The most important UX tool

As a part of our practice, it seems that a lot of us love to talk about tools and labels. This makes sense: IA work, and UX work in the broad, deals with these things. I know that I love it too, and so when I'm asked about what tools I use my mind tends to go straight to technology.

Technology isn't the biggest tool we have. It's not even close. The biggest tool we have as UX people is the ability to listen. It can happen in many forms.

If we can hear, it can be the sounds other people are making, analyzing them, and understanding them. We can pick up on tones in conversation. We can notice how fast or slow people are talking. We can notice patterns, extract possible emotions, and then probe on those emotions. We can also just shut up and take it all in, a powerful technique.

If we can not hear, that listening may happen with the other senses: touch, vision, smell. Observation of others is a form of listening, and it leads to empathy and understanding.

Observation of ourselves is also form of listening. We live with ourselves every day, and how much listening to ourselves do we do? Listen to your body. What's it telling you? Are you in pain? Hungry? Full? Calm? Anxious? Happy? How is your physical state impacting the way you feel? Where are you right now? Take a moment to observe and listen to yourself.

This capability, this tool, is something that we all possess and we can all get better at doing.

"Listen. Don't wait. Don't wait."