Panda’s Guide to User Experience

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I blacked out when he said he wanted to underline text so that the site looked more interactive. I couldn’t hear him anymore because of the internal dialogue reinforcing my superiority. “He doesn’t think of the user. He only cares about sales. What kind of stupid idea is that? A really, really stupid one. What happens when someone tries to click the underlined text? Nothing? Awesome plan.”

I was stuck in the room for another 15 minutes, so I decided to play a game called “in what universe is this a good idea?”

I started to think about why he thought this was a suggestion he should even share.

I thought about how you can’t just pretend to be interactive, and then I realized something.

He’s getting feedback from clients. And the feedback is that we’re not interactive. He identified the problem, but dropped the ball on the solution.

As I got over myself, I remembered what I had learned during my MBA program at the Kung Fu Panda School of Business. Kung Fu Panda 2, in particular was the entirety of my education.

<spoiler> At the end of the movie, an adversary puts the panda to the test. He’s outmatched and suddenly finds himself as the target in an attack by cannonballs. When that first cannonball is fired, the panda is fast on his feet and quickly dodges it, but this is not a sustainable way to deal with cannonballs.

Luckily, the panda digs deep into his kung fu training and decides to take on this situation. When the next cannonball is fired, he’s ready. And in fact, he catches it, spins around (and around and around—cannonballs are powerful) and throws the cannonball out into the water. And then, it’s on. Every cannonball that comes at him he catches and throws right back out there. </spoiler>

This was the way I needed to deal with work. Instead of dodging the bad ideas, I need to embrace them. Use the energy from them to do the good work I wanted to do.

When I remembered what the Kung Fu Panda taught me, work got a lot easier. No more would I be fuming in conference rooms, mad at a stakeholder who didn’t “get it.”

Instead, I heard those bizarre requests and tried to harness the energy of them. Once I got to the heart of any issue, I could use my information architecture training to spin it around and toss it back. But instead of throwing back the same cannonball I started with, I’d be throwing back an idea that worked for the user, the product manager, and me.

Just as the panda had to embrace his attack and use his specialty to deal with it, I learned to embrace the solutions product managers wanted me to implement so I could identify the actual problem and come up with a sustainable solution.


  1. This is the kind of mentality I wish more UX practitioners would adopt. I have been in several similar situations and found that by “embracing the cannonball” my work has become better and there is less personal stress in the process.

  2. Since then, we ve employed several different strategies to reclaim our former glory. Research and site analysis led us to remove potentially low quality content. We ve experimented with modifying and removing ads, all the while trying to better the user experience. It s important to know that we haven t seen a recovery yet. None of what I m about to share has made a significant improvement, but hopefully this article will provide insight for other publishers.

  3. I mean no disrespect but this sounds like an issue of lacking very basic interpersonal/communicative soft skills. If I were combative and hostile to a PM’s suggestions, I’d argue that I was not doing my job as a UXer and speaking the voice of the user while solidifying my reputation as a smug designer know-it-all that is difficult to work with.

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