What is your User Experience sauce?
Many organizations only apply a few drops of user experience at the end of their projects. The flavor looks like a “quick UX review” because “we are a few weeks away from launching the product.” What are the chances of the UX folks to have an impact? Superficial impact at best, significant impact probably out of the question in a situation like this one.
Other organization are embracing user experience and applying UX sauce early and often, even as early as the inception of the project. These companies are cooking new and innovative products in low temperature, making sure that the UX sauce penetrates deep into its DNA.
Communication is critical. Long gone are the days where the designer got a project assignment, went to the corner and a few weeks later emerged with the design solution. I worked with teams that have formalized daily design standup meetings, following the agile and scrum methodology.
Beyond design, I think it is important to clearly articulate the business value of the solution you are building and be able to measure it. These metrics will vary between organizations and target markets: Is it conversion, adoption, repeat sessions, revenue, or interaction efficiency? The team needs to understand what is the value of the work they are doing, and how their success will impact their organization’s strategy and bottom line.
Collaboration — cross functional that is
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder and CEO, says that “every new thing creates two new questions and two new opportunities.” Teams and organizations that embrace diversity of thinking and cross functional experience in collaboration are poised to create disruptive, transformative solutions in the market place. Collaboration should be at the heart of your projects if you want to reduce risks and increase your chances to create a successful product.
Knowing who “U” are
A successful UX sauce starts with knowing who your users are. Your team needs to have a deep understanding of who you are building this great product for. It is key for the team to acknowledge they are not designing for themselves or the executives of the company.
A former colleague, Tatiana Stahkiv, User Research Consultant, used to say “if you have Personas available, pick one and use it. If you don’t have one, create one.” The benefits of keeping the product team focused on what is important for the user far outweighs the shortcomings of an informal “persona sketch.”
Design and requirements visualization with tools like iRise, enable a shared understanding of the direction of the project. The product owner does not have to read through a 200-page requirements document, and neither does the developer. We have the opportunity to be more proactive, visualizing the ideas in collaboration with the team. Teams that sketch and visualize together, stay together. When we visualize, we focus on the right ideas, and as a team, we uncover new ideas.
Validate — Get out of the building
One of Jeff Gothelf, author of Lean UX and Managing Director of NEO, principles in his Lean UX methodology is to literally push the product team out of the building and validate the assumptions and the product design with real users on “the street.” The point is not to design in a black box and hope for the best outcome. Your team can validate early and often, from the feasibility of business idea — is there people out there to care about what we have to offer more than we do?, to the different alternatives for interaction design — from low fidelity paper prototypes, to high fidelity, interactive prototypes.
Learn fast, don’t be afraid to try something new
When you are working on innovation you need to be empowered and encouraged to explore and experiment. If you had to ask permission for every step you take towards a new horizon, you probably would suffer “paralysis by analysis” or “paralysis by lack of permission.” You have to trust your judgment and your instincts and pursue the path that could lead to the best results, even if they are unorthodox or are outside of the norm. The faster you validate your new design, or your breakthrough ideas, the faster you will have the opportunity to learn whether something succeeded or failed. Even if it did not work, what you learn gives you powerful information to apply in your next iteration.
So the question for you is — what flavor of UX sauce does your organization like? Which one do you like?