Irene Au discusses her previous experience at fast moving companies Netscape and Yahoo!, and how that experience will influence her latest challenge. As the new Director of User Experience at Google, she will be confronted with an organization that is clearly defined by its engineering culture. A shift in priority empahsized hiring for the UI role in 2006. But this does not automatically mean a shift away from Google’s strict engineering orthodoxy. Getting the strategic decision makers in a non-design drive culture to consider user experience and UI design as part of their process will not be an easy task.
While there is no clear vision of how design will play a more strategic role, Ms. Au believes change can come through hiring strategies and cross functional education. She comments that many groups at Google currently believe they are user centered based on consistent use of usability studies. But they are not taking advantage of more advanced design techniques such as user pathology or ethnography techniques. She hopes to bring in more specialized skill sets - anthropologists and cognitive psychologists - in addition to traditional design and computer science specialists. This will allow her to take advantage of a wider range of experience to build cross functional teams tasked with developing innovative new interactivity and design ideas to set Google products apart from the competition.
Irene Au is currently Director of User Experience at Google, where her team is responsible for design and user research for Google's products worldwide. She joined Google following eight years at Yahoo! where she founded Yahoo!'s user research and interaction design practice and eventually assumed worldwide responsibility for all product and platform design efforts as Vice President of User Experience and Design. Her career began at Netscape Communications where she was an interaction designer and led cross-product design efforts on Netscape's browser, mail/news client, and page editor.
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