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069: We Are All Pioneers with Sophia Prater

User Defenders: Podcast – UX Design & Personal Growth
User Defenders: Podcast – UX Design & Personal Growth
069: We Are All Pioneers with Sophia Prater

Sophia Prater reminds us that we’re all pioneers in a field that is changing every minute. She encourages us to use forcing functions by getting the gig first, and then figuring it out. She introduces us to a design philosophy she pioneered called Object-Oriented UX which is all about taking really complex problems, and breaking them down into parts and organizing them. She also reminds us that in order to be successful in this field, we must become lifelong learners.

Sophia Prater is the Chief Evangelist of Object-Oriented UX (OOUX), a methodology she started popularizing in 2013. She teaches OOUX methodologies at conferences, within companies, and through 1-on-1 coaching. She loves mentoring— She leads the Atlanta chapter of Ladies that UX and she created the UX Hustle Summit Conference and she hosts the UX Hustle Podcast. Before starting Rewired, she led UX efforts for clients such as AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Athena Healthcare, Coca-Cola, the IRS, and the Australian Tax Office. As a UX designer at, she designed the responsive 2012 election night experience viewed by over 200 million. In 2016, she returned (as a consultant) to do it again. Today, she focuses on bringing the magic of OOUX to companies and teams around the world. Fun fact: She’s super into city planning and urban design for walkability and public transit (the UX of a city!) — she’s been car-free in Atlanta for about 10 years!

  • Origin Story (4:58)
  • Biggest Failure (10:46)
  • Design Superpower (25:57)
  • What is OOUX? (30:27)
  • Design Kryptonite (38:12)
  • UX Superhero Name (42:28)
  • Habit of Success (46:57)
  • Invincible Resource (51:05)
  • Recommended Book (52:52)
  • Best Advice (55:26)

Sophia Prater’s Twitter
Sophia Prater’s LinkedIn
Sophia Prater’s Website
Sophia Prater’s A List Apart Articles
Sophia Prater’s UX Hustle Podcast

Content Everywhere
Elements of User Experience Design
Atomic Habits


Show transcript

Jason Ogle: I am super excited to have Sophia Prater and I’m so glad she married into that name because God helped me if I pronounced her previous name, Voichusky?

Sophia Prater: Voychehovski.

Jason Ogle: Voychehovski…see?

Sophia Prater: Yes.

Jason Ogle: So, Sophia is a chief evangelist. She’s the chief evangelist of object-oriented UX. That is a methodology that she started popularizing in 2013. I am really curious about it. I’m excited to learn more and I have a feeling you Defenders are as well. She teaches conferences, she does one on one coaching mentoring and she also leads the Atlanta chapter of ladies that UX that is awesome. And she created UX hustle summit conference. And all of a sudden, I feel like I haven’t done much in my life. And I’m only like four bullets in but it there’s more and she’s worked with AT&T, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Coca Cola, the IRS, the Australian Tax Office, and

Okay, so here’s a fun fact about Sophia. She is super into city planning and urban design for walkability and public transit that basically the UX of a city I think that’s so cool. And it’s funny the UD community, we actually read Kat Holmes, book Mismatch all about inclusive design. And there’s a lot of that kind of originated with architecture with usability of the city, you know, bathrooms and parks and playgrounds and so I think that’s really fascinating. I wonder if our conversation will veer into that at all today.

Sophia Prater: Well, curb cuts are a big one…

Jason Ogle: Yes.

Sophia Prater: Just start when they, I don’t know if it was the beginning of that but this idea of having a curb cut is great for if you’re in a wheelchair, but it’s also great for everybody else, right? It’s better if you’re on a bike, it’s better if you have a grocery cart. It’s better if you have a stroller. So that’s sort of one of the big inspirations for this idea of using universal design, where what is good for sometimes marginalized populations is usually going to be good for everybody.

Jason Ogle: I love that, and I got to interview Derek Featherstone, who has been focusing a lot on accessibility and he said the same thing. He said that accessible design is just better design. It makes perfect sense. origin stories are super important, and I like that because it helps our Defenders listening really connect with you.

Sophia Prater: So, my origin story, I went to Georgia Tech for industrial design. So, I graduated with my industrial design degree and I was like, I’m going to go design teapots or whatever.


Yeah, yeah, I’ll put the handle in the right place, but I ended up getting a really awesome internship with Electrolux. It was actually a very kind of, I applied once and didn’t get it and then I applied the second time and then I got it. So, I was really excited about getting this pretty competitive internship with Electrolux, and I went, did the internship, it was a six-month internship.

And when the internship finished is right when 2008 hit, and they had been kind of saying like, we’re going to hire you full time, this is working out really nicely. So I was kind of expecting an offer, but then it was 2008 and it was kind of like they started struggling along a little bit, I remember, this was in Anderson, South Carolina, which is kind of, it’s right next to Clemson if anybody is a Clemson fan, but it’s really kind of the middle of nowhere, but I sort of hung out in Anderson for a while, kind of like waiting to see if I was going to get an offer and nothing happened.

So, I ended up legit having to move back in with my parents like into their basement. It was completely cliché. So, I’m in Chattanooga, I’m living in my parent’s basement, working at Outback Steakhouse, like, I mean it was kind of dark times. But I was applying to a bunch of jobs, all industrial design jobs and some of them. I remember I got flown up to New York once I actually interviewed with Michael Graves, which they make the really cool tea pot and got an offer from them for an entry level position in New York for $30,000 and I said, “That’s not going to work”. I don’t know how that would work at all, and so I actually, so I was like getting little tiny bites, but since it was 2008 no one was really hiring for real. And then I ended up going to my very best friend from childhood. Her name is lucky.

Jason Ogle: No way.

Sophia Prater: And hi Lucky. Hi lucky if you’re… listening and her friend Mike was graduating from The Nuclear Naval Academy and I wasn’t doing anything because I was just unemployed or working at Outback Steakhouse. And she said, Hey, come to this graduation and I knew Mike from being friends with lucky. And so, we went to this graduation just to kind of hang out and I met his sister and his sister was a recruiter at Accenture. And she, we were chatting, and she would I think she can kind of just see a person that was job hunting. It’s like, you know, that was her superpower, just x-ray vision, job hunting person, and she was talking about what I wanted to do.

And she said, ‘’I think I have the perfect thing for you’’ and I kind of I might have rolled my eyes or something just because; I was probably pretty burned at this point. I think I’d been job hunting for about eight months. But she sent me the job application and I still remember sitting in my parent’s basement after this graduation and reading the job description for this user experience analyst job with Accenture and I just knew I was like this is probably perfect for me because everything with industrial design up until then had been really, I hadn’t been so interested and like getting that perfect radius on the refrigerator. What I was at Electrolux, I was more interested in like how the doors were going to work. Can you put a pizza box here? Where are you going to put your eggs, it was more about how somebody would use the product, as opposed to how the product looked. So, when I read this job description, I just knew it was for me.

So, I applied, and I ended up getting this job and the funny story about this and kind of how we’re, how much we come and just 10 years. This is 10 years ago and the group that I started at, I don’t know what it’s called now with Accenture, but it they’re probably hundreds, if not thousands of people in their user experience group at Accenture now, there was I think 23 people in the group worldwide and it was the UEG group. So, they were calling user experience UE….

Jason Ogle: What?

Sophia Prater: Instead of UX. So long time ago, we really hadn’t figured out the term UX yet. So that’s how it all started. I got started in it very early. So, the timing, I was really just in the, I didn’t feel like it at the time but in 2008, I somehow was in the right place at the right time to get in on this kind of, I guess right before the tidal wave of UX. Right before it got really, really popular.

Jason Ogle: That’s awesome. Wow. And you UE that’s so user experience. I mean, you have to start somewhere, right? That’s like, UX sounds cooler but if like Don Norman or somebody, like started calling it up, then I think maybe we would all be calling it that still. I don’t know.

Sophia Prater: Right? Yeah. It was I think it was Jesse James Garrett. That was saying that we were all UX. I think it was an IA very early IA summit and he was basically said to a room of information architects. We are all UX designers. And I think…

Jason Ogle: I love it.

Sophia Prater: I don’t know if he was the first I would I probably need to like do a little internet search on that. But that’s what but he could have said we are all UE designers.

Jason Ogle: Yes.

Sophia Prater: Just nod our heads and say yes. Yes, we are we are UE designers.

Jason Ogle: So, I’m curious and we know that failure is a big part of that. Can you tell us a story about what’s maybe been the biggest one in your career?

Sophia Prater: I actually wrote an article on just…

[Cross Talk]

…on Medium and teach, on the difference between, I think it was like saying like the difference between failure with a capital F and failure that is actually just a steppingstone toward learning. And so, I also I don’t really believe in failure and that I tried something, and it didn’t succeed because that is all that is, is progress. All that is learning. I think the real failures are failures of inaction. Are failures of not doing something, of failures of being afraid, procrastination, disguises fear, where there’s the thing that you know, you should do and but then you don’t do it. Those are the real failures. There’s this great example of, sometimes the fable is a photography teacher sometimes it’s a pottery teacher I think this is a Derek Severs.

Jason Ogle: I love him.

Sophia Prater: Parable. Yeah, he’s great and his so you might know this, but he, I think his was a pottery teacher who’s divided the class into two groups and one group, he said, “You guys go and you’re going to be judged, you’re going to be graded on the amount of clay that you use, we’re literally going to take all of your pots, perfect or fallen pots, we’re going to put them on a scale and see how much they weigh. And that’s how you’ll be judged”. And then the other group was going to be judged on their one pot that they would submit at the end.

And guess which group ended up having better pots and becoming better at ceramics at the end? It was the group that was judged on how much they did I just how much they produce because then they didn’t have any fear. They just went in and they were like, I just got to knock out as many of these parts as possible. And then the other group was kind of theorizing and saying, Well, what makes a great pot? And then they would easily procrastinate because they only had to produce what at the end of the semester. So, the group that was just trying and experimenting and playing really playing without fear, actually ended up producing the better work.

So, to answer your question, I will say like, probably I think one of my biggest failures, and it’s not a failure of inaction, I just think I’m still in the process of it is with will, and we’ll probably get into OO and UX a little bit more later. But my ultimate goal with OO in UX is to make it UX. Like I want this to just be part of UX that we stop calling it user, we stopped calling it object oriented UX or some other special breed of it, that it just becomes part of the fabric of what we do. I want it to be the norm. So, I’m nowhere near that yet. Most people don’t know what it is. So that is not failure, it’s still a work in progress, right? I haven’t gotten there yet and there’s certain things that I feel like I could be doing more of, for example, I have a game. It’s a card game and I feel like it would be a really great way for people to be learning it. I just haven’t been able to dedicate the time and the space to make that game of success. I’ve worked really hard on it, but I haven’t really gotten it into the hands of the people that I think would love it.

So, but to kind of, I guess, to spin it to more the transformation question like what was the really transformative thing for me, which was actually a success. But there were certain things that when I look back on, here’s what I would have done differently and that was with CNN in 2012. That was where my mind completely changed on user experience design. That was when I was internal at CNN as a user experience designer, and I was tasked with designing the election results. So basically, what would people see in 2012, which was kind of a big election. What would people see when they came to see for election results?

[Cross Talk]

No, oh, yeah, no pressure at all. It’s like, not only I mean, this is Super Bowl Sunday…

Jason Ogle: Oh yeah.

Sophia Prater: For CNN. I mean, there’s so many eyeballs. I mean, the ad revenue is insane, so you don’t want your system to break.

Jason Ogle: Right?

Sophia Prater: On a night like that, right? And you don’t want it to be a bad experience. Because the thing is, is people will come to see it in first usually, but if it’s a bad confusing experience, or the load times are terrible, guess who else has all the data? Everybody, everybody has all the data, every single competitor of CNN has that data and is presenting those results as well. But if you can get them there and keep them there, then they won’t go anywhere else because it’s a beautiful experience.

So, we did manage to do that we It was a success, but we got all the views we wanted, we got all the times that we wanted. We hit all of our metrics and so but going back to the no pressure thing it was, not only was its high profile, it was also with a deadline that was not going to move. You know, we were going to launch I think it was November 9 year we were going to launch November nine like the election was not going to wait for us to you know, do one more round of QA like that’s not wasn’t going to happen. So that deadline was not meaning it was also a very tight deadline. I got brought on in June to start with user experience design and the first sprint of development was starting four days after I was brought on so I had about four days of lead time on development and that included a weekend I still remember it was a Thursday. And then also, the other piece of it is we were tasked with doing it as responsive design or a little bit of zoom out context proper. CNN itself did not launch as a fully responsive site until January of 2015.

So, this was 2012. This is the first thing we had ever done responsibly. So, I had never designed responsibly. The developers had never developed responsibly, editorial had no freakin idea what responsive design even meant. So, this like, I mean, it was a big experiment with a really tough timeline for the most high-profile thing ever. So yeah, a lot of pressure. And but it was really responsive design and being part of a really great team and we did manage to succeed but this is what changed my thinking is I, when I got tasked with this, on that Thursday, I had a small freak out, because I was thinking, oh my goodness, I have no time to actually get ahead of development and to figure that out, not I say this in a lot of presentations so it’s not about big secret, but I had to research government. I mean, I had to play one beat and do some Wikipedia research on really how our government worked to be able to show this accurately because I was not a Politico at this point. I really, I’m not now anyway. But anyway, my manager sat me down and he said, don’t worry about it. This is the project manager. She said, don’t worry about it, it’s fine. Development only needs one wireframe on Monday. We need the mobile and the tablet and the desktop version.

So actually, three wire frames because remember, we [inaudible 15:37] mobile tablet desktop. Yeah, so we need the three versions, we need three versions of just one template because we’ve already figured out our sprint schedule, and we’ve with our sprint schedule, we know that we’re going to do the state template first. So like Georgia, California, and Nevada, we’re going to do the state template first. That’s our first two-week sprint. We looked at the templates from 2008. We’re going to reuse those templates from 2008 and we’ve already designed our sprint schedule template by template.

So, we only need one wireframe from you. And this is seriously this moment, that was my transformative moment where I realized not necessarily started seeing my superpower, because that was when I had been asked to design a cog in a machine before and I had it had been Okay, before responsive design, I’d sort of been a we’ve been able to get away with designing page by page. And I realized that I needed to design a system for this, I need to design a system of reusable parts and designing one page at a time, I was going to create extraneous complexity. And when I realized that instead of giving them that one template on Monday, what I did is I gave them a system and I went back and I looked at the templates and the modules from 2008, which was not responsive.

So, they had designed it page by page and extraneous complexity had been baked in. And what I did is I reduce the amount of template to about four templates from I think it was like nine or 10 templates, I reduced it to four templates and four or five modules that can be reused over and over again. So I reduce the complexity of the system and then we went in and that actually, I think, was a huge part of the success because if we had had any extra complexity, I mean, we were like, up to the last minute, so we pulled it off by the skin of our teeth, if it had been any more complex, I don’t know how successful the project would have been and this is what really stuck with me is creating systems of reusable parts.

Jason Ogle: That’s amazing. I, there’s so much to your story and I love how you found yourself in an incredibly challenging scenario and you rose to the occasion, I’ve been reading a book by Benjamin Hardy called willpower doesn’t work, which I think is a terrible name for a book. When you read the book, you’re like, you should call it environments or everything. That’s really what, Benjamin. If you’re listening with, I doubt you are. You should rename your book but hi Benjamin.

Sophia Prater: All so sort of shout to this episode.

Jason Ogle: He is the most read author on Medium, apparently. Yeah, so there you go but anyway, he addresses something and one of the things I love I’m a big fan of psychology and one of the things he’s studying, he’s getting his PhD in Organizational Psychology. And so, one of the things I love about his material is he really goes into a lot of like what psychologists call things, and I’ve been learning a lot and one of the areas he addresses in his book is about forced functions. And I didn’t know what it was called, but it’s when we’re faced with a situation, we will typically rise to the occasion if we have it in us, we will rise to the occasion. And sometimes it’s one of those instances where we didn’t even know we could do that. And one of the stories he tells it really feels like a super man’s story and this really happened in 1982 I think there was a fella named Tony Kabbalah, I believe, and he was working on one of his cars, he was underneath his car and the car fell on him and you know what happened? His mother came out knew that he was, needed help immediately. She lifted the dang car up for him to get out. She lifted the car.

Sophia Prater: Yes.

Jason Ogle: That’s a forced function. She rose to the occasion didn’t know she had that in her to be able to accomplish what was necessary at the time that it was needed. You did the same thing with that project.

Sophia Prater: Right.

Jason Ogle: Forced function.

Sophia Prater: And this is actually yeah, I love, I did not have that label for that but I, so thank you for that and I’m definitely going to look that book up and I’ll look it up by media and add another follower to his list. But yeah, I what I tell people, I get asked advice about public speaking quite a bit about how to get into public speaking and I always say, get the gig first and then figure it out. So, if it’s just a meetup or something, go meetup people that run meetups, always need content. So, reach out to those people. Get the meetup on the books, get the deadline, write your little blurb, send over your little headshot, and then figure out all your slides, then figure out what you’re going to say because you will figure it out.

Jason Ogle: Amen.

Sophia Prater: And I did this, this is when I got a really awesome opportunity to go speak at Jesse James Garrett, adaptive paths UX Week, in 2013, because everybody wanted to hear about responsive design, and it was a high-profile responsive design. So, come to a case study someone from CNN, come do a case study, and I got the opportunity to go and do this talk and I do the talk and oh my god, I was so nervous. So, but I gave the talk and, in a few months, later, Jesse emailed all of the speakers and said, Hey, who would you recommend to come back for 2014 UX week, and I just emailed him back and I said, me, me, me. let me come and do a workshop.

Jason Ogle: Nice.

Sophia Prater: And I had no plan for this workshop. I just knew there was something in that talk, that I was teaching that I could teach in a workshop context, but I had absolutely no plan for it. And I think it’s kind of hard for conference organizers to get people to do workshops sometimes. So, it was like, yeah, sure. You’re talking okay, like, I’ll do the workshop and I said, Oh, crap. Okay, now I got to figure that out. So that was definitely I was forcing, I was creating a force function scenario on myself, because I knew that I would figure it out. Like if I had to go and give this workshop for all these important people at UX week, I was going to make sure I wasn’t going to waste their time and I was good. So, I always tell people, get that gig, then figure it out, and you’ll be fine.

Jason Ogle: That’s so great. I Love that. That is such an inspiring example and you know, you did you put yourself into a scenario where you had to do something you had you’re like, I know I can. So, if I as long as I put a deadline, here’s another law is called Parkinson’s Law and that means tasks will expand the time allotted, right?

Sophia Prater: Yeah!

Jason Ogle: So, if we have a project, even if it will only take us like two hours, if we set the deadline for three weeks from now, guess what, we’re probably not going to work on it until the day before. Just that’s just how it goes. And you know, so I just love that so inspiring. I really, really love that story. Let’s get into your superpowers because you kind of touched on it a little bit with what you just shared with us. But what would you say is your design superpower Sophia?

Sophia Prater: So, it would definitely be the ability to take a really complex problem and break it down into parts and organize it which is what object Duran UX does like that and so it’s more of a super tool that anybody can pick up. It’s not my superpower. And it’s, you know, Google it OUX. It’s free out there. So, anybody can have the superpower but it really through this tool, I can get dropped into a very complex business scenario. I’m doing some work with Delta right now and this is like back end Delta stuff. So, it’s things that the travel agents are using it, it is so complicated. And I can come in and I can run an OO and UX workshop with a bunch of stakeholders and users and I can extract truth about this world in a really organized way and document that and then present it back to the client and ask a few more questions. And I can really, I can become kind of an expert in something that might take somebody who’s doesn’t have this particular tool weeks to months to figure out and I can figure it out in a day or two. So, I have some pretty awesome superpower, but it’s available to everybody.

Jason Ogle: I love that.

Sophia Prater: Yeah, yeah. So, hands down. That’s what I do.

Jason Ogle: I really dig that. I feel like just kind of continuing to expand upon your forest function and just you rising to the occasion. And I kind of said something I said, if you have it in you, and I want to kind of reframe that, because we all have it in us. We can all like you just said, we all have superpowers. It’s just a matter of with if we want to use them, if we want to learn them, and not all superpowers, you know, and then some superheroes were born with it but some of my favorite superheroes inherited their superpowers, by scenarios that they found themselves in or that they put themselves in, you know, and so I feel like anybody can do this stuff. I really believe that with a growth mindset, anybody can do this. And it’s practice. It’s practice. It is hunger. It’s passion. I’ve been at this for nearly 25 years and I still am a beginner. I still have a beginner’s mindset.

Sophia Prater: Right.

Jason Ogle: And I think that’s what helps you to grow.

Sophia Prater: Yes.

Jason Ogle: And you don’t ever feel like you’ve arrived.

Sophia Prater: I always tell my ladies that UX. And I always I’ve always telling them, we are all pioneers. Everybody all.

Jason Ogle: I love that.

Sophia Prater: If you are entering webs today, you are just as much a pioneer as I am. Because this is changing every minute, every minute it changes.

Jason Ogle: Right.

Sophia Prater: So, I mean.

Jason Ogle: Wow. Yes.

Sophia Prater: God, like the tools change, the philosophies change, and whatever you are bringing to this situation, like we need it, we need it like people sometimes fear when they’re coming into user experience design that it is getting saturated, that we got all our boot camps up and running, and they’re just churning out UX designers. It is getting more competitive, but I always say, how many times have you been annoyed by technology today? I mean two dozen and it’s like 11:45Am here and I’ve already been annoyed at least two dozen times. Like we need help. We seriously do not have this figured out. It is not saturated because technology still sucks most of the time so.

Jason Ogle: Amen sister.

Sophia Prater: Yeah, bring it up bring your superpowers, it’s just a matter of harness those superpowers like the best. The best superhero movies are the ones where they kind of like mess up at first and they have to like to figure out how to use it. They’re like, Oh, I have this superpower that you know, they like blow up a wall or something like that.

Jason Ogle: Yeah, absolutely. That’s why like I love like the “Shazam”, you know, like kind of that whole thing like he’s just a normal guy. You know? He’s like, he’s actually a kid too like, so that makes it you know, it’s kind of like that whole big movie with Tom Hanks. He’s like the big movie but he’s like got a superpower. He’s got to figure out how to use them. So, I feel like that’s kind of us in a way you know, we’re like just figuring it out as we go and we can, we have access. That’s my main message Defenders are that we all have access to the same superpowers if we just apply ourselves and if we just stay hungry and relentless and just go for it, so I love that we are all pioneers. That’s so good. You might have just named the episode Sophia. Whoo. Love it. I want to talk about object oriented UX is this be would be a good time, I think because you touched on it. But what is it? Tell us more about it. I really feel like this is an important area of this conversation.

Sophia Prater: For sure I, so basic. So, imagine, let me paint a picture for you. I’m going to explain it in a different way. I’m trying to experiment with ways to explain this. Imagine you are walking into a coffee shop that you’ve never been in before. And you walk into this coffee shop and for some reason, it’s really difficult to figure out what the thing is, are. You think that there’s something over here and maybe it’s a chair, but maybe it’s a person? And you look over here and maybe that’s a table but that actually might be one of those big professional coffee machines. And then you see something over here you’re like, Okay, let me like really concentrate. Okay, yes, that’s a person, but I’m not really sure if that’s a person who works here, or a person, the person that I’m trying to meet here, I’m not so sure. And then you might say, okay, like, I’ve constrained this person, I can figure out that that’s the person that I’m trying to meet but I can’t figure out what table they’re sitting at. Are they sitting at their seats? There’s these I see these three tables, but I can’t tell which table they’re sitting at. Or here’s a door but I don’t know if that door is a door to the bathroom or door outside. This would be really strange, right? This would be a really weird coffee house. This would and it would be very hard to function in this coffee house, right?

Jason Ogle: Like a bad acid trip.

Sophia Prater: It would be like a bad, bad acid trip. Okay, which is what …

[Cross Talk]

That would be like so much. Well, your kind of everybody knows what this is this. I don’t know how this analogy is going to work out. But this is what so many digital environments are like. They’re like bad acid trips because you go in there and you don’t know you’re. It’s very hard to identify what the objects are. What are the things in this environment that are important to me? What are their labels? Oh, well, this thing is called six different things depending on what page it’s on. And it looks different or these three things all look the same, but they’re actually different things. So, we create these digital environments where it is hard to answer these fundamental questions. What are the things in this environment? Where are the things in this environment? What are the relationships between these things? Because that’s very much. It’s very much how we define a thing is through the relationships, the context of the thing. This chair is related to this table, this person is related to this chair. And what are the relationships between the things in this environment and me? Do I own this thing? Am I wanting to buy this thing? Can I edit this thing? And we create these digital environments where it is not intuitive? To answer those questions, you really have to use your slow thinking now. Our brains are really using Going into an environment, all those things being super frickin obvious.

Jason Ogle: Yeah!

Sophia Prater: Right? It’s all like you go into a coffee shop, you’re like, Okay, you don’t even have to think about it, you just see the things and you know how to move to the space, but we make

Jason Ogle: We’re pattern recognizing machine.

Sophia Prater: We are pattern recognizing machines and what we do in digital spaces as we break those patterns over and over and over again. And we make it like a bad acid trip. I usually say like a carnival funhouse, but I like that acid trip better. So that we break the laws of physics, right? The good thing about technology as we can become super powered, right? We can undo and we can search things and we can spell check and we can have X-ray vision into objects. We have all those amazing superpowers, but we don’t want to do, and we break the laws of physics. We don’t want to be confusing. We want it to be empowering and often without very intentionally considering and defining on the UX side, okay, what are the objects here? What is the chemical makeup of these objects? How do you actually break them down? How do they relate to each other? Because those relationships should actually be the navigation.

It is– No, there’s nothing intuitive about navigating a bar of links at the top of the page, or underneath a hamburger icon. There’s an absolutely nothing intuitive about it. How we want to navigate is through relationships between objects. So, if we map those relationships out, we are mapping out that contextual or relationship-based navigation. So, this methodology is simply a methodology to say, what are the objects? What are the objects made up? How do they relate to each other? And how do they relate to the user? that’s what that’s what OUX is. It can fit into any process. You can spend two to three days on this to figure it out. Oh, something more complex two to three weeks, maybe. But if you do this, you’re making everybody else’s life easier.

So, whether you’re in some sort of Agile environment or waterfall environment or something I’ve never even heard of you can always fit in a few days of this type of work. So, I believe there’s absolutely no reason not to be doing it. I think it makes stronger designs and it makes us stronger process and makes more collaborative process. It makes communication easier. It’s like really, I don’t know what the drawback is. So yes, I would love this to be an industry standard. We did touch on this earlier about like we just we need more people in this industry bringing their unique background.

Jason Ogle: Yes.

Sophia Prater: And their diverse thought processes. We need that because we’re not there yet. So, this is not all figured out by any means. And when people like the advice that I give all this time is like if you feel like you’re having problems getting a job or you’re just graduated from General Assembly and you just feel like I’ve heard this term this is not me. This is what I hear is that I feel like I’m just another just another new UX designer. Well figure out follow your enthusiasm, figure out what you’re interested in, explore that, explore that a little bit deeper and then start combining these things start combining these interests, because that’s what creates your, what Tyra Banks calls the signature walk. You got to have your signature walk.

Jason Ogle: Yeah.

Sophia Prater: I absolutely. There’s a great Tyra Banks story that that we won’t get into, but she knew that she had to come up with her signature walk. And that’s what one of the things that launched her into fame. And the thing about it during us definitely my signature walk I’ve created as a weirdo niche, and I am the chief evangelist of this weirdo niche because I sort of made it up. I mean people doing that, figuring out what is my weirdo little interest? How and how can I make that valuable to everybody, and you can become the best at what you do. Because maybe in the beginning, you’re the only one doing it.

Jason Ogle: I love it. What would be your design kryptonite?

Sophia Prater: I’m having a lot of problems right now with the tools are getting so good that they you can make pixel perfect designs. So, when I was mostly using Axure and I switched from Axure to Sketch because Sketch, Sketch’s symbols finally got better than actors masters and I stayed with an extra for a really long because I use repeatable objects right so any kind of thing that I can stamp out and change in one place and it changes everywhere. Right I’m going to want to use that so because I want to create systems and when Sketch’s symbols got more powerful with being able to scale them and switch out symbols within symbols and all that goodness, I did a big I still do play an Axure sometimes.

The great thing about Axure is that; people used to complain about is it’s really hard to make things look what you do is you don’t worry making it look great when you’re an actor or Balsamic or you know, even Keynote or something you’re not really worried about the visuals. The problem I have with Sketch and I’ve literally dealing with this right now is pixel pushing when I am not a graphic designer, but I know what looks good and what doesn’t look good. And I guess this is the bigger umbrella kryptonite here would be perfectionism. And but basically, trying to get into these details and doing this detailed UI stuff. Without it and saying to myself, visual design does not matter now and drawing that line because we don’t we barely I mean, I sketch on paper and then the way that my processes got now I almost jumped straight to high fidelity and I think more and more people are going to high fidelity prototyping. Because the tools are so good with big mind Sketch, you can make things look gorgeous. And then if you’re inheriting a style guide or a design pattern library, or whatever you want to call it, and we’re calling it all sorts of different things now.

So, if you’re inheriting a design system, all these components and styles then like theoretically, you could just skip over the low fidelity wireframe stage and that has sort of become my kryptonite because I’m trying to make things look good too early and doing pixel pushing because I can do that with the tool is allowing me to do it so I don’t know even know the answer that question but I am really like pushing pixels back and forth way too much these days.

Jason Ogle: Yeah, I appreciate your honesty about that. Sophia and I think that that’s a struggle that a lot of designers have and I’ll raise my hand I tend to be the same and I feel like I’m glad Sketch exist, because it’s a lot more nimble that with making mistakes than like, say Photoshop was what because that’s how you know early on, we would make our all of our way website designs in Photoshop and it would be pixel perfect. And you’d spend hours and hours like even just trying to make bullets like and you know, like in your text trying to illustrate what that looks like is really hard in Photoshop and so all that to say is like, I can’t imagine, I can’t like put a number on how many hours have wasted trying to get something pixel perfect only to hand it off to the developers and have it just blow to hell.

The design all the work I did, and that’s been one of my biggest frustrations as a designer, it’s getting a lot better with the sprint cycles and things and more agile approaches to building software, it’s gotten a lot better because as a designer, you can be involved along the way. Instead of like, at the very end, like maybe you have two days to Q&A it and then every note you make is like oh, it’s too late to change that and it works fine. So sorry. Like that’s been one of my biggest frustrations as a designer, so I like I feel some visceral pains about that. But thankfully it’s getting better. You’re right. It’s getting better design systems are really helping that process a lot. You don’t have to guess what the buttons going to look like. You’re not the guess what the header is going to look like, right? Like you. You have. There’s a lot more constraints. And as designers, we thrive around constraints. This is a fun question. What would your UX superhero name be?

Sophia Prater: I’m going to say Zosia.

Jason Ogle: Wow.

Sophia Prater: Because Zosia is the Polish version of Sophia. So, I was named after my Polish grandmother. And Zosia was a badass grandma’s Zosia was going into Nazi concentration camps. As a doctor. She was a doctor in the 1940s. She was one of the only women that went to medical school. This is this is communist Poland in the 1940s and she is getting her medical degree. And then when the Nazis are coming in, she is going into these concentration camps sneaking in sugar cubes to provide medical services for the victims. And she even multiple times was sneaking people out of concentration camps.

Jason Ogle: Oh wow.

Sophia Prater: With a team like actually putting people in the bottom of carts. So, she was, I met her once when I was five years old. And but by that and so and then she died when I was back in the states and, and so I didn’t really know her but the stories I’ve heard of her life and the fact that she’s done is just the most epic bravery. And I think that that is one thing that I think we all struggle with, but that I struggle with is being brave and being and you know, not letting the fear get in the way of putting yourself out there and speaking your truth and all that good stuff. So, I would and Zosia just it has a z in it. So, it just sounds really bad ass too. So, I actually even considered changing when Sophia became a really popular baby name back around 2009 or so there’s a lot of eight-year old’s name Sophia. name was so unique and now my name is not unique anymore let me change it to Zosia so. Yeah, it’s just such a cool.

Jason Ogle: I love that’s one of my favorite superhero name stories that I’ve ever heard.

Sophia Prater: You say that to me?

Jason Ogle: No, I really don’t. No, I love that, and I wish I could meet your grandmother.

Sophia Prater: I know me too.

Jason Ogle: Oh my gosh.

Sophia Prater: Yeah.

Jason Ogle: What a woman.

Sophia Prater: Yes.

Jason Ogle: How do you spell that?

Sophia Prater: It’s ZOSIA.

Jason Ogle: Oh, that’s so cool.

Sophia Prater: Yeah, so in Polish the SI makes a shha sound to Zosia and my sister is Dosia. So, we’re Dosia in Zosia.

Jason Ogle: That’s so cool.

Sophia Prater: Yeah.

Jason Ogle: So great. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. That’s really, really cool. Well, Sophia, let’s wrap up the show with the imparting of superpowers. What’s one habit that you believe contributes to our success?

Sophia Prater: I’ve been much better with my habits over the last year I’ve really done some cool work and creating a routine for myself as a self-employed person so important. And that’s got so much better in the last year, year and a half. We’re like I put on pants every day. That’s it put on pants every day. No, I’m going to…

Sophia Prater: So, like you know, things like that but I will say the overarching thing is calendar blocking I calendar block that heck out of my schedule. So, every day gets printed out. So, I do not work to do list. I work from a calendar. And when I blocked my time, it makes it much easier for me to say no to things and makes me I literally have a visual representation on how much time I have really like through the next two months because any project that I had, I say okay, this is going to take, I need to spend at least 200 hours on user experience design with for this project, and I can go ahead and make blocks for that. And I can say so like if a deadline comes up, I will know immediately if that deadline is unrealistic and be able to push back from next, I just can look at my calendar like where’s this going to fit, it can’t fit there.

So, the calendar blocking has been great as a self-employed person and somebody that always says yes to too many things. And to be able to manage my time better manage my day better. And I do really feel like it helps me like design my day. People sometimes say Wow, you’re so organized. Because I mean, if you did look at this, you’d be like you are a very like kind of obsessive, compulsive organized person. But the truth is, and I’m actually pretty spaced out. So, I just going back to what we were talking about, maybe before the recording about systems and that living and dying by your systems.

So being sort of a spaced-out person and kind of a creative right brain up in the clouds person, this helps me be more realistic with my time it helps me block out commuting time I block out getting ready time if I need to leave the house, so I’m late and I’m rushing less. And I honestly believe like it’s impossible to have fun when you’re rushing and stressed out. And if you’re not rushing and stressed out basically anything could be fun, like going to the DMV can be fun if you’re not rushed and stressed out about it. So, so yeah, that has been transformative.

Jason Ogle: Yes. So great. I that is really, really good advice Defenders. I’ve heard it said that if you don’t schedule your calendar, somebody else will do it for you. And I think a lot of us live our lives, sort of on the defensive. Like we wake up for other people. We wake up for our employers. We just kind of go with the flow quote unquote. And what happens is other people demand more from us because we haven’t set our priorities for what we want to accomplish or the type of person we want to become. We haven’t scheduled that in. So therefore, we just become what the world expects us to become what others expected us to become. And, and I just feel like there’s a real dad, that is a real success story when we can take ownership and live a little more offensively, so to speak. As far as you know, making sure everything we put in our calendar is going to lead us closer to the type of person that we’re trying to become. So, I really love that a lot.

Sophia Prater: And making sure what you put on your calendar is aligned to goal so that kind of goes back to reviewing your goals and saying like, is this should this be a priority because as you see it physically take up space on in your day, and you just don’t want to put anything on there that doesn’t align to your long-term goals. So, it’s really helped me like get to the do the bigger things and not let my day get eaten by it by all the minutia.

Jason Ogle: Good. What’s your most invincible UX resource or tool? Besides possibly your calendar? And maybe OUX? Unless you want to say that you can recommend to our listeners.

Sophia Prater: Yeah, I think I would say, I mean, definitely, I’ll be joining UX and I will just continue to evangelize it. But as far as a resource, I have three articles on a list apart and Alyssa part in general, I think is a great resource. I say, from writing three articles on a list apart, I will tell you they edit and they that each of those articles we spent months on and editorial, so they are well written because they actually have editors behind them. And they force you to be sustained because you have limits so definitely Alyssa part those articles and yeah, really Alyssa part in general. And then as another resource, I would say to all the women out there buying your ladies that UX chapter, if there is not a lady that UX chapter in your city, all the big cities already have one. If there’s not a lady, the UX chapter, definitely consider starting one. You do not have to be a senior UX or to start a lady that UX chapter. And so, and that just goes to community. So, whatever your community is, being able to mentor and the mentee, and the best way to do that is to go to those meetups and start providing value and giving and just giving value. So, I would say community

Jason Ogle: love it. So, I’m a big reader. And I know that our Defenders are for sure with fact we have a book club on user Defender’s community, and I have a feeling you like books to Sophia. So, I want to ask you, right, so I want to ask you, if you could recommend one to our listeners, what would it be and why?

Sophia Prater: Okay, can I recommend to a non UX one and a UX one? Okay, I didn’t think you’d say no to that. Ok. So, my UX one would be content everywhere by Sarah Walker better. And this is basically the book that I wish I had written. I would I write my OO or a UX book, and it will be heavily inspired by this book. And it was written in 2012, I believe, and I wish I had read it before that CNN project, but I think I read it in 2014. So, it is not is not dated at all. So, this if you are interested in a book that is kind of foundational to object oriented UX, and Sarah is a content strategist. She’s doing a lot of work now with ethical design and inclusive design, but her in her past she did so much foundational work with content first design so content everywhere it’s a Rosenfeld book I believe it’s gorgeous and like changed my life. And as far as at also at CJ scare its elements of user experience design also a great one as far as like a foundational book, um, and then for a non UX book, I loved atomic habits and who wrote it’s you know,

Jason Ogle: James Clear!

Sophia Prater: Yes. James Clear. Thank you. Yeah, yeah. life changing. So, if that was already on the list, you’re the first What about Grit? I’m going to squeeze grit and to Grit, Grit. Grit, another wonderful one by Angela Duckworth.

Jason Ogle: Love grit.

Sophia Prater: Yeah, I gave five copies of Grit for Christmas presents last year.

Jason Ogle: Wow. That’s what you know it’s good when you are giving it away to people buying copies to give away. You know, it’s a good book.

Sophia Prater: Yeah, I think it’s a good parenting book. I’m not a parent, but every all my friends who have recently had kids, I’m like, you got to read this.

Jason Ogle: Fully agree. What’s your best advice for aspiring UX superheroes?

Sophia Prater: I mean, definitely, like, I’ll go back to the signature walk, like really just following your enthusiasm, which I kind of already said that, I think, another piece, okay, I’ll bring up something that I haven’t mentioned. So, but to recap, followed by that signature walk. Go ahead and public speaking is great. Teach what you need to learn. So, whatever the thing is that you’re interested in, say, hey, I want to give a talk on the ethics of AI and write the little blurb and what you’re going to talk about, send it to the meetup. They’ll be like, okay, we’ll do that in October 16. It’ll happen and then you figure it out.

So, if there’s you’re in, yes, use those force to function. And kind of going back to the calendar blocking, there’s, if you’re new to user experience design, you’re probably experiencing the fire hose of information coming at you. With all this, again, coming back to just so much content. So, create a schedule, just block out time for it so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Of course, explore different areas of user experience design. But once you start figuring out what you keep gravitating back to maybe you keep gravitating back to content on research, just follow that follow that enthusiasm and block out time on your calendar, whether it’s 15 minutes, a day, an hour a day, use those commutes to really kind of create your own self-study schedule. I do that I’m 10 years in and I’m still scheduled, I scheduled two hours a week for continued education and because it’s fun, and also, it’s been an interesting and also this world is changing so fast.

So, if you don’t love to learn I would say choose another career. Just go be a dentist or something. If you don’t love learning, because you will need to be a lifelong learner and this career path. I mean, that’s a lot of careers, you don’t really need to do too much continued education because they’re already so established and the, you know, environment and the context is not so volatile. Ours is I mean, hey, voice UY, hey, artificial intelligent, hey, chatbots. Like, I mean that those things weren’t even really on anybody’s radar two years ago. And now we’re really having to rethink the design processes around them. I mean, it’s insane and exciting and fun.

Jason Ogle: I couldn’t agree more so well said. So, Sophia, as we close, why don’t you tell our audience the best way to connect and keep up with you? And to learn more about OUX?

Sophia Prater: Sure, yeah. Thank you. So, I am on Twitter. I’m pretty active there. So, feel free to ask questions about OOUX or career or whatever and that is Sophia with a PH, V as in Victor UX, so SophiaVUX. And that’s where I am on Twitter. Also, on LinkedIn, I’m pretty active there as well. Website And for OOUX, I got a lock on that Google search. So, you can google search OOUX and stuff will start popping up. There’s, I’ve got quite a bit of stuff out there. So, you can learn a lot just by just a simple Google search.

Jason Ogle: I love it. Well, Sophia, thank you so much for being here today. This has been incredible, its….

Sophia Prater: Wait.

Jason Ogle: What?

Sophia Prater: One of the things that I totally forgot about because I have a podcast too and Jason’s going to be on that podcast like sometime this year. So yeah, so that is the UX hustle podcast where you can find it in iTunes. I’m just getting started there. I got just six or seven episodes up, still figuring out my audio quality. Hopefully the audio quality of this podcast is okay. But yeah, definitely check that out and give it a review. Tell me what you’re thinking about it.

Jason Ogle: All right, right on. Thank you for mentioning that Sophia. So, I just appreciate you again, caring enough about this work and being passionate and hungry enough and having the grit and the forest function and enough to continue to make us all better and make things better and that’s your inspiring, and I just thank you for all your efforts there and I just want to say last but not least, fight on my friend.

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