Content-driven UX

Storytelling, Agile and Content-First.

I’m a UX architect and here’s my process for producing great digital products.

First though, my favourite quote: ‘It’s not rationality I lack; it’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness.’ — Beatrix Kiddo.

That was irrelevant. Sorry. Here’s my second favourite quote and this one is most pertinent.

The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.
- Prof. Jonathan Haidt

Collecting stories: finding the product or areas for development

Stage 1: Research. What you need. A gob. Pen and paper. At least one other person who speaks the same language as you and is at least a bit relevant to the area you’re researching.

In the research phase at the beginning of any project, it’s important to collect stories from real people.

This can be how they have experienced the industry, similar products or the product that you’re working on.

These stories will form the foundation of how you understand your user’s needs. Personally I prefer to use real users as the personas, rather than fictional personas made up from aggregating data. Since fictional personas are just that — fiction, they’re going to be a construct of what the business thinks of their users, rather than capturing an accurate presentation of a user, complete with verbatim quotes that can tell you a lot about their needs and level of engagement and understanding.

These stories, er, tell the story (!) much better than a catalog of quant. data. It’s all downhill from there working out where the gold lies in your product development.

From a practical view, sort the stories into themes, and design for the needs of particular users.

If you design for everyone, you design for no one.

It’s important that you focus your effort where it’s going to have the most impact — but the quant. research can provide back-up here in assessing how many of your customers have the same needs or frustrations.

E.g. A shopkeeper who does all her accounts, personal and business, with pen and paper on a purchase ledger. This means that only they can do the book keeping because they’re afraid of someone else making mistakes with it or writing things down incorrectly.

Tell your team stories around the camp fire

To understand someone’s experience and emotions, you need to hear their story. It’s the difference between being told someone’s story of falling into debt and struggling vs looking at the data to see how many people in the UK are currently in debt. One inspires empathy and understanding of how that could happen and what they need from us to help them now, vs just data that gives you the picture that indeed there are a lot of people who fit that criteria.

The whole team, researchers, product owners, UX, developers, designers, testers need to see the research outputs — the transcripts or videos of research

Dan Ariely’s research into happiness and motivation at work shows that unsurprisingly people who feel like they’re on a production line aren’t happy. People who are most creative, motivated and happy are the ones who know what the work is for, and what their contribution to it is. Knowing that you’re designing to help people to climb out of debt and move on with their lives is a lot more motivating than being told to design a form, or develop the form the designer gives you.

Agile is all about a flat team structure — everyone can have ideas the product development process is collaborative. Let me say that again: COLLABORATIVE.

Yes there needs to be one person who makes the final decision so it doesn’t go round and round forever, but that’s the product owner’s job. Don’t be a dick, get involved, share ideas, opinions and get cracking. Many heads are better than one but make sure you all deposit your egos at the door. In a good Agile team, anyone can express opinions / suggestions / ideas about design, content, architecture etc and you should respect the intelligence of your colleagues. By listening to review comments (or criticism) makes you continually better at communication, collaboration and therefore your job (and less of an ego-driven maniac stuck in your own groundhog day in 90s wall street).