management system for Aetna, which is now under CVS Health. I’ve also done a bit of consulting with local boutique web development firms.

So in the past I’ve worked with a lot of different clients in the construction, in the cannabis, in the digital marketing space. So it’s been all over the place. More recently, I started a YouTube channel called The Handoff, where I talk a lot about UI, and UX, and just the world of design, overall. And when I first started that channel, it was really to promote and help other designers get into the world of UX and UI, especially as someone who went through a boot camp myself. That was how I made my transition from the world of development into design.

So I had attended the six-week, part-time boot camp program from General Assembly. And that’s essentially how I got my feet wet and learned a lot of the basic concepts. But fast forward to today, design is always something that I’m interested in, both at 3Play and outside of 3Play. So I’m always constantly trying to learn more about that field.

ELISA LEWIS: Thanks, Derek. And so we’re super-lucky, at 3Play, to have you on as a UX/UI developer. And I’m curious. You mentioned that you hadn’t really known much about accessibility before coming and working at 3Play Media. So can you tell us a little bit about how you kind of made that shift, how you landed at 3Play, and why you decided to grow your career here?

DEREK MEI: So right before I applied to 3Play, I was actually in my first semester in my master’s program at Bentley University, where I’m studying human factors in information design. And the first class I took as part of that program was a very introductory-level course on the field of human factors and design. So it covers a lot of ground around how we, as users or people, interact with the environment and the stimuli around us. So you really go really deep into a particular area where you have to write five research papers.

And one of the research papers was actually on the limitations of certain modalities as humans. So for example, we learned about color blindness and we learned about specific accommodations that people needed in order to navigate the environment around us. So that was really an interesting point of that particular class that really stood out to me. And the more I got to know that particular area and learn more about the research in that field, I realized that there was this whole field of accessibility. And around the same time, I was looking to make a shift in my career.

So I came across 3Play Media. A recruiter actually reached out to me and sent me information about the company. And I thought it was right up my alley because it aligned with what I was learning at school. It had a lot of overlap in terms of the skills that 3Play was looking for and the skills that I had. So I thought it was a perfect fit. And that’s how I came across 3Play.

ELISA LEWIS: Awesome. Can you, for our listeners, tell us a little bit more about what human factor is and what does that mean?

DEREK MEI: So human factors is a, I would say, a broad but also a narrow discipline within the field of ergonomics. And human factors, really the term, itself, specifies and refers to the physical or the cognitive ways that we, as humans, interact with other humans, interact with technological systems, and interact with the environment around us. So some people consider it a part of psychology. Some other people consider it a part of engineering. But there’s a lot of interaction, especially in the past few years as new interfaces and new types of interfaces have start started to come up.

Understanding how we as humans interact with those types of interfaces from a physical level, to, some of the limitations that we have around movement of our arms, the way that we can see things, we don’t have a 360 field of view, the same way the owls have, so knowing some of those limitations from a physical perspective. But also, from a cognitive perspective, understanding the limitations of working and long-term memory and how that impacts the way that we use websites, or applications, or any type of digital product or service, even physical as well.

The program specifically applies the field of human factors to the field of information design. And information design can be categorized as just the presentation of data or information to someone, either through an interface, or through a chart, or a table, and making sure that information is easy to digest, whether they’re interacting with it or if they’re just consuming that information to make some type of a sound judgment.

So human factors and ergonomics is really a long-winded way to say and explain what it’s like designing for different types of people and understanding the limitations that we, as humans– even for those who do and don’t have disabilities– making sure that we’re designing and considering everyone as a whole.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Thanks for explaining that. I definitely can see the overlap there between human factors, kind of human-centered design, and certainly, accessibility. So that’s really great. So I’m curious– and you touched on it a little bit in your explanation of human factors– but how have you seen, in your work, accessibility and user experience overlap?

DEREK MEI: I think there’s a lot of overlap between what I do as a UI/UX designer and the field of accessibility, in general. A lot of the considerations that I make as a designer when I design digital interfaces and figure out which colors I want to choose, how do I want to present that information on the screen, all the way to the user research side of things, who is considered our target persona? What does our demographic look like? There’s a lot of considerations on both sides of that equation.

Where, as a designer, you have to make decisions that impact and consider the impact on all of these different user groups. So within the world of product design today, I think a lot of companies do take more of a business-centered approach, where they’re thinking about the impact of what they’re designing for and how they can target the most revenue or target the largest user group. And as a result, we’ve come up with this concept of the average user. Whereas, I think, from the field of design, if you’re trying to consider everyone as part of your user group and figure out how you can be as inclusive as possible, there’s no such thing, really, as an average user.

Because regardless of whoever you’re designing for, they’re going to have different levels of needs and different types of accommodations that are going to require when they’re using your app, or your website, or your product. So as a result, I think businesses tend to drive towards the Pareto-optimal, where you’re solving for 80% of your user group. But as a result, that remainder of that population or that user base doesn’t tend to be considered.

So as a UX designer, you really have to consider who you’re designing for and try to be as inclusive as possible when you’re designing any type of interface or conducting any type of user research. You want to make sure that those voices are being heard throughout that research process and reflected in the interfaces that you’re designing.

ELISA LEWIS: Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense. So you mentioned that you didn’t have a ton of knowledge or experience in accessibility, specifically prior to working for 3Play. So I’m wondering how you learned about it and what that experience was like once you were at 3Play as a designer.

DEREK MEI: Yeah, I can definitely provide some perspective on that. I think at 3Play, the culture around inclusive design, inclusivity, accessibility, and just making sure that everyone’s voices are heard, is a really good space to be around because everyone’s very open to new ideas. And even as part of our on-boarding here at 3Play, I remember sitting in a room with a few other people who are being on board at the time– a few other 3Players– and listening to a presentation from Lilly– Lilly, Director of Marketing– on what it means to be in a company focused on accessibility.

And I remember it was a really open conversation around what accessibility meant to each one of us and how it affected each and every one of our lives. And I think we’ve done a really good job of continuing to hold conversations around inclusivity, accessibility, and making sure that trainings are being held on an ongoing basis. And outside of 3Play, I think I followed a very similar trajectory, where I’ve been continuing to attend different meetup groups across the country, especially during this time where we’re all stuck at home.

There’s been a lot of great meetup groups. IxDA Miami is a really great one where they hold a lot of accessibility-focused meet-ups and talks around designing digital products, but making sure that the way that we communicate with each other online is also accessible, so especially in the age of live meetings, for example, just making sure that accessibility is a focus and at the forefront of the conversation for designers and those within the accessibility community. So I think it’s been two-pronged.

But ultimately, accessibility is an ongoing process. And even though I’ve been at 3Play for almost two years at this point, I would say that I’m still learning each and every day. There’s so much to learn, especially as new technologies arise and especially as technologies continue to evolve within the web-space. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to grow. So for a lot of our listeners out there, I would say if you’re not familiar with accessibility and you don’t know where to start, there’s a lot of great resources out there. And I would say getting started and at least learning a bit about accessibility, in general, in that space, will put you in a much better space moving forward when you’re learning to branch out and understand how accessibility impacts everything that you do as a designer or a developer.

ELISA LEWIS: Thanks, Derek. So you started your career in development. And I’m curious. Transitioning from a development background, how has your perspective changed around accessibility as you’ve shifted more to a design role?

DEREK MEI: I think the mindset of a developer and a designer tend to be very different, where, as a designer, you focus more on high-level problems you’re solving. And then when you switch over to an engineering mindset, you think about how you can solve those problems programmatically and how they translate over into code. So coming from a development background, I think most developers tend to want to solve the problem at the core of the issue, so either when they’re writing code or when they’re in meetings, how that’s going to reflect and affect the way that a user is going to interact with a particular component or a part of the interface.

Whereas, I think from a design perspective, you’re looking at the entire problem from a more holistic perspective. So starting from research when you’re starting to reach out to different users and people who are going to be interacting with the product or service you’re building, you’re going to have to step back and think about who’s going to be part of that research and what are some of those cognitive, physical limitations, that might be impacting the way they interact with your product or service.

So as a result, I think designers and developers could both benefit from starting the conversation around accessibility a lot earlier in the process. Whereas, even before you even build any type of interface design, any type of screen, have any type of meeting, you should really consider as accessibility as part of your pipeline as one of the things that you need to do in order to launch your product or service successfully. And there’s been a lot of tools that target the space nowadays, where you have acts on the development side to debug certain issues.

But also on the design side as well, there’s a lot of plug-ins for these wireframing and prototyping tools that allow you to figure out whether or not your designs are accessible from a WCAG perspective, making sure that there’s enough color contrast, making sure that you’re not relying on just one channel of information to communicate your data. So I think from a high level, both designers and developers could benefit more from collaborating from each other and making sure that all of those designs that are created by designers can be more fluidly handed off to a developer.

But even stepping back from a higher level, there’s been this talk about design systems, overall, over the past few years. And I think a lot of these companies, such as the Salesforce, and Atlassian, and Facebook, and Google, Airbnb, a lot of these companies have kind of pushed the envelope forward when it comes to building components that, at the most atomic level, are accessible to begin with. So they really do just focus more on how those components interact from a high level and making sure that all those spaces are covered with any type of product that’s being developed.

So I think the space has evolved quite a bit over the past few years. Design and development, I think, still there is a bit of friction, especially at smaller companies or ones that are not as mature. But I think being able to see both sides of that coin and seeing how developers and designers interact has really influenced the way that I try to work with developers here at 3Play.

ELISA LEWIS: Thanks for sharing that perspective. I’m curious. You touched on it a little bit. But do you have any advice for someone who’s kind of dealing with the issue of accessibility really not being at the forefront and not being at the early stages of either their development or their design process? Are there any kind of simple ways to– like you said, accessibility is a process. There’s always room to grow and learn. But do you have any advice for kind of getting started and maybe making that a little bit more of a proactive thought than an afterthought?

DEREK MEI: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. I would say the answer to that is three-fold, might be more. But I think some of the things that you, as a designer or developer, can do to get by it is making sure that you’re starting with incremental changes. So one of the things I mentioned earlier is that learning about accessibility is a process. And if you’re the first designer or the first person in your company to really start these conversations, you don’t want to do everything at once. You want to get buy-in naturally.

And that could be through organic mediums where you’re reaching out to some of your friends at the company one-by-one and starting these conversations, maybe during lunch or starting, maybe, email threads, something small to begin with. You don’t want to disseminate a lot of this knowledge because people are afraid of change, especially from a really high, organizational level. So making sure that you can do this slowly is really important.

And that could be as simple as just installing a plug-in for the design team and sharing it during stand up and saying, hey, I found this really great plug-in that we can all use to make sure that our colors have significant color contrast and that we should try to include tab navigation as one of the main things that we’re considering as we design different parts of the interface that make sure that everything flows together. So incremental change, I think, is the first piece.

The second piece is something around data or making sure that you’re able to reach out to some type of team that ensures that whatever you’re designing or whatever your building is backed up by data. So when it comes to the accessibility perspective, I think there are some tools out there that help you capture whether or not your interfaces are accessible. And they might give you some type of score and triage some of the things that you’ll need to rectify in order to improve that score.

So being able to turn it into some type of a game or gamify it in some way, that allows people to improve the interface slowly or people on the team to really make those incremental changes, I think, is another way to get buy-in. And then the last piece, I think, is around developing relationships with people outside of your organization that are going to back you up. So this could mean reaching out to users that need accommodations and starting that conversation as part of your user research, all the way from the discovery perspective, even before you even get to the implementation perspective, making sure that those voices are heard as part of the process so that you can go back to the table with other designers, developers, product managers, and show them, like, these are some of the users that we’ve identified who are actively using our product.

And in order to make sure that we don’t get sued or we’re not liable for some of these accessibility violations, we really want to consider these voices as part of the work that we’re doing as a development team or a design team. So I think that the question around what designers can do and what people who are the first people in the organization to get buy-in for accessibility can do is to really take it slow, but at the same time, try to develop relationships slowly with other people in your organization that are passionate.

And if they’re not passionate or if they don’t even know enough about accessibility yet, just educating them– and you might not be an expert on accessibility– but making sure that they’re learning things at the same time as you and making an effort to improve a product or service you’re designing is really important.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, that’s a really good point about starting with educating people. I think, a lot of the times, there are different components of accessibility that kind of filter their way into our daily lives. But we maybe never labeled them as accessibility before or thought of them in that way. So that’s a really important point. So now that we’ve talked a little bit about accessibility, I want to kind of take a step back and hear from you, what are some key principles of UX and accessibility that everyone should know?

DEREK MEI: I think that’s a very good question. And a high-level accessibility can be quite daunting because there’s so much to learn about it. And everyone is different. Everyone who’s going to be using your product or service, there’s going to be different accommodations that you’re going to have to provide when you’re considering accessibility as part of your product development lifecycle. But I think Microsoft has come up with a really good framework and toolkit to address some of the overlap between inclusive design, accessibility, and developing a good user experience.

And I would say that disabilities are not as concrete as most people tend to view them. And a lot of disabilities can be permanent, they can be temporary, and they can be situational. So based on all the different modalities that we have as humans– the visual, the auditory, the olfactory, the gustatory– there’s a lot of different ways that people can be limited by their own physical limitations, as well as cognitive. So what I mean by that is someone might be permanently disabled when it comes to their sense of touch. They might not have an arm. They might be paraplegic.

But someone could also be temporarily or situationally disabled as well. So for someone who’s a new parent, for example, who’s holding their baby, they might not be able to operate an interface as well because of their inability to access that physical interface using their arms because they’re preoccupied with something else. And the same applies for some of these other channels or modalities as well. So for someone who is blind, they can’t see. But for someone who is in the middle of a task or paying attention to some type of flashing light, they might just be as distracted or require certain accommodations as well.

So when it comes to that overlap between UX and accessibility, I would say that there are several different types of limitations that could be physical. But people might also have communication barriers, economic barriers, maybe even programmatic barriers that are part of the environment or part of society that they can’t overcome. So there are still a lot of negative stigmas around people with disabilities. But as a UX designer or as a designer, learning about accessibility requires you to put your feet in the shoes of someone who has a disability or someone who might not be your average or intended persona that you’re designing for.

So I think, from a high level, as a designer, one of the best things that you can do is really develop a sense of empathy. And that’s a word that you hear a lot within the world of design and UX. But really, being compassionate and considering all of the different types of people that you’re designing for is a really good way to approach that conversation around design and accessibility.

ELISA LEWIS: Thank you. I think that’s really helpful to kind of get a full picture of what UX design really means and what it means to be a UX designer who’s thinking about, caring about, and creating more accessible content. So you talked about how disabilities aren’t always as concrete as people tend to think of them. And I’m curious, kind of in that same vein, how does accessible UX benefit everybody, including people with or without disabilities?

DEREK MEI: So I think regardless of whether you have a disability or not, or special accommodations and needs, people definitely benefit from accessible design because there’s a lot of different reasons why you might want that redundancy or you might want that fallback, even if you don’t have a disability. And to give a few examples, online, when I’m watching any type of video, I definitely prefer having captions on because the type of learner I am, I really like reading things, in addition to hearing it, especially if you’re watching a show that has heavy accents.

For my parents, in particular, translations are really important, and subtitles, especially because, for them, they’re not native English speakers. So being able to make sure that captions short for the video below it, they can read alongside and have that extra level of redundancy that makes sure that they can absorb the information a little better. I think having redundancy in any type of information that you’re presenting– So for example, for a lot of the subway maps that are out there, a lot of them rely purely on color.

And if you’re looking at a map from a distance and they’re only using icons or some other channel to represent information, it’s going to be a lot harder for you to take in that information because you have to rely on that one channel. And for people who are colorblind, you may not be colorblind now, but if there is some type of physical impairment that impacts your visual modality in the future, I think that’s going to be really important to rely on some other type of channel so that you can take in that information.

And a really interesting, I guess, story that I have is for some of my friends, when we’re at a house party and we’re just watching a movie or watching YouTube, sometimes I’ll use my keyboard. And instead of having to use a mouse I’m not familiar with or if there’s a connection between the trackpad and the computer, I can just use keyboard shortcuts to either full screen a video or close a tab. I know all of these different keyboard shortcuts. And having a different way to do things really gives you that fallback so that you can do things a little differently if something does fail within the system. Or if you just prefer one method over the other, it gives you a little more flexibility in how you want to perform those actions.

So I think, regardless of whether you have a special or a different type of a– if you require a special accommodation or not, I think having making sure that designs are accessible, is it really does benefit everyone, regardless of whether you have a disability or not.

ELISA LEWIS: Thank you so much for sharing those examples. I’m curious. You mentioned captions. And I’d love to know a little bit more about how video relates to UX and accessibility. Are there other things, in addition to captions, that you have to consider? And can you kind of talk a little bit more about video, specifically?

DEREK MEI: I think from a high level, there are a lot of different types of multimedia out there. And video and audio have been around on the web for quite a while. But if you look at some of these other types of multimedia that are out there, such as interactive charts and some of these different JavaScript packages that help you even create games and different types of interactive media on the web, I would say that a lot of the content is still not fully accessible, especially to people who are blind, low-vision, deaf, or hard-of-hearing. And for videos, in particular, even for audio files– maybe a podcast or something like that– captions are a good fallback for someone who maybe is deaf or hard-of-hearing.

But for someone who’s blind, they can maybe hear what’s going on. But they can’t see if there’s any type of visual information presented on the screen. Maybe there’s a text, maybe there’s a classroom lecture, where it’s really important to see what’s actually being written on the whiteboard. But also, for a lot of the movies and videos that we watch, making sure that there’s an alternate form of communication is really important. So here at 3Play, we have a service called audio description.

I think that really benefits a lot of people who are blind or low-vision because, in addition to hearing what’s going on from the audio, you’re also presented with an additional speaker or some type of narrator in the background that narrates what’s going on in the video, itself. So if there’s any type of pertinent information that’s important to understanding what’s happening in the video or is crucial to understanding what’s going on in the movie or video you’re watching, you’re presented with this different, alternative variant of ingesting that information and making sure that you’re able to follow along.

So there’s a really interesting interview that we did as part of Faces Behind the Screen with Blind Fury, who told me that as part of the videos that he watched on YouTube, a lot of the TV shows, and a lot of the Netflix Originals, he is able to follow alongside people who are sighted because there’s an extra level of narration that tells them exactly what’s happening on the screen– whether a car is being blown up or if a dog is barking silently– that he can’t hear. I think all of those are different ways that someone who’s blind or low vision can also take the information the same way that people are sighted or people who are deaf or hard of hearing can.

ELISA LEWIS: Absolutely. So I want to begin to kind of wrap things up. And I’m curious. One of the things that has come out of 2020 and kind of the current climate doing a lot of things virtually is a little bit more of an understanding and awareness of accessibility and the varying needs of different individuals. I’m wondering where you see UX trends heading kind of through the end of the year and beyond.

DEREK MEI: I think over the past few months, we’ve definitely seen a lot of our lives upended in one way or another, with a lot of companies shifting to remote working, a lot of people being laid off. And some of these services that you see that provide delivery services or some type of in-person service have had to shift over to a remote business model. So I think during this time, live meetings and access to live events is going to be a really big part of UX, but also just businesses moving forward, making sure that any types of events, whether they be webinars, or meetings, or conferences, that all of that content can be accessible to all types of people, regardless of the accommodation that you need.

So I think live captioning is going to be a really big aspect of multimedia, moving forward. But also for some of these delivery services for more experienced design or the service design side of things, being able to be agile and shift business models is going to be really important. So companies like Drizzly, companies like all these food delivery services, DoorDash, Grubhub.

Even companies that were more based out of a physical brick and mortar space have now had to shift their business model such that they’re able to create digital applications, either websites or if you’re calling over the phone, making sure that there’s some other type of channel presented to people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, just making sure that there’s different ways of communicating that information so that people have equal and accessible access to the experiences that a lot of people do have.

So I would say, within the realm of UX, in particular, I think some of the trends are, accessibility, in general, is going to be a really big one, especially with a lot of rules and regulations within that space continuing to evolve year after year and continued litigation in the space of accessibility. But within the realm of user experience, I think there’s definitely been more of a focus on inclusivity, and social justice, and making sure that products and companies continue to have that at the front of their minds when they’re designing any type of product or service, making sure that everyone’s voices are heard, instead of just a small subset.

ELISA LEWIS: Absolutely. So I’m wondering if you can kind of leave us off with one piece of advice that you have for designers who are trying to create a better user experience.

DEREK MEI: I think one piece of advice I would try to give to any designer at any stage of the career, whether you’re more of a junior designer or even if you’ve been in the field for decades at this point, is learning as much as you can about the people you’re working with, but also the people you’re designing for.

So a lot of good design is really informed by requirements, but also constraints for the people that you’re designing for, as well as the limitations of either the technology that you’re using– maybe there’s some type of business requirement or constraint that you’re trying to work under– and also, just all the different types of people that we mentioned as part of this podcast that you might be designing for or people who might not be using your product now but will be moving forward. So I think one of the most valuable pieces is just broadening your experiences and trying to learn as much as you can about other areas that you might not be as familiar with.

And I try to incorporate this ethos into my everyday life, so it doesn’t have to be related to designing a better UX for a product or service. But as humans, I think it’s really important for us to learn about what’s going on around us in the political, economic, and the social spheres and try to bring that into your life as an individual and see how you can make an impact in the lives of other people, making sure that there’s social good in the products you’re designing for, and having those meaningful conversations within your own friend groups, talking to family and friends, and also, when you’re working for a company, making sure that you’re able to bring that into the workplace as well.

So I think in 2020, we’ve definitely seen a lot of things change over the past few months. I think these conversations are going to continue to evolve, moving forward. So really being able to broaden your experiences, and hear different viewpoints, and really be empathetic at the core of it, is going to be a big part of good design and humanity, moving forward.

ELISA LEWIS: Absolutely. Since we have a couple of minutes, there is one other question I actually want to add in here. And then I feel like I should start my campaign for Derek for 2024. We all could use a little more empathy in the world.

DEREK MEI: I mean, empathy is kind of one of those buzz words that you hear a lot in the design space. And to, I think, different people, empathy do mean different things. Like, some people kind of just hit that baseline of making sure that you’re hearing everyone’s voices. But maybe you don’t do anything with the interviews that you’re conducting with people who are blind, or low-vision, or people who need accessibility. But some companies really do push the envelope.

And it’s hard to design for social good, especially because there are some unintended consequences, like the thing that just came up from Netflix around The Social Dilemma. Like, they wanted to do good. But ultimately, a lot of the consequences are bad because they could include different people’s voices. And ultimately, it’s also a technological issue of making sure that the technology speaks to what’s actually happening in the world and making sure that bad actors are acted against in some way, so a lot of thoughts there.

ELISA LEWIS: So one thing that I would love to get your thoughts on is who should be a part of the UX team.

DEREK MEI: I think, depending on who you ask, people will give you a different answer. From the perspective of a team, itself, and looking purely at the roles that you’re hiring for, I think UX, itself, will include some type of research. Maybe you’ll have a UX copywriter on the team that helps with any type of messaging with customers, but also the micro-copy that you’re putting on your apps or your websites. You’ll also want people who understand information architecture.

And there’s going to be a lot of overlap between these roles, making sure that you have someone who’s able to work with the UI designer, someone who can work with the developers, maybe more of a long-term UX strategist, someone who works with design systems. I think there’s an endless number of roles that you can kind of go through. But I think what’s more interesting is the composition of the people that you’re choosing to hire.

You want a set of diverse perspectives. You want to hire people who can bring different skills and experiences to the table. So if you’re a company within the hospitality sector, for example, you don’t want to only hire people who are from the hospitality sector. I think it definitely helps to have someone who comes from a different background because I think that intersection where you have that cross-pollination of ideas is really valuable to a company because you’re able to account for unintended consequences or things that could arise from people who are misusing your application, or your product, or service.

I think it just definitely helps to have a lot of different range of experiences and people who have had different levels of experience in their careers, as well, join a UX team. So I think being able to recruit from a diverse set of perspectives is what I would advocate for when it comes to hiring people for UX, but also people who have an understanding of the product that you’re building, an understanding of maybe business models and how the work you’re designing and researching relates back to your companies goals as a whole.

There’s going to be a lot of overlap between the UX team and other departments that functions within an organization. I think it’s really beneficial to have that cross-pollination. I always say designers are kind of the glue that holds together a lot of different functions. So people who know about development, people who know about the business side of things, people who know psychology and understanding how to talk to users, it’s really that intersection there that makes a product and a design team good.

ELISA LEWIS: Thank you, Derek, for spending the afternoon with us on Allied. We’re so happy to have you on the podcast and so grateful to have you at 3Play. We hope that we can have you as a guest again. And we really learned so much. So thank you so much for sharing your time with us.

DEREK MEI: Thank you. I think what we’re doing here with Allied is great. And I’m definitely looking forward to hearing some of the additional speakers on the podcast.

ELISA LEWIS: Thanks for listening to Allied. If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave us a rating and review. To catch all the latest on accessibility, visit Thanks again, and I’ll see you next time.


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